Morocco coach Herve Renard remains hopeful despite World Cup defeat to Iran

by Steven Clarke June 18, 2018, 4:12
Morocco coach Herve Renard remains hopeful despite World Cup defeat to Iran

Some teammates tried to console him, but it did little good.

Iran's players stormed the pitch at full-time as if they had won the World Cup rather than just their opening match in Russian Federation after an own goal from Morocco's Aziz Bouhaddouz gifted them a dramatic 1-0 victory on Friday.

The Group B match in Saint Petersburg had been heading for a goalless draw until Bouhaddouz's unfortunate intervention as he tried to clear Ehsan Haji Safi's cross but only directed it past his own goalkeeper.

"We admit that the three other teams are the favourites, with their big players at big clubs", he claimed.

The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.

Spain and Queiroz's native Portugal make up the rest of Group B but the 65-year-old insisted it would be "disrespectful" to bring up the sudden departure of Julen Lopetegui to Real Madrid. Back in Iran, locals poured into the streets in celebration.

Morocco and Iran boast strong defensive records heading into their opening game at the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg. Five of the Morocco squad were born in Holland and they are all in contention to start against Iran.

Medhi Benatia will be the key player who could be responsible for Morocco's outcome at the World Cup.

Amrabat was substituted by Morocco for a head injury. He couldn't believe where his header ended up.

Iran players lift coach Carlos Queiroz as they celebrate after the match on Friday.

"The brilliant attitude, the commitment, the soul, the heart", Queiroz said.

Additionally, Morocco will be boosted by the perception they carry at the World Cup as one of the dark horses and will try to prove a point. "But I can tell you, as a footballer, we don't compare diplomatic and political problems to sports".

The shoe company withdrew the squad's supply of boots earlier this week due to global economic sanctions against the Asian country ahead of the tournament in Russian Federation. However, they have never reached the knockout stages, winning only one of their 12 games (D3 L8) - against U.S. on 21 June 1998 (2-1).

As for the Moroccans, they can not afford another slip-up against Portugal in Moscow on the same day.

At the end of the game, they led in possession, shot on and off targets. We have been giving a lot of thought to the Iran team and I think we have reached the right level in our preparations. They only conceded one goal in eight games in qualifying - in a second-round win over Equatorial Guinea.

A tiresome droning noise from air horns blown by fans swarmed the St. Petersburg Stadium throughout the game.

Supporters of Morocco watch the match in a fan zone.

After it was initially unfurled, during the first half of the game, there was a brief commotion as it was put away.

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