Iran head into their final Group B match against Portugal on Monday knowing an upset will see them reach the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
2018 FIFA World Cup
25 June 2018
Kick-off: 20:00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Mordovia Arena
Referee: E. Caceres
Assistants: E. Cardozo, J. Zorrilla
Fourth official: M. Abid Charef
Portugal 2-0 Iran (2006 World Cup) 17/06/2006
Portugal goalscorers: Deco (63′), C. Ronaldo (80′ pen)
Players to watch:
Iran’s hopes of progressing deeper in the World Cup may rest with Alireza Beiranvand. The 25-year-old goalkeeper will have to be at his very best to thwart Portugal’s main man, who will be hungry for more goals after bagging four in his first two games.
Cristiano Ronaldo has single-handedly led Portugal’s charge in Russia. The Real Madrid ace rescued a dramatic 3-3 draw against Spain with a hat-trick and scored the only goal of the game as the champions of Europe beat Morocco 1-0. Ronaldo’s fourth-minute header against the Atlas Lions saw him surpass Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas as Europe’s top scorer with 85 international goals.
Team form and manager quotes:
Team Melli can count themselves fortunate to be in this situation after a last-gasp own-goal handed them a 1-0 victory over Morocco, who deserved at least a point from their Group B opener.
Carlos Queiroz’s side took confidence from that result to limit Spain to just one goal in a 1-0 defeat, leaving them just one point behind the Iberian neighbours on four each.
Queiroz knows Ronaldo well from their time together at Manchester United and the national team. Given his form, the 65-year-old is aware of the mammoth task facing the Iranians in Saransk.
Asked how he planned to stop the goal machine, Queiroz quipped: “Well, I could suggest to the Portugal coach, Fernando Santos, he should rest Ronaldo for this game.
“But unfortunately I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The Selecao have been all too reliant on Ronaldo in Russia thus far, with the 33-year-old forward scoring all four of their goals at the tournament.
Fernando Santos needs the rest of his team to come to the party if they hope to match their achievements at Euro 2016 as winners.
Santos’ men didn’t create many chances in their opening two matches, but have been clinical in front of goal, converting four of their five attempts.
Iran are set to be without Ehsan Hajsafi, who picked up a thigh injury against Spain last time out. Milad Mohammadi could take his place in defence.
Joao Moutinho is rated doubtful for Portugal after sitting out training the last few days due to illness.
Raphael Guerreiro could be dropped from the starting line-up having looked off the pace against Morocco.