World Cup LIVEBLOG: Iran v Morocco
That's it from us for today. We'll see you again on Monday for Tunisia v England. Wishing all readers an Eid Mubarak and a peaceful weekend!
17:56:07 - And it was an own goal at that, from Bouhaddouz desperately trying to clear away from the corner of the goal.
17:53:49 - Free kick for Iran...
17:51:10 - That's 90 minutes gone. Six minutes of injury time to follow. How many players are going to make it that long? They're dropping like flies now.
17:50:17 - It's true that FIFA could learn a thing or two about head injury assessments from the world of rugby...
17:49:08 - Rezaeian goes down and gives us more free rolls than you get with a soup course.
17:36:42 - El-Kaabi's also coming off for Morocco. He makes room for the towering figure of Bouhaddouz.
17:35:47 - Noureddine Amrabat comes off the field. He's replaced by his brother, Souffian Amrabat. Let's hope Nordin makes a swift recovery.
17:31:51 - We hear you. Would have loved Egypt to have held on for a point.
17:29:47 - Another corner for Iran. Let's see how the set-piece preparation has paid off...
17:29:04 - Taremi was the Gulf Pro-League's top scorer this season, incidentally.
17:21:32 - Corner for Morocco...
17:14:58 - Handball awarded against Morocco's Ziyech, though there wasn't much he could have done about the ball fired at his arm from very short range.
17:14:09 - This is the third game of the World Cup, and one of those ended 5-0...
17:10:49 - Iran on the break, again exposing Morocco's vulnerability at the back.
17:04:09 - I recognise this guy. At least, his fez is familiar...
16:32:39 - We think this is legal, but it's unusual...
16:17:25 - Morocco's Amine Harit drags down Iran's Sardar Azmoun. Free kick comes to nothing.
16:15:40 - I thought they'd just trained the St Petersburg bees...
16:11:23 - Amrabat's cross blocked by Cheshmi.
What happens if Iran qualifies for the 2026 World Cup, now due to be hosted in the US, Canada and Mexico - if Trump's "travel ban" is still in place?
16:06:47 - Nordin Amrabat, the Watford player on loan to Leganes, showing that he's going to be one to watch this game...
16:03:04 - For both teams, this is a must-win match. With Portugal and Spain in the group, it might be a match to see who comes third/fourth, rather than qualifying for the final 16.
16:02:08 - 25 degrees in St Petersburg. Iran in white. Morocco in red.
15:58:55 - The anthems have been sung - we're nearly ready for kick-off!
Nickname: The Atlas Lions
Coach: Herve Renard
Star: Hakim Ziyech
Arriving to Russia as: Underdogs aiming to shock the world
Expectations: Round of 16.
The Moroccans have had a fantastic footballing year. Wydad Casablanca won the African Champions League, while more and more European-born Moroccans have signed for clubs in the domestic league. Meanwhile, the 2026 World Cup bid has made headlines worldwide - and the national team has grabbed a World Cup spot after 20 long years, after a campaign in which they didn't concede a single goal.
There's no doubt, that since Herve Renard signed on to lead the national team in 2016, the Atlas Lions have not stopped improving.
The first coach to win the CAF Africa Cup of Nations with two different countries (Zambia and Ivory Coast), Renard is respected throughout the footballing world, and Moroccos's victory against the Ivory Coast in Abidjan will be remembered as one of the best displays of an African side in World Cup qualifications, ever - simply a divine tactical display.
The Moroccans have an extremely talented squad, with the majority of players having come up through European leagues and qualifying for the national team through their heritage rather than birth.
Mehdi Benattia of Juventus, Hakim Ziyech (the Dutch Eredivisie Player of the Year), Amine Harit of Schalke 04 Real Madrid's Achraf Hakimi are just some of the names which decorate the Atlas Lions' teamsheet.
Renard and his players will look to surprise the whole world and qualify from a near-impossible Group B, which also features Spain, Portugal and Iran.
But there is a route to the knock-out stages.
If Iran lose all three group games - to Morocco, Spain and Portugal, finishing bottom of the group - Morocco just needs (somehow) to draw against both Portugal (currently ranked the fourth best team in the world by FIFA) and Spain (10th).
With such a squad and the tremendous support of thousands of the Dima Maghreb fans who have made their way to Russia, anything is possible. In the past few months thousands of signs have festooned Casablanca: "Russia, we are coming." They have arrived.
Goalkeepers: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia, Spain), Yassine Bounou (Girona, Spain), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger).
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus, Italy), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton, England), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir, Turkey), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce, Turkey), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid, Spain), Hamza Mendyl (Lille, France).
Midfielders: M'barek Boussoufa (Al Jazira, UAE), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord, Holland), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen, France), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord, Holland), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray, Turkey), Faycal Fajr (Getafe, Spain), Amine Harit (Schalke 04, Germany).
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor, Turkey), Aziz Bouhaddouz (Saint Pauli, Germany), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (on loan to Leganes, Spain, from Watford, England), Mehdi Carcela (Standard de Liege, Belgium), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax, Holland), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga, Spain).
|Fans show their support ahead of the friendly match against Serbia [Getty]|
Nickname: Team Melli
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Star: Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Arriving to Russia: Hoping football will beat the sanctions
Expectations: Fighting for an unlikely spot in the final 16.
Each year, the Iranian football community runs a survey - which team is the favourite in the country? Tehran's giants Persepolis and Esteghlal are always on top - but there is one team that always receives even greater support - Team Melli, the Iranian national team.
It's almost taken for granted. For years, Iran has been the best national team in Asia, and was the second team to guarantee their place in Russia, after Brazil.
With Carlos Quieroz, the former Portugal and Real Madrid coach, in charge, the Iranians have begun a long process of upgrading their football skillset. More than 20 of the Iranian squad played in Europe this season. That's a direct result of Quieroz's great work with the Iranian players over the past seven years, and also an indication of the emerging Iranian footballing talent.
The marquee player in Queiroz's lineup is Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the Dutch Eredivisie top scorer, who has netted 21 goals and 12 assists this season. Jahanbaksh is the first Asian footballer to become a top scorer in any European league. But he is not alone in Russia - Sardar Azmoun of Rubin Kazan, Saman Ghoddos of Ostersunds and Mehdi Taremi from Al-Gharafa are all part of a striking Iranian attacking force here at the World Cup.
Iran's captains - Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi - are two players mired in controversy. The pair were targeted by Iranian politicians and media after playing for Panionios, their Greek former club, against Israel's Maccabi Tel Aviv. Many in the bubbles of the elite called for them to be banned - but grassroots Iranian fans supported them with an online campign - #NoBanForOurPlayers was one of Twitter's highest trending topics in 2017.
While the political storm raged, Shojaei ended up winning the league with AEK Athens, while Hajsafi became an indispensable part of Olympiakos. The two experienced and talented figures will lead the way for Team Melli in Russia.
But despite the promising squad and great coach, Iran's preparations have met a serious obstacle - the US sanctions regime against the country. The friendlies against Greece, Kosovo and Italy were all cancelled, and the Iranians have only had a chance to play against Uzbekistan and Lithuania - not a great gauge of the skill levels of their rivals in the powerful Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco).
In addition, Nike, the sports brand that represents eight players on the Iranian squad, have reportedly asked their representatives not to wear the company's shoes during the tournament - as part of the US-led sanctions.
When politics gets involved in football, it's always a complete madhouse - the United States couldn't even qualify for the tournament, but Trump's presence is felt here in Russia.
With Morocco in the group, anything is possible. Iran's second game is against Spain in Kazan - home to striker Sardar Azmoun, where he will receive huge support from locals. It is unlikely that the Iranians will grab something from a world class team like Spain, though there is a slim chance of success against Portugal.
Like Morocco, the campaign will not be easy, but it will be hard-fought.
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beyranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo, Portugal).
Defenders: Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende, Belgium), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad, Qatar), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos, Greece).
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatollahi (Amkar Perm, Russia), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens, Greece), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos, Greece).
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar, Holland), Mahdi Taremi (Al Gharafa, Qatar), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen, Holland), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds, Sweden), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest, England), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).
|Iranian players train at Lokomotiv Bakovka Training Centre ahead of the World Cup [Getty]|