Whilst Morocco v Iran is very much an entree to the main course of the first full day of fixtures at the World Cup the game provides a lot of intrigue for fans to see how the underdogs within the group will perform. Think of this as a light starter to the bigger main course of Spain v Portugal later in the day, writes Alex Everson.
Morocco (500/1) and Iran (1000/1) know that defeat will make progression tough for either side, given the unfortunate draw they have been given alongside two relatively strong European sides.
Morocco come into the game as favourites (13/10) in Saint Petersburg, with Iran as 3/1 outsiders. Despite the lack of market support for Iran, they have been given the moniker of the strongest Asian side by multiple pundits coming into this World Cup, having been the first qualifier into the summers world cup. They are a very tough side to beat, losing just three matches from 42 since the 2014 World Cup.
Iran appear to look as a bit of a mess organisationally, with their kit supplier, Nike, having restricted supply of their World Cup kits and boots due to sanctions imposed against Iran by the United States. This has left squad members trying to purchase, or even borrow boots just days before their opening match, along with cancellations of two friendlies in the lead up to the tournament.
The attacking play of two Eredivisie stars will be trying to break the deadlock: Morocco’s attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech of Ajax, who won Dutch footballer of the year, and Iran’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, top scorer in the Dutch top flight last season
Both sides having proven their defensive capabilities during qualification, will remain confident of restricting chances to the opposition. Iran only conceded twice in their ten qualification matches, with Morocco not conceding any goals during their six matches. However, despite the strength Morocco have at the back, their obvious weakness comes from their goalkeeper, Munir Mohamedi who made only one league appearance for Numanica in the Spanish Segunda last season.
The main weakness for the Asian side is due to suspension, with central midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi being banned for the first game because he was sent off against South Korea in their final qualifying game. Iran are likely to miss his high work rate that he displays for club side FC Rostov.
This is Iran's fifth World Cup appearance, with only one victory in their only four appearances: a 2-1 victory in 1998 against USA. They will see the opening match as their best opportunity to change this record. Morocco also have a low win rate at previous world cups, having won just two previous World Cup games in 13 attempts.
With the defensive minded nature of both sides being evident, we can expect both sides to play a very tactical game, which may be decided by just the odd goal. With this in mind, it seems prudent to lean towards the outsiders in this game and oppose the North African side, who did struggle to score in qualifying, with three 0-0 results in their six games.
The goals markets currently are expecting a very low scoring game, with U2.5 currently trading at 1.45, not leaving us with much room to try and attack this market. The U1.5 market is at 2.41, however, this does not leave much us much buffer if an early goal goes in, therefore leaving goal markets alone in this market seems sensible given the prices.
Iran can be found in the Asian Handicap market at just over evens (2.04) for a +0.25 start at Bet365, and a small stake of one point on this is advised. This would give us the benefit of taking a half stake win if Morocco don't manage to topple Iran, and a full stake win if Iran take all three points.