Morocco faces ‘unpredictable’ Iran in group opener

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The Atlas Lions of Morocco have it all to play for in their World Cup opening group B encounter against team Meli of Iran.

The clash billed for the Krevtovsky stadium in the iconic Russian city of St. Petersburg pits two sides who must do everything possible to win this game – especially as this group also contains Spain and Portugal.

Morocco have coach Hervé Renard to bank on for tactical direction and a squad made up of players like Real Madrid youngster Achraf Hakimi, Watford’s Nordin Amrabat, talented Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech and ever-dependable Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia.

The Frenchman has transformed the North African side that plays an exciting brand of all-attacking football, and led them to qualify for the mundial without conceding a goal.

The Atlas Lions were the very first African team to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition in 1986 when they thrashed Portugal 3-1 to top their group that also had England and Poland.

Twenty years ago Morocco missed out from making a second round berth despite trouncing a hapless Scotland 3-0 in their last match; no thanks to a come-from-behind win by Norway against Brazil that denied them the second group ticket at the last minute.

But Iran seem to always have an antidote to African teams, having never lost to any team from the CAF region.

A 1-1 draw against Angola (2006) and a 0-0 stalemate with Nigeria (2014) indicates that team Meli will not be an easy run-in for the Moroccans.

Led by veteran coach Carlos Queroiz, Iran could spring a surprise.

The match promises to be full of fireworks.