Iran v Spain Wednesday June 20, 19:00 TV: live on ITV1
Tried and tested gameplan
Iran's win over Morocco was the best ever example of the theory that it's better to be lucky than to be good. Not only did Morocco completely dominate possession but despite winning the game, Iran didn't even have a shot on target. Their goal was an own goal and it was the first time that such a remarkable event (winning without shooting) happened since 1966. Thanks, Opta.
It's not rocket science as to what their gameplan will be here. Defend, defend and then defend some more. If they can create something on the break or from a set-piece so much the better but if you offered Carlos Queiroz 0-0 here he'd bite your hand off.
It's a mentality that's not exactly good for the game or the spectacle but there's a lot at stake here and if you're going to be a bit kinder, you could point out that there's nothing wrong with trying to play to your strengths.
Spain in good nick under Hierro
There were of course a few concerns that Spain may have been rocked by the Spanish FA's decision to sack their coach on the eve of the tournament. But Fernando Hierro looked in control of proceedings on the touchline and nine times out of 10 when you score three goals in international football, you'd win the match. But they came against an inspired Ronaldoand they weren't the first team that's happened to.
And they played pretty well. For long periods in the second half they passed the ball around nicely and looked like the Spain of old who won three major tournaments in a row.
Crucially, Diego Costa looks up for it. Not in the snarling, in-your-face sort of way that we're used to, but rather he looked focused on the job in hand. Like he really wants to win this tournament rather than get into fight. That bodes well for Spain because they're very dependent on him.
Not much to see in the match odds market
The Spain win is the shortest price we've seen all tournament. The match odds show Spain at 1.20 which isn't a price you see very often in football but it's hard to argue with it.
Spain are an excellent side who could probably field their second XI here and still probably win by a couple of goals. Iran will no doubt give it their all but this looks an impossible task for them.
You can try and trade the draw from 7.80 into about 4.00. Spain aren't a side to be rushed and will be confident that sooner or later they'll break them down. If you're going to play this market that might just be your best bet.
Overs gets the nod
The over/under 2.5 goals market is an interesting one. You could make a case for unders at 2.08 based on the fact that Iran were so tough to break down in that first match and showed so little going forward.
But you could also make a good case for 'overs' given the embarrassment of riches Spain have in attack. If they can score three against Portugal they can surely do the same here as well. And if it's true that Iran looked a little toothless in attack, it's equally true that Spain have found clean sheets hard to come by at World Cups of late. They've now conceded 10 goals in their last four matches at a World Cup so a cheeky Iran goal isn't completely out of the question. The preference is for overs at [1.88.]
Costa could grab a couple
One of football's great Marmite characters showed what he's all about in that first game. Diego Costa's second strike was typical of the game's great poachers, reacting quicker than anyone else to a loose ball.
But his first was a masterpiece. He bullied Pepe off the ball, protected it from three defenders in the absence of any support and waited before delivering a beautiful finish past one of the world's best keepers.
As mentioned already, he looks up for it and is enjoying his second coming for the national side after being frozen out in the previous regime. He's scored eight goals in his last eight appearances for Spain and is 4/5 to score here again. But let's be a bit greedier. There's no reason why in the form he's in, he can't get two. That's a 9/2 shot and looks an excellent price.
David Silva didn't deliver last time out but might be worth another look at 21/10 and don't forget about that man Sergio Ramos. He just loves getting forward at any opportunity and with little defensive work to be done will surely do so here. He's 11/1 to be first scorer and 9/2 to score anytime.
Key Opta Stats for Iran v Spain
Iran are winless against European opposition at the World Cup, having lost five of their six previous fixtures (D1). Spain are1.18 to win.
Spain are unbeaten against Asian opponents at the World Cup (W2 D2), though they did lose on penalties after one of those draws (vs South Korea in 2002). A draw is8.20.
Spain have been eliminated at the group stage in two of the last three World Cup tournaments in which they’ve failed to win their first match (1998 and 2014) – however, they won the tournament on the other occasion, doing so in 2010 despite losing their first match to Switzerland. The Spanish are the second favourites to win the World Cup at6.00.
Spain have conceded 10 goals in their last four World Cup matches – as many as in their previous 15 World Cup matches combined. Over 2.5 goals is1.88.
In their 1-0 victory over Morocco, Iran became the first team since 1966 to score a goal without attempting a shot in a half of World Cup football – their winning goal came courtesy of a 90th minute own-goal by Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz. Under 2.5 goals is2.08.
Diego Costa has scored eight goals in his last eight international starts for Spain – he scored with both of his shots on target in their 3-3 draw with Portugal. Costa is1.80 to score.
Iran could become the first Asian nation to win consecutive World Cup matches since South Korea in June 2002. They are24.00 to pull off a huge shock.