Spain Break Iran Resistance Leaving World Cup Conundrum

Spain's defender Gerard Pique (C-R, #3) jumps to meet the ball with his head during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 20, 2018. (Photo by BENJAMIN CREMEL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read BENJAMIN CREMEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Spain finally broke Iran’s resistance last night. This now leaves a potential World Cup conundrum. Iran had won their first game without managing a shot in 45 minutes. It was the first time that had happened since 1966. Spain were clear favourites for victory. Carlos Queirz had Iran set up to defend and it was only after 53 minutes that their resistance was finally broken. Spain were made to work for their victory in Kazan.

Spain Break Iran Resistance

Iran put politics aside and focused on the football. The noise in Kazan was deafening. Iranian fans had arrived in numbers and even when defending, which they would do a lot of, and the noise kept coming. At stages of the first half, it seemed that Iran had an extra man. Spain pressed with the inventive Isco and Iniesta. Shots from Spain were from a distance. When Iran moved over halfway, the noise levels rose but the chances of a goal were limited.

Escape To Victory For Spain

Defence is the best form of attack. Iran didn’t worry about that much in the first 45 minutes. Spain threw everything they could to try and break the Iran resistance. With Morocco having been eliminated from the competition earlier in the day, Iran were still in the World Cup. On 45 minutes, the score was 0-0. In the first 45 minutes, Iran made 66 successful passes. Iran’s opponents made 300 more than that.

Iran Resistance Featured ‘Odd’ Goalkeeping

Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand had got hot gloves from the first half and early in the second made an ‘odd’ save. He chose to flap at the ball causing chaos in the box. He managed to get the ball away safely. Beiranvand, who has slept rough in a tough upbringing, went down theatrically in the first half when Costa was near him. The keeper seemed to suggest that Costa had stamped on him but replays showed nothing of note.

Diego Costa Break The Iran Resistance

Diego Costa had two goals from his opening game against Spain. Ronaldo took his tally to four in the afternoon match. Costa had a frustrating time but kept causing the Iranian defence problems. On 53 minutes, Costa got in and was fortunate to find the defenders clearance hitting his shin and nestling in the net. Spain, at last, had the lead. Still, the Iranian fans did not stop with the vuvuzelas. It all sounded like the busiest street in the World. And it brought the team into some form of life.

Iran On the Offensive

Ansarifard had the Iran fans dreaming of a draw. He hit the ball on the half volley and the net rippled. Even on TV, it looked as if it had gone in. However, it was the wrong side of the post. On 61 minutes Iran had their goal. And then VAR came along to spoil the party. It was a close call but it was offside and Spain breathed a collective sigh of relief.

What a Conundrum!

Spain take the points. They kept going and finally were able to break the Iran resistance. The result means is that group B is left with an enticing finale. Portugal and Spain remain favourites to go through. But the three points Iran have mean the following conundrum now exists:

If Spain (vs Morocco) & Portugal (vs Iran) win/draw by identical scores Monday, then both advance and the group winner will be decided by Fair Play points. OR if Spain & Portugal lose by identical scores, then Fair Play decides which advances as runner-up behind Iran.

It should not come to that. It means the final group games are finely poised. Iran had their resistance broken, but their pride may just give them one last chance.

 

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