Carlos Queiroz hailed a “beautiful” World Cup win for Iran as a stoppage-time own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz gave them a Group B victory over Morocco.
Iran had not tasted a win at a World Cup since France 98 but secured a 1-0 success in St Petersburg courtesy of Bouhaddouz’s mistake.
Morocco started the game on the front-foot but were lucky to go in level at the break as Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun broke in behind for Iran but could only aim his shot too close to Munir Mohamedi, who then did well to keep out Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s strike from the rebound.
That chance seemed to give Iran belief they could get a result at the Krestovsky Stadium, something that came to pass as substitute Bouhaddouz sent a bullet header past his own goalkeeper in the dying embers of the game.
“After so many years in this business, the first game of a World Cup is always difficult and tough and this was no different – but it was also beautiful,” Iran coach Queiroz said of the country’s second-ever World Cup win.
“We started very carefully and I’m sure they studied the Iranian team, we knew they have a very strong and powerful start to the game – always with full speed and a great attacking spirit.
“Our strategy was, from the first minute, to create a mental collapse in the Moroccan players, we try to do that by creating frustration and block all the playmakers and the players who can create something.”
With European heavyweights Spain and Portugal the other nations in Group B, any chances of Iran or Morocco providing a shock and reaching the knockout stages looked like needing a positive result here.
Portuguese Queiroz takes Iran to Kazan to face Spain next time out and admits a different approach is required.
“Since we were able to create panic in their defensive line the game changed,” he said.
“The players for Morocco knew we could win the game and that changed everything in the last minutes.
“It was a beautiful win, three points, and now it is time to rest and think about the game against Spain.
“Against Spain, everyone from the goalkeeper to the striker can create things so we have to think of a different strategy.”
Defeat for Morocco means they have it all to do to go beyond the group stages – but coach Herve Renard is not ready to throw in the towel.
“In a competition where three matches need to be played, as long as there as still two matches to be played, whoever the opponents there is still hope,” he said.
“When one starts the competition with no points, we are in a difficult situation but many things can happen so we need to concentrate on what we did right and things we did not do so well.”