Spain met Iran in their second game of the FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia on Wednesday. The final scoreline was 1-0. With this win, Spain and Portugal have not become the favourites to get out of Group B and reserve their spots in the Round of 16.
The 2010 tournament champions Spain had gotten off to an excellent start to their tournament until Cristiano Ronaldo produced the moment of magic which drew the game level. It still remains the best game played yet at this year's competition.
However, Spain had a task cut out for themselves this time out. Now they had to win the rest of the games or at least win one and draw the other to qualify for the group.
In Iran, they were facing a team that already had registered three points and would be focusing on defending from the onset. That's exactly what transpired throughout the first half. Spain tried all they could but wasn't incisive enough to do anything significant.
Even with the likes of Diego Costa, Isco, David Silva and Andres Iniesta, the team struggled to finish the opportunities they were creating. In fact, out of their 10 shots in the first 45 minutes, only one was on target. Fernando Hierro had tweaked the formation for this game from 4-3-3 to 4-1-4-1 which the team seemed to have performed below par in. It was expected that something new will be done or introduced in the second-half of the game.
Spain got off to a better start in last 45-minutes. They increased their tenacity and pressure on the Iranian defence. One of the major reason for this shift was the involvement of Iniesta. He was being more aggressive and let the players around him make runs and create spaces. In the 61st minute mark, he found Costa in the box who was getting covered by two defenders. Somehow, one of the defenders kicked the ball to his knee and the ball went past the keeper. A stroke of luck and exactly what the team needed at that point of the match.
The same was not the case for Iran. In the 63rd minute, the team got a free-kick and it was put in the back of the Spanish net. But, when VAR was used to check if any of the players were offside, it was found that Sardar Azmoun was. Iran was in disbelief that they had found a way to get back in the game only to have it taken away.
Iran still had their moments, but they couldn't capitalise on them. They were unafraid of Spain, and the came was becoming more intense as the minutes past. They came closest when Mehdi Taremi shot wide from being just six-yards out. That miss would be agonising to witness and see if you're an Iranian fan.
Portugal scrapped past Morocco in the game that was played earlier in the day. They will take on Iran and from the sign of things, it will be a feisty encounter and one to look out for.