Turkey 2-1 Iran
With World Cup 2018 on the horizon, this was a salutary lesson for Iran.
In Carlos Quieroz they have one of the best coaches in the game and he has led them to back-to-back World Cups.
But his players won’t need him to remind them that a failure to take chances at this level can often lead to an early flight home.
Betting odds don’t favour the Asians in Russia. Indeed, the favoured sports betting price being offered is for them to gain a solitary point in a tough Group B – comprising European champions Portugal, Spain and Morocco – @ 3.10.
If they are to make their mark their opening encounter against Morocco is key and they will need to make the most of the opportunities which come their way, certainly be more clinical than they were against the Turks.
In their first match against each other since 1974, goals early in each half from Everton forward Cenk Tosun put Turkey in control and only when Nottingham Forest winger Ashkan Dejagah converted an injury-time penalty did they get on the scoresheet.
The spot-kick was awarded after defender Omer Bayram was dismissed for handling the ball on the goal line.
Tosun had scored his ninth and 10th international goals with a low sixth minute strike and neat 51st minute finish to continue to show the late season form which prompted recently departed Everton manager Sam Allardyce to part £27 million for his services in January.
Iran, who now play Austria and head to Russia for a pre-World Cup training camp and a friendly against Lithuania on June 8, are in a fifth World Cup but, to date, their only tournament success remains in France in 1998 when they saw off the USA.
It was described at the time as the ‘most politically charged game in the world’.
If that tally is to double, most hope will rest on the shoulders of Sardar Azmoun of Rubin Kazan, who has scored more international goals for this country (23 in 32 games) than any other player.
Currently placed 36th in the FIFA world rankings, they have been as high as 24th – the highest Asian nation –just one place above Turkey and six clear of June 15 opponents in the Krestovsky Stadium in St Petersburg, Morroco.
Quieroz will end his seven year stint in charge of the Iranian national team after the World Cup, despite being offered an extension to take the team through to next January’s Asian Cup Finals in the United Arab Emirates.
He has faith, however.
‘They fight for their lives, they fight for their history, they fight for their reputations,’ was a memorable quote from the highly rated coach after they qualified.
Now the question remains, can the country support them as they wish?
Since 1979, the country has barred Iranian woman from attending matches with officials insisting they must be protected from the ‘vulgar atmosphere’.
There may be a ban in Iran because of the Islamic Republic’s strict law –recently women dressed as men in defiance to watch a domestic match – but no such rule exists in Russia so Iran should have backing from men and women alike.
Will it be enough to help the team make an impression?
CHECK OUT OUR BLOG FOR MORE FOOTBALL STORIES & ODDS
Stay updated with everything sports and betting.
Follow us on social Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.