Hakim Ziyech says Morocco believe they can progress from Group B ahead of their opening World Cup clash with Iran in St. Petersburg on Friday.
Both Morocco and Iran could be forgiven for feeling hard done by when they were pitted against 2010 winners Spain and reigning European champions Portugal in the group stage.
The turmoil in the Spain camp following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament and Fernando Hierro's appointment for the duration of the event may give hope to both sides.
Morocco are playing in a World Cup for the first time since 1998, when Iran claimed their sole win in the history of the tournament, and Ziyech says confidence in the camp is high.
Ziyech told KweseESPN: "If we don't believe that we can progress, what is the point of going to the tournament?
"This is a difficult group, but if we look at it through a positive lens it can be good... good for us as players, but also good for us as a country.
"To play against these kinds of countries will be difficult, but it will be nice too. Playing against the likes of [Cristiano] Ronaldo and [Andres] Iniesta is a great motivation, but we believe in ourselves."
5 - The 5 teams currently on the longest unbeaten runs ahead of the 2018 #WorldCup:— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 13, 2018
Listen to the @OptaJoe World Cup preview podcast for more stats:
Soundcloud https://t.co/NU5aOCoiYc pic.twitter.com/q5gEHsvviI
Iran are playing in successive World Cups after exiting the 2014 tournament with just a point, though only a last-gasp Lionel Messi free-kick denied them a draw with Argentina.
Their preparation has been bizarrely hindered by Nike's refusal to supply the squad with boots for the tournament because of economic sanctions imposed against the country by the United States.
That decision left coach Carlos Queiroz furious but he told Sky Sports that it would be "a source of inspiration" for Iran as they seek to end their long wait for a second win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Morocco – Hakim Ziyech
Ziyech is one of five Dutch-born players in the Morocco squad and could be the most influential. He played a starring role for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season with nine goals and 15 assists and Morocco will have a much better chance of progressing if he can deliver similar form on the biggest stage.
Iran – Mehdi Taremi
Taremi has had some off-the-field issues, including a four-month ban following a contract dispute with Turkish side Caykur Rizespor, but his eight goals in qualification were a key reason for Iran's progression to the finals.
KEY OPTA STATS
- Morocco have won only two of their 13 games at the World Cup (D4 L7), including five defeats in their last seven games (W1 D1). They've also never won an opening game in the competition (D2 L2).
- Morocco were the only team not to concede a single goal in the third round of CAF qualifiers for Russia 2018 (six games).
- Iran have qualified for the World Cup in back-to-back tournaments for the first time. However, they have never reached the knockout stages, winning only one of their 12 games (D3 L8) - against USA on 21 June 1998 (2-1).
- Iran have also only kept one clean sheet in their 12 World Cup games (0-0 v Nigeria, June 2014), scoring more than one goal only once, in their sole win against USA in 1998.
- Iran were unbeaten in their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup, winning 12 games and drawing the other six (AFC second round & third round). They also kept 14 clean sheets in those 18 games.
15 de diciembre 2018
|Westbrook on Murray scuffle: He was in my way|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Van Dijk the rock on which Klopp can build a title triumph|
|Marcelo ´never´ considered Madrid exit amid Juventus links|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Resurgent Rashford now a leader for Mourinho|
|Injury-plagued Nuggets beat Thunder to hold Western Conference lead|
|Southee takes five as Sri Lanka recover in Wellington|
|Kings troll Curry by playing clips of moon landing|
|Guardiola: Premier League title race similar to Barca-Madrid battles|
|Ovechkin joins rare NHL club with second straight hat-trick|
|Liverpool can´t be judged just on trophies – Klopp responds to Mourinho|
|Athletics´ Chapman undergoes procedure on left shoulder|
|Marcelo: Real Madrid miss Ronaldo|
|Ronaldo right about Juventus team spirit – Allegri|
|Klopp: I´m not the pope of football tactics|
|Stade beat Ospreys on emotional Chauvin tribute night|
|Ligue 1 survival bid a marathon not a sprint for Monaco, as club appoints distance runner|
14 de diciembre 2018
|Vertonghen eyeing Spurs future beyond 2020|
|De Bruyne injuries could be a blessing for City, says Guardiola|
|Emery prepared to face Arsenal´s centre-back crisis|
|Ulster complete Scarlets double, Exeter gain Gloucester revenge|
|Sheffield United 1 West Brom 2: Baggies comeback boosts automatic promotion push|
|Del Potro back on court following knee injury|
|Canelo v Fielding: Rocky ready to write his own fairytale in New York|
|Boca part company with Schelotto after Copa Libertadores loss to River|
|Canelo v Fielding: Tale of the tape|
|Juventus defender Cancelo has knee surgery|
|Canelo v Fielding: Alvarez and Rocky make weight in New York|
|Spalletti does not fear another mid-season crisis at Inter|
|Salah headlines CAF Player of the Year shortlist as Koulibaly misses out|
|Beckham Jr. out of Titans clash|
|Lipsky hits the front at Leopard Creek|
|Pederson coy over Wentz back injury|
|Liverpool ´not really likely´ to be active in January window, reveals Klopp|
|Always on the move and unpredictable - Pavard reveals surprising choice over toughest opponent|
|We need to get back to respect - Lampard alarmed by hate in football|
|Giles returns to England to replace Strauss as director|
|Hansen has no issue with Milner-Skudder Toulon switch|
|Juventus to rest Ronaldo after Torino showdown|
|Titmus strikes gold again as world records tumble in Hangzhou|
|Malinga to captain Sri Lanka in New Zealand|
|Rivaldo would like ´excellent´ Isco at Barcelona|
|United a long way from Mourinho´s vision|
|´Klopp denies an answer!´ - Liverpool boss dismisses questions about ´world-class´ Pogba|
|Returning Nowitzki ´so tired´ after making NBA history|
|Aguero and De Bruyne in contention for Manchester City v Everton|
|Simeone has no plans to cash in on Costa|
|Canelo v Fielding: Alvarez´s greatest nights|
|Fabregas: Chelsea being unfairly scapegoated over racism allegations|
|Crisis? What crisis? Klopp focuses on defensive solutions for United clash|
|Hope cannot inspire Windies as Bangladesh cruise to series win|
|Benitez picks up Premier League Manager of the Month award|
|Chavez, Marquez and Canelo - Mexico´s greatest multi-weight world champions|
|Bale set to miss Real Madrid v Rayo Vallecano|
|Robben out until January as Bayern look to avoid serious injury|
|Milan avoid UEFA ban in FFP punishments.|
|Mourinho compares Liverpool to ´an amazing house´ but insists trophies matter|
|Brisbane Roar 2 Melbourne Victory 4: Muscat´s men hit A-League summit|
|Bumrah confident second Test is ´in the balance´ after India recovery|
|Isco gesture was for a corner or foul, claims Solari|
|Harris leads Australia into ascendancy on day one|
|ATP announces candidates to host future Finals|
|Ronaldo: Juventus fans refuse to lose to Torino|
|Hero Rivers feared he had cost Chargers in KC|
|Williams would welcome Llorente back to Athletic Bilbao|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Minding the gap|
|Milan elimination unjust, fumes Leonardo|
|Paul hails ´sick´ Harden after record-breaking display|
|Liverpool v Manchester United: Salah, Mane and Firmino v Rashford, Martial and Lukaku in Opta number|
|Canelo open to GGG trilogy as he chases place in Mexican history|
|The big Friday Premier League quiz|