Iran v Spain Preview

Iran go into Wednesday’s clash with Spain in Kazan holding top spot in Group B after their late smash and grab win over Morocco

It leaves Iran in a decent position but on the evidence of the opening two games in this group, their chances of building on it are remote.

Iran have now kept clean sheets in a remarkable 13 of their last 14 matches in this competition (qualifying included), but they face a whole new sort of test against the 2010 World Cup winners.

The odds accurately reflect the scale of task in front of them, with Iran 18.25 to win on Wednesday and 6.90 to even claim a point. Spain, with good reason, are overwhelming favourites at 1.15 to get their first win of World Cup 2018.

Friday’s 3-3 with Portugal was somewhat overshadowed from a Spanish point of view by the late heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was rightfully lauded for his treble in the game.

His intervention masked what was a very impressive start for Fernando Hierro and Spain, given what had preceded the game. Conceding an early goal would once have been a death knell for Spanish teams that tended to lord possession without creating real scoring chances.

That was not the case against Portugal – they moved the ball much quicker than has been the case at times before. Neat and so, so tidy in confined spaces with Jordi Alba and Nacho particularly impressive in marauding forward at will, something they can surely repeat in this game against less intimidating opponents.

If they can maintain that tempo and desire, Spain should deal with Iran comprehensively and they are 2.65 conceding a two-goal handicap.

The difference on Friday was Diego Costa’s impact. While refusing to betray their possession-based instincts, Spain also managed to utilise the clear strengths of the powerhouse frontman.

They got the ball up early on occasion and, something that will spell danger for Iran, the aforementioned full-backs were committed to getting to the end-line and firing the sort of crosses Costa thrives on.

Ronaldo’s late brilliance got the headlines but Spain’s performance on Friday was the standout effort from any team to date in this tournament. They should come through this test readily and they can be backed with confidence at 1.60 to lead at half-time and full-time.

Spain have scored at least two goals in eight of their last nine matches and while Iran are basking in the glory of a first Word Cup finals win in two decades, it came at the end of what was a drab encounter with a disappointing Moroccan side.

Reality is deemed very likely to bite for the Iranians in Kazan, as they face a team that probably deserve favoritism on the evidence to date. If the goals flow here, Costa could be a lot shorter than the current 8.00 to pick up the Golden Boot in Russia.