Weblog: The football punter
Spain should reap rewards for patience
Iran v Spain, World Cup Group B
Spain shortened in the World Cup outright market after impressing in their opening 3-3 draw against Portugal on Friday and they can deliver a positive performance and result against Iran in Kazan.
Going into the first game there were question marks over how Spain would react to the sacking of manager Julen Lopetegui.
Portugal sensed an opportunity to pile on the pressure and took an early lead but Spain responded impressively and came out of the game with plenty of credit.
Spain remain strong favourites to win the group and the longer-term outlook could be positive for them with three other tournament heavyweights – Brazil, France and Germany – on course to land in the other side of the knockout stage draw.
However, they are involved in a battle with Portugal to finish top of Group B and could do with a healthy margin of victory over an Iran side perched at the top of the section.
Iran are dreaming of reaching the knockout stage at a World Cup for the first time in their history after a injury-time Aziz Bouhhadouz own goal handed them a fortunate 1-0 success over Morocco.
The Iranians looked unsettled at the start and could have been buried during a dominant opening 20 minutes from Morocco.
But Carlos Queiroz's side grew more competitive as the game wore on and started to cause Morocco problems on the counter-attack.
However, the Iranians' most dangerous attacking player, winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, went off injured in the 85th minute and his possible absence would leave Queiroz with few effective attacking cards to play.
Team Melli's obvious strength is their defensive organisation. They conceded just five goals in 18 qualifiers and their rigid shape served them well against Morocco.
It may also help them to avoid a hammering against Spain but sooner or later the Iberians are likely to find the breakthrough.
Few teams in international football move the ball as well as Spain and the addition of Diego Costa, who was absent at Euro 2016, gives them a huge threat up front.
Costa's physical presence gives them the option of going a little more direct and his second goal against Portugal was an outstanding individual strike.
However, it may be a night where patience is required and punters should think twice before lumping on the Spain-Spain half-time full-time selection at odds-on.
Iran would gladly settle for a draw and might not be too perturbed by a low-scoring defeat, which would keep confidence intact and leave them in with a fighting chance going into their final match against Portugal.
A comfortable Spanish victory looks the most likely scenario and it would be a surprise if Iran added to their goal tally.
Spain to win 2-0