After failing to stop Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo from scoring a hat-trick in their opening Group B match of the FIFA World Cup 2018, Spain will aim to put their campaign back on track when they face World No. 37 Iran at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday. Ronaldo scored a stunning hat-trick and secured a 3-3 draw with Spain in a tournament classic. For Spain, the draw had felt more like a defeat, especially given the team's inspired performance in spite of a tumultuous few days marked by their abrupt change in coaches on the eve of the tournament.Spain and Portugal are tied for second in Group B with one point each, while Iran lead the group with three points after beating Morocco 1-0.
A win against Iran will leave Spain on the brink of a place in the last 16, despite all the upheaval of the past week.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said his team may have won their World Cup 'final' against Morocco on Friday but he already has his sights set on a "Universe Cup final" against Spain.
Iran have emerged as the early challengers to Spain and Portugal in Group B after Aziz Bouhaddouz's 95th-minute own-goal sealed a dramatic 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg. It was only Iran's second World Cup victory in the country's history and means Queiroz's side head into their clash against La Roja on Wednesday with momentum and hope.
"If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final," Queiroz said.
Iran's build-up to this tournament had not been smooth. Nike had blocked the players' supply of boots only four days before their opening game while further back, friendlies against Greece and Kosovo were cancelled.
"It was not a miracle that we won," Queiroz said. "Superman is only in the cartoons. Nobody is superman.
"What can happen once in a while is a group of people, when they are united, we can create super stories and super things. Our attitude is to try and make the impossible, possible."
Spain coach Fernando Hierro confirmed that David De Gea will continue as goalkeeper against Iran, despite failing to stop Ronaldo from scoring a hat trick in their opening game.
"We see he (De Gea) is calm, training as usual," Hierro said at a press conference ahead of Wednesday's clash with Iran.
"I have clear ideas and the way forward. From my experience, athletes need confidence not only in good times," he added.
(With AFP inputs)