Iran national team staffer taken to hospital after goal against Spain disallowed

REUTERS  Murad Seze

REUTERS Murad Seze

However, their are some caveats in Hierro's managerial style so far that he will need to improve upon if Spain are to progress further in competition.

"We have four points", Hierro said. We are one team and that is how we will play until the end here.

- Diego Costa has scored eight goals in his last eight worldwide starts for Spain - he scored with both of his shots on target in their 3-3 draw with Portugal.

A reported 15,000 Iranians made the trip to Kazan and, judging from the deafening, continuous humming of air horns and whistles inside the stadium, each and every one of them - plus some locals cheering on Rubin star Sardar Azmoun - was crammed into the arena.

"It's going be tight (with Ronaldo)", Hierro said. He was indeed the standout player on the pitch in the first-half, making 43 passes with a 93 per cent accuracy rate and registering, surprisingly, five shots on goal. The problem was that Iran left no space in behind, and Vazquez, hardly a superior combination player, looked a man out of sync with his teammates when building in front of the defence. Spain may be the favorite, but there's no reason Iran can't pull off an upset if they're able to disrupt the Spanish offense.

The stakes were high, and Iran continued to the threaten heavily favored Spain for the rest of the match, but couldn't break through.

Iranian defender Milan Mohammadi taking the throw against Spain.

Hierro's players were nearly caught against the run of the play when Karim Ansarifard unleashed a powerful strike that ended up in the side-netting following a long thrown in.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz revealed himself to be a big fan of VAR technology despite the replays having ruled out Ezatolahi's strike because of a marginal offside. Though the La Roja tried mightily hard to bring down the Iranian defence amidst the deafening din of the vuvuzelas, continuously probing for an opening, the stodgy Iranian backline proved a hard nut to crack in Kazan.

First place in the group could be decided by goal difference. While luck favoured courageous Iran as they emerged the victor against Morocco, credits to Aziz Bouhaddouz's own goal in the stoppage time, Spain had to comprehend Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick to fight out a draw.

But with three points, Iran has still a chance to qualify for the knockout stage.

On this evidence, the Spaniard certainly seems in fine fettle and naturally seemed to find more of a foothold in this one than he did during the draw with Portugal.

It's not just slick play within the Spain team. They next face Portugal in Group B. The win extended Spain's unbeaten run to 22 games, the longest active unbeaten run in worldwide football. The team's last loss was against Italy in the round of 16 at the 2016 European Championship.

Tonight's clash with Iran didn't provide the same fireworks, with the first half ending in a stalemate.

For too much of the contest Spain had no cutting edge, with their possession rate hovering around the 80 per cent mark but their threats on Ali Beiranvand's goal remaining close to zero.

He may not have scored yet, even if it was only the crossbar that denied him in the opener against Portugal, but his football is excellent even without the goals and it's about time we started labelling him a world-class superstar. "You can't just say that because it's your national team playing".

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