ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – A heartbreaking stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday, a result the Iranians celebrated with unbridled delight.
In a group where Spain and Portugal are strong favorites to qualify for the knockout stage, the outcome gives Iran an outside chance of an upset but was a bitter blow for an enterprising Moroccan side.
Iran left-back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own ‘keeper Munir Mohamedi.
The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.
Their Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, was thrown in the air by his team and more than just a reflection of joy it was acknowledgment that the tactician’s approach of diligent defending in numbers and a tight shape in midfield had paid off.
“Our strategy was from the first minute to create a mental collapse in the Moroccan players. We tried to do that by creating frustration and blocking all their creative players,” said Queiroz.
In other World Cup action, Jose Gimenez headed in Carlos Sanchez’s free kick in the 89th minute as Uruguay posted a 1-0 victory over Egypt.
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