Having failed to progress beyond the group stages in their previous appearances, Asian giants Iran will aim to rewrite history when they face Morocco in a Group B match of the FIFA World Cup here on Friday.
Having first played at the World Cup in 1978, Iran have made three appearances since then -- 1998, 2006 and 2014. However, they have never progressed beyond the group stages, managing only a lone win, against bitter rivals US in 1998.
Both sets of players will thus be eager to put their best foot forward when they march out onto the Saint Petersburg Stadium pitch on Friday.
A strong defence is Iran's main strength and Morocco's strikers will be tested when they face a team which plays possession-based football and also presses aggressively in defence.
Captain and central defender Jalal Hosseini and right back Steven Beitashour have prior World Cup experience, having played at the 2014 edition while Voria Ghafouri -- who can be employed as a winger or a full back -- is also a veteran in the team.
Iran also have a wealth of talent upfront with several players plying their trade in the European leagues.
Sardar Azmoun, a 23-year-old striker hailed as the "Iranian Messi", who plays for Russian club Rubin Kazan, already has 23 goals for his country, including an amazing 11-goal haul during the Asian qualifiers.
Their partnership with Azmoun could create problems for the Morocco defence.
This match will be a golden chance for Iran to make their mark and to have some points with European Champions Portugal and World Cup favourites Spain likely to provide a much sterner test in what is a tough group.
Morocco, on the other hand, will be well-rounded by Juventus centre-back Medhi Benatia which will help the team to organise a proper defence structure.
Morocco will be looking to his vision and creativity if they are to spring any surprises in Russia.
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