'Iranian Messi' feels at home ahead of Spain clash
Sardar Azmoun (Getty Images)
- It was on a cold night of November two-years ago that Iran forward Sardar Azmoun displayed
his class to the world.
Playing against Bayern Munich in
the Champions League with his Russian Premier League club Rostov, Azmoun
collected a pass from a team-mate on the edge of the area. He continued his run
into the box, sent defender Jerome Boateng to the ground with a fine dribble
and showed the composure of a seasoned veteran to slot the ball home with a
That night, Rostov pulled off a
surprise 3-2 win over Bayern, the kind of upset Iran will be looking for when
it takes on Spain at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday at the World Cup following a
1-0 win against Morocco in its opening game. Spain were held to a 3-3 draw in
their Group B match against Portugal last week.
With his excellent dribbling
skills, the 23-year-old Azmoun has all the qualities required to become a big
star of the game.
is already regarded as one of the best players in the Russian Premier League,
Azmoun was impressive during Iran's unbeaten qualifying campaign for the World
Cup, scoring 11 goals.
With 23 goals in 33 international
appearances, Azmoun is already fifth on Iran's all-time list, following in the
footsteps of the great Ali Daei, who scored 109 goals in 149 appearances with
"As a child, I used to look
up at players like Ali Daei, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic," Azmoun said.
and studying them told me a lot as a player."
Azmoun has been nicknamed the
"Iranian Messi" although he takes his inspiration from the former
"Ibrahimovic is a great
player, and as a fellow forward, he probably is the player I most want to play
Of course, Azmoun is lagging well
behind Messi and Ibrahimovic in the football hierarchy, but he has huge
At 1.86m tall, Azmoun has excellent qualities in the air,
but he is also a top goal poacher with finishing skills. His talent hasn't gone
unnoticed and Azmoun has been linked for a move with several big European
Now with Rubin Kazan, he will
feel at home against Spain as the game has been scheduled at the Kazan Arena in
the capital of the Tatarstan region.
Despite, attacking more than at
the last World Cup, coach Carlos Queiroz's team can now focus on defending well,
as a draw would keep Iran ahead of the 2010 champions in their quest for a
knockout round spot.
Spain's priority will be not only
to win, but also to score as many goals as possible in a group where top spot
is likely to be decided on goal difference if Spain and Portugal win their last
two remaining matches.
Iran has proved to be very
difficult to break in defence because of Queiroz’s compact tactics. The Persian
side were able to produce a clean sheet against Morocco after staying unbeaten
in 10 qualifiers.
didn't concede a single goal in their first nine qualifying games.
"Everybody knows that Spain
is one of the greatest teams in football history, and one thing that we can
guarantee is that the Spanish team will not have an easy time against us,"
Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand said.
"Everybody knows that our
boys are fighters, and we will fight, and we will keep our concentration until
the very last second of the match."