Diego Costa’s second half goal gave Spain a win that meant qualification is in there hands, despite a valiant effort from Iran as they threatened several times to snatch a point.
Spain had to wait 54 minutes before making the break through thanks to Costa’s third goal of the tournament after being frustrated by a very defensive Iran side. And even after the goal, Iran came close several times and had a goal disallowed as they nearly claimed what would have been a superb point.
Iran sat deep right from the start and limited Spain to very few chances in the first half. The tactics from Carlos Queiroz’s side was to get to half time at 0-0 while killing as much time as possible through going down injured while stopping any Spain momentum with it too. And it completely went to plan as Spain grew more and more frustrated with the constant stoppages and failure to make a break through.
David Silva enjoyed perhaps the best chance of the half when his acrobatic attempt to score was closed down by the Team Melli defence. But it was no doubt a great first half for Iran, doing exactly what they set out to do.
However, Spain turned up the heat from the very first minute of the second half and got their reward nine minutes after the restart. It was a huge slice of luck for the Spaniards as a tackle rebounded off Costa and rolled in to the bottom corner.
But it had been coming after some better attempts on goal in the first nine minutes of the half. Iniesta has a good attempt saved and pushed away from the Iran keeper right at the start of the half, as Iran were also having to make last ditch tackles to avoid going a goal down. Although moments before Spain took the lead, many at home thought Ansarifard had given Iran the lead as his shot hit the side netting, looking liked it creeped inside the net.
Iran rallied and began to attack a lot more knowing they had little to lose. And they came close several times and were left to rue a few key chances. Iran will look back at the Ezatolahi’s disallowed goal as the key chance. He stabbed home from close range after it pinged around in the area, only for the the video assistant referee to spot that he was just offside when the ball was flicked on. The call was made after about 20 seconds of joyous celebrations for Iran, thinking they’d got an equalizer and to find out it didn’t count was a killer blow for the Iranians.
It wasn’t Iran’s only big chance as Taremi failed to hit the target with two massive chances from headers, especially one late on when he rose unchallenged. Both were headers that a top striker would have put away but it just wasn’t meant to be for Iran.
Spain face eliminated Morocco in their last game where a draw will see them qualify. However, the target for Spain will be to better Portugal’s result meaning they win the group. Both Spain and Portugal are on identical records after two games having drawn 3-3 against each other in the first game and both winning 1-0 in their second game. As a result, Spain will be keeping a firm eye on Portugal’s score against Morocco and anything worse than Portugal’s result means the highest they’ll finish is 2nd.
As for Iran, the dream is by no means over but face an uphill battle to get through Group B now. If they lose to Portugal in the final match then they’re out. A draw will see them go out, unless Spain are to lose by two goals in their final game to Morocco. But a win sees them definitely through, most likely in 2nd unless Spain drop points against Morocco.