Mustapha Hadji: Iran clash will be Morocco’s World Cup ‘final’
Rachid Alioui of Morocco celebrates goal with teammates during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Morocco and Ivory Coast at the Oyem Stadium in Gabon on 24 January 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
Wednesday Dec 06, 2017. 15:30
Morocco assistant coach Mustapha Hadji has underlined the importance of the country’s 2018 FIFA World Cup opener against Iran.
The Atlas Lions will take on the Asian nation at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg on the 15th of June in what will be the opening game of Group B.
Seeded alongside European heavyweights Portugal and Spain, the two nations from from the African and Asian continent respectively, know the significance of their clash in Russia’s second largest city.
“The first game will be our final,” Hadji told BBC Sport.
“It will be a tough game because we watched Iran in qualifying and they have a very good team and a very good spirit.
“But if we win, we have a great opportunity to reach the second round. That’s what we are coming for.”
The 1998 African Football of the Year, who featured for Morocco the last time they qualified for a World Cup, is confident that his North African nation can surprise both Spain and Portugal as they set their sights on reaching the knockout stages.
“They are big nations of football and have won everything already,” Hadji added.
“So that’s why we have nothing to lose against these two. We have to play our football and fight – actually to give everything against them – because we know that it is not going to be easy.
“But we can surprise them,” he concluded.
Morocco will make their fifth World Cup appearance following a qualifying campaign in which they conceded zero goals in six fixtures – finding the back of the net on 11 occasions.