Chesterfield

Chesterfield slideshow

 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Fortunate Diego Costa goal sees Spain overcome Iran's stubborn resistance
Spain beat Iran 1-0 here in Kazan. But rarely can a victory have been as hard won. Iran were simply magnificent in their collective obduracy. Rarely can the old coaching maxim of don’t leave anything on the pitch have been so played out as it was by this Iran team. Against their elevated opponents, the players of Iran gave their all, several of them collapsing to the turf on the final whistle, exhausted by their heroic effort. “We have three more points,” said the Spain coach, Fernando Hierro, sounding the most relieved man west of Vladivostock. “But it was a very tough game, they are very strong physically.” His full back Carlos Cavarjal was less diplomatic: “That was not football, that was a betrayal,” the Barcelona man said of Iran’s approach. Try telling that to their fans. 20,000 Iranians filled the Kazan Arena with an astonishing level of support. Many of them had come from Tehran armed with plastic horns. It was like 2010 all over again, the stadium resounding to the sort of soundtrack we had hoped was consigned to history after the South Africa World Cup. But no, this was a bad case of deja vuvuzela. And nothing seemed to suppress the noise; even when their goalkeeper caught it the stadium superstructure was in danger. Yet if there is any team in the world who can be relied upon to dull the excitement of the opposition supporters it is Spain. And as the slick, sophisticated interchanges of Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Isco began to spin across the turf, it seemed silence would soon prevail. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage But like their wonderfully stubborn team, these Iranian fans were made of sterner stuff, refusing to be cowed by Spain enjoying 81 per cent of the first half possession. With a huge contingent of women amongst their support, many enjoying the freedom of dispensing with the strict dress code of home, they provided a field day for the Russian television director who likes his cameras to pick out attractive females. And if it was the destructive virtues they enjoyed, the Iran fans had much to cheer. Their coach Carlos Queiroz had instructed his team to harry and chase, to snap and snipe. For the first 45 minutes, with six players strung across in a line in front of goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, they presented a solid red wall. When Silva found himself in space in the Iran box and unleashed a goalbound shot, at least three defenders launched themselves at the ball, deflecting it away. This was the performance of a side determined to give everything for the cause. And Spain, normally so calm and patient in possession, seemed initially rattled by the foaming fury of their opponents. Gerard Pique who can normally land a ball on a sixpence, spooned a pass out into touch. Diego Costa found his match in Beiranvand, who, after the Spain’s Brazilian launched a typically Costa verbal flurry in his direction, went down as if he had been hit by a sledgehammer. And even as Iran hit and hoofed, spoiled and sniped, putting together just 49 passes in the first half, still the horns bellowed. How to predict a World Cup winner Iran had not lost in 22 competitive matches since the last World Cup (they were beaten on penalties in the last Asian Championship). In 18 of those games they kept clean sheets. And here was vivid demonstration of how they did it: they defended as if their life depended on it. Spain came out from half time with a flurry, determined to quell the resistance. Busquets’s long range shot was saved by Beiranvand, who then scooped the ball away from Vasquez. Then Isco blasted over. For a moment it looked as if such profligacy might be costly. From a long Iranian throw the ball fell to Karim Ansarifard, the Olympiakos player, who hammered a shot into the side netting. But then, on 54 minutes, Costa barrelled into the box, twisting, turning, snorting. Rami Rezaien tried to tackle him, but the ball bounced off Costa’s knee beyond Beiranvand’s reach. It was a very Costa-ish goal: belligerent, bullish and suffused with good fortune. And Iran had their own slice of luck when, after a goalline scramble that resembled a WWE bout, the ball somehow stayed out of their net. Now Queiroz had to change tactics, hanging on for the point was no longer an option. He sent on Alireza Jahanbakhsh, of AZ Alkmaar, the only Asian to top the scoring tables in any top European league. Finally Iran began to charge forward. World Cup 2018 | Fixtures, groups, squads and more And they did have the ball in the net when Saaid Ezatolahi bundled home, but the referee brought the premature celebrations billowing in the stands to a shuddering halt by referring the incident to the video assistant, who informed him the linesman was right to notice offside in the build up. Queiroz afterwards revealed that such had been the tension, a member of his staff had collapsed during the VAR hiatus and was taken to hospital (he was later discharged). Perhaps driven by adversity, Iran were nothing if not determined. Now bellowed on by their wonderful support, they kept trying to get the ball up to Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh, kept trying to break through Spain’s careful possession. But no matter how they toiled and sweated Iran were up against opponents who know better than any side in international football knows how to kill a game. They made their triangles, they took an age on every set piece, Costa ambled off when substituted as if on an afternoon stroll. And crucially, for all their magnificent intensity, Iran had no Cristiano Ronaldo to deliver a point out of nothing at the death. WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article 9:11PM Tight at the top This is what it all means for the Group B table. All to play for (unless you are Morocco)... 9:08PM History (sort of) 1-0 - Iran 0-1 Spain means that all three matches today ended in a 1-0 scoreline. The only other days in World Cup history to see three 1-0 wins in a single day were June 25th 1982 (3) and June 23rd 2010 (3). Narrow.#IRNESP#IRN#ESP#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 0 - There have been no 0-0 draws in any of the 20 games at the 2018 World Cup so far - the last time that this happened was in 1954 (no 0-0's in the 26-game tournament). Goals.#IRNESP#ESP#IRN#WorldCup— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 20, 2018 9:05PM Full-time stats Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (full time) 8:58PM Analysis Spain did it. They finally broke Iran down, courtesy of a big ricochet and a goal that Costa knew very little about. Iran defended resolutely and could even have shared the points. They, correctly, had a goal disallowed and came close a couple of times late on. As it is, there is all to play for with everyone to play one more game in the group. 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
 8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
Iran vs Spain, World Cup 2018: live score and latest updates
8:54PM Full time Iran 0 Spain 1 8:54PM 90+3 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A long lump fails to find an Iranian player. And again. They are trying, without having anything fall for them. Here comes a long throw, though... Mohammadi will fling the ball into the Spain box. He gives it a kiss, then does a somersault and bails out! What on earth was that?!? His second attempt is to a player nearby instead and the move peters out. 8:51PM 90+2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Ebrahimi is shown yellow for a foul on Rodrigo and that means Spain have a free-kick about 25 yards out on the left flank. Isco takes, but it fails to beat the first Iranian defender. Plenty of time was wasted, though. 8:49PM 90 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain are keeping possession smartly now, with Iran run-ragged from all of their defensive work earlier in the match. Four minutes of stoppage time to be played. 8:48PM 88 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Costa's night is up, to be replaced by the Valencia striker Rodrigo. 8:46PM 87 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Back to front, front to back from Spain. That will take up another minute. Almost there. Credit: getty images 8:44PM 85 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain just need to take the sting out of this now. Or score again. One of those two things, you know. 8:42PM 83 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 That is an enormous chance for Iran!!!! Amiri nutmegs Pique on the left and delivers a sublime cross to Taremi at the far post. He rises to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and has a whole heap of goal to aim at, but his header flies over the bar. So close. So very close. 8:41PM 81 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Sexy stuff from Isco to beat a smattering of Iran players before playing and receiving a one-two to drive into the penalty area where he is put on his backside by a crunching tackle. 8:39PM 79 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Amiri is booked for a rash challenge on Carvajal. Then Vazquez heads off to be replaced by Asensio. 8:36PM 77 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Spain have a free-kick here in a great position 20 yards from goal and to the right. Surely this is perfect for the left foot of Silva... nope, Isco has a go with his right peg and the wall jump to keep it out. 8:35PM 75 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 What a ball from the substitute Mohammadi, who crosses wonderfully from the left flank, but it sails about two yards in front of the onrushing Taremi and out for a goal kick. They are certainly giving it some. 8:30PM 71 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A couple of changes. Mohammadi is on in place of the injured Safi, while Koke replaces the ageing Iniesta. 8:30PM 70 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 A touch of magic down the left from Iniesta, whose close control is superb and Spain win a corner. I'm not sure how describe what then happens... The ball is worked low to the near post and then back to Ramos whose shot it blocked on the line. From that moment about half a dozen Iranian players fling themselves on top of the ball and Spain cannot hack it over the line. The ultimate bundle. Brilliant Sunday League football. Heartening stuff. Great to see #IRNESP taking a lead from Chesterfield and Bury.#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/eAkDxMM5Fj— Crap 90s Football (@Crap90sFootball) June 20, 2018 8:26PM 67 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's almost like a normal football match now. You know, when both sides try to score. All sorts of space all over the pitch. 8:24PM 65 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Nothing the Iranian players can really argue about there. Replays showed Ezatolahi was definitely offisde. This game is so much more open now. 8:23PM GOAL DISALLOWED!!!! Ezatolahi was inches offside when the cross was swung in! Oh deary me. Wow. 8:22PM VAR review Still we wait to hear if it offside... 8:22PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Iran have a free-kick about 30 yards out on the right here. Can they conjure something? YES THEY CAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The cross comes in, there is an almighty scramble and then Ezatolahi bundles into the net. But they are checking VAR for offside... 8:19PM 60 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Iran are looking to build attacking moves now, throwing more bodies forward and it is Taremi who rises highest to meet a cross from the right. He cannot get his header on target though and it trickles past the far post. 8:18PM 58 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 It's immediately apparent that the game is more open since that goal. Iran cannot afford to just sit back as they have been up until now. The result may well be more goals. 8:15PM 56 mins - Iran 0 Spain 1 Well, well, well. What does that mean for Iran's tactics now? Costa scores his 3rd of the tournament. Only a great striker can finish like that. ��— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 20, 2018 8:14PM GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL Finally Spain find a way through. Iniesta plays in Costa, who attempts to turn inside the Iran penalty area. Rezaeian comes across to make the tackle, but the ball ricochets straight into Costa's shin and then the bottom corner of the net. I'm not sure if Costa knew anything about that. Iran 0 - 1 Spain (Diego Costa, 54 min) 8:13PM 53 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh my word! Everyone thought Iran had just scored!!!! A long throw is headed to Ansarifard who absolutely drills the ball towards the Spain goal from just inside the penalty area. De Gea is stood helpless and watching as the ball flies inches wide of the near post and into the side-netting. 8:11PM 52 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It looks like Spain have sent their wingers a lot wider in this half in an attempt to stretch the game across the pitch. And it looks to be having a bit more success, with greater space to work a move from. This time it comes from the right and the ball is pulled back to Isco, who fires over the bar. 8:09PM 50 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close again for Spain as Pique meets a corner and nods towards goal, but he cannot get enough on it and the man on the line hacks it away. The ball is then worked to Busquets who lets fly from 25 yards. Beiranvand dives to his left and palms it up, before then flapping it away with Vazquez advancing on him. 8:08PM 48 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 As was entirely predictable, both sides have instantly slotted into their same positions as the first half. Not sure if it's some sort of cry for help, but Spain appear to be passing themselves a picture of Vicente del Bosque's face pic.twitter.com/oyesO5RqQV— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 8:06PM 47 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Spanish players were in the referee's ear quite a lot in the tunnel before they came out. I suspect they might have been moaning about the Iranian players' time-wasting and, how to put this neatly, erm... gamesmanship at times. I'll be honest, I didn't see anything wrong with their behaviour in the first half. But maybe that's just me. 8:05PM Kick-off The second half begins. 8:03PM What a man Isco. My man �� pic.twitter.com/uO1UlymeOW— R•Madrid Pics �� (@RM_Pictures) June 20, 2018 8:03PM Half-time stats These are brilliant: Iran vs Spain shots on goal Iran vs Spain Average touch positions (half time) 7:50PM Analysis This is as one-sided a game as you will ever see. It's total attack against defence, but Iran have been superb. If they hold out for 90 minutes it will be a phenomenal defensive performance. Every time a Spanish player has the ball in the final third, there is a man in red snapping at his heels or throwing his body in front of him. And Beiranvand has barely been troubled in goal. Strange. Very strange. But fascinating. 7:48PM Half time Iran 0 Spain 0 - Well, somehow Iran have survived a half and they are treated to a breather. 7:47PM 45+1 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Close for Spain as Silva shoots from the edge of the box, but yet another Iran defender flings himself at the ball and deflects it wide for a corner that comes to nothing. 7:45PM 45 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Three minutes of stoppage time to be played. 7:44PM 44 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran are now just thumping the ball upfield and waiting for the next wave of attack. And again. And again. And again. There is zero attempt to retain possession. 7:42PM 42 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 For all the magicians in the Spanish midfield, they just cannot find a way through. Isco does well to cross low from the left and pick out Iniesta, but the (soon to be) Barcelona man is pounced upon in a flash. I can imagine Spain fans are starting to get very frustrated. 7:40PM 40 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 What's happened here? Iran's keeper Beiranvard has gone down and reckons there was some sort of stamp from Costa, who - you probably don't need me to say - is vociferously protesting his innocence. Replays show it is a lot of fuss over nothing. Costa's foot possibly connected with Beiranvard's toes as the keeper picked up the ball, but there wasn't anything in it. 7:37PM 37 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Now Iran have a corner! Pique was forced to head an incoming cross behind his own goal. Ansarifard will take the corner, but it is headed easily away. 7:35PM 35 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Iran have a throw-in deep inside the Spanish half and the crowd have gone berserk! Safi will attempt the long throw into the box, but the chance is cleared in a flash. 7:33PM 33 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iranians have almost stopped even bothering to try and venture in the Spain half. They are exerting so much energy just keeping the opposition out. Surely this cannot last 90 minutes. They are playing as though this is the 88th minute of a match, not the 33rd. 7:30PM 30 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A gorgeous one-two between Iniesta and Isco finally sees Spain work their way into the Iranian penalty area, but Iniesta's shot is brilliantly blocked on its way to goal. That was a touch of magic from Isco to find his team-mate. The corner falls to Silva, but he cannot keep his shot down to test the keeper. 7:28PM 28 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 These average touch positions tell a story. Only three outfield players in the Spanish half! Average touch positions (25 min) 7:26PM 26 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's total one-way traffic, but it's been quite an engrossing start to this match. A bruising start as well, with tackles flying in all over the place. 7:24PM 24 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 ... Silva will be the man to take with his left foot. He strikes it well, but straight into the midriff of Beiranvard, via a deflection off the wall. 7:24PM 23 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 And Spain earn another free-kick marginally closer to goal. I suspect one of Spain's players with greater finesse will take this one, rather than Ramos... 7:22PM 22 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 "It's an attack v defence training session," says Clive Tyldesley. "But they know what they are doing," adds Glenn Hoddle, of Iran's defence. Spain have earned a free-kick about 25 yards out from goal, though, and Ramos looks as though he fancies it. But his shot fails to beat the wall. 7:20PM 20 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The Iran tactic is quite clear: defend, defend, defend, defend, and then hope to snaffle something on the break. And the defending part is working a treat so far. They look so tightly drilled, but can they keep it up for 90 minutes? 7:19PM 19 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Just a hint of space opens up for Silva, which allows the Manchester City man to have a crack from outside the penalty area, but it cracks into a red-shirted defender and away to safety. Iran seem to have a line of six men in defence when Spain have the ball. 7:18PM 17 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The racket whenever an Iranian player gets on the ball is very impressive. They must have a hell of a lot of fans inside the stadium. And they have something to cheer here as Taremi receives the ball behind the Spanish defence and everyone seems to stop while waiting for an offside flag to be raised. It never comes though, so Taremi hares forward and crosses into the penalty area, but there is no one to get on the end of it. 7:15PM 15 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Spain are struggling slightly at the moment to penetrate this Iranian team, which has been set up tightly with men behind the ball. 7:13PM 13 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 It's pretty niggly out there at the moment. Both sides committing plenty of fouls, before arguing profusely with the referee. All very tiresome. 7:13PM 12 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 A little bit of breaking news from the England camp (and this is not a joke): Gareth Southgate has dislocated his shoulder while out running!!!!!!! 7:10PM 10 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 This could be dangerous. Iran concede a free-kick about 10 yards in from the left and 10 yards from the penalty area. Isco will be the man to whip it in... no he won't, the left-footed Alba crosses instead, the ball flicks off Pique's head and out for a throw on the other side of the pitch. 7:08PM 8 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 The first (of what will presumably be many) talking to of the evening for Ramos after a foul near the middle of the pitch. Not sure there was anything in it as the two men went up for a header together. 7:06PM 6 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Oh what have we here? Here come the Iranians as Azmoun gets in behind the Spain defence and finds Amiri, who darts to the byline and is bundled over to win a free-kick by the corner flag. Can they produce something from this? No. The cross is headed clear by Pique. 7:04PM 4 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Early impressions: Spain are going to see a lot of the ball during this match. Iran are going to sit back and be as physical as possible. Beiranvand is called into action for the first time to punch a loopy cross into the night before Carvajal slashes a long-range shot a long way high and wide. 7:02PM 2 mins - Iran 0 Spain 0 Huge noise from the Iranian contingent inside the stadium. Quite a din in Kazan. 7:00PM Kick off Spain, in white, get this match underway. Iran in red. let's go. 6:53PM Ready for action The players are out and it's national anthem time. 6:45PM Always prepared Bit excessive. Then again, if it rains and he hadn't laminated them, we'd be ripping into him pic.twitter.com/yCB7vFngP0— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) June 20, 2018 6:40PM Here's the scene in Kazan Credit: getty images Credit: reuters 6:31PM My mate Messi Some more pre-reading for you comes in the form of the latest column from our new Telegraph Sport columnist Cesc Fabregas. This one is entitled: Lionel Messi and me - my 18-year friendship with the world's greatest player Here's an extract: People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments. I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it. When I went to Arsenal, we lost a little bit of contact, but when I re-signed for Barcelona the friendship grew very quickly again and we had a great connection on the pitch, especially in my first season back. In the first seven games, he had nine goals and I had five, and we were both making assists for each other. It was incredible. Credit: afp 6:20PM Ins and outs So, two changes from the Spain side who drew with Portugal. Nacho is dropped after his wonder-goal and replaced by Dani Carvajal, while Lucas Vazquez comes in for Koke. Iran have tinkered slightly more with Majid Hosseini, Saeid Ezatolahi and Mehdi Taremi all brought into the side. 6:05PM The teams are in TEAM NEWS! We have the Starting XIs for #IRN and #ESP#IRNESPpic.twitter.com/pZQvmZ0B3V— FIFA World Cup �� (@FIFAWorldCup) June 20, 2018 5:54PM Qualifiers Some news from Group A is that it's all been decided just two games in. Uruguay have just beaten Saudi Arabia 1-0, which means both Russia and Uruguay are through to the last-16. Those two sides face each other next Monday to see who tops the group. 5:48PM Open to all While we await the team news, I recommend reading this piece by our man Jim White on the ground in Kazan: How the World Cup is exposing Iranian restrictions on women: 'I was sent to jail for trying to go to a game in Tehran' Here's an extract: For Kiana and Paria, two twenty-something women from Iran, this World Cup has been a liberating experience. For a start, the two of them have been able to do something they never have been able to do in their own country: go to a football match. In fact, earlier this year, when Paria tried to attend a game in her home city she was arrested. The charge was offending public decency. “I love sport, I love football and in Iran women can’t go to watch,” she explains. “One night I try. I go to the game and I went to jail.” It happened in March. A rumour was circulating that the Iranian government had relaxed the strict rules preventing women from showing their enthusiasm for the sport. “We had heard it was OK,” says Paria. “We thought they were allowing us.” So she and her boyfriend headed off to see the Tehran derby between Persepolis and Esteghlal. But it was not OK, things had not changed. Along with 29 other women who had mistakenly smelled a whiff of liberalisation in the wind, the moment she tried to go through the turnstiles, Paria was arrested and taken to the police station. Her crime? Being a woman in an all-male environment. The World Cup has given Iran fans Paria (right) and Kiana the opportunity to attend their first football match without the risk of arrest 5:30PM Favourites vs Table Toppers No one would have predicted that in a group featuring Spain, Portugal and Morocco, it would be Iran who ended the first round of games top of the table. But that is exactly where Carlos Queiroz's side found themselves when they woke up this morning. In many senses their 1-0 victory over Morocco was somewhat fortunate, gifted to them courtesy of a 95th-minute Aziz Bouhaddouz own-goal. But such a simple reading of that triumph is to do Iran a disservice. Yes, Morocco dominated possession, but Iran's defence held tight throughout, offering the opposition few clear-cut chances. As for Iran's attacking threat at the other end of the pitch... well, yes, there wasn't much to say about that. And, in all honesty, there shouldn't be much tonight either. For all their table-topping exploits, Iran are facing a significant step up here against a Spanish side who impressed many people despite only drawing their opening encounter with Portugal. After the crazy build-up that saw them sack their head coach barely 48 hours before kick-off, the Spaniards showed plenty of class and would have won with relative ease were it not for the individual brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo (and a couple of glaring errors). With Germany losing, Brazil and Argentina drawing, and France looking highly unconvincing in victory over Australia, Spain's draw only seemed to strengthen their hopes of winning this tournament. At their best, no other nation in the world can come close to the beauty of their football and, providing they are over any opening match jitters, this Iranian side are not expected to trouble them much. Indeed, you can get 20/1 on Queiroz's lads emerging victorious tonight. Whether the reality is so straightforward will be known in a few hours. I have predicted a 2-0 win to Spain, although I am firmly entrenched near the bottom of our Team Telegraph World Cup prediction competition so I am not a man to be trusted. For what it's worth: Iran are guaranteed a place in the last-16 if they win tonight.
The triple grand-slam champion Stan Wawrinka became the latest big name to welcome Andy Murray back to the tennis tour on Monday night. “It’s never easy when you don’t see a player like him on the court,” said Wawrinka. “You’re not used to it.” But first Wawrinka had business of his own to attend to, as he claimed only his fifth victory of 2018 over British No. 2 Cameron Norrie. Wawrinka is still in the middle of his own comeback from injury, having undergone two knee operations last year. On Monday, he significantly reduced the amount of running he had to do by belting down 13 aces in a quickfire 6-2, 6-3 win. Wawrinka was aggressive in his returns too, striking a couple of clean forehand winners that flew past Norrie almost before he had completed his service action. Afterwards, he admitted that he had found this victory particularly satisfying in the light of his recent drought, which has seen him win only one match since the first half of February. “Mentally, it's tough when you see how far you are and how long it will take,” said Wawrinka, when asked about his slow march back to a competitive level. “I need to be really patient with myself, to accept less in a way. “I improved a lot physically and I am getting closer at least in the practice court. But I know that the next few months will not be easy. So I just need to take every match, every win as something really positive and keep doing the right job every day.” Wawrinka had two operations last year Credit: PA Tuesday’s centre-court schedule at the Fever-Tree Championships looks like a crowd-pleaser, featuring not only Murray but Novak Djokovic and the new British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Dan Evans will be in action on Court 1 against Adrian Mannarino, on the same day that the All England are due to discuss whether to offer him a wild card. For the second time in a fortnight, Evans was the subject of a letter of support on Monday from Toby Perkins, the Chesterfield MP who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tennis. Perkins wrote to Wimbledon’s chief executive Richard Lewis to suggest that Evans is a deserving case.
Stan Wawrinka claims much-needed win with victory over Cameron Norrie at Queen's
The triple grand-slam champion Stan Wawrinka became the latest big name to welcome Andy Murray back to the tennis tour on Monday night. “It’s never easy when you don’t see a player like him on the court,” said Wawrinka. “You’re not used to it.” But first Wawrinka had business of his own to attend to, as he claimed only his fifth victory of 2018 over British No. 2 Cameron Norrie. Wawrinka is still in the middle of his own comeback from injury, having undergone two knee operations last year. On Monday, he significantly reduced the amount of running he had to do by belting down 13 aces in a quickfire 6-2, 6-3 win. Wawrinka was aggressive in his returns too, striking a couple of clean forehand winners that flew past Norrie almost before he had completed his service action. Afterwards, he admitted that he had found this victory particularly satisfying in the light of his recent drought, which has seen him win only one match since the first half of February. “Mentally, it's tough when you see how far you are and how long it will take,” said Wawrinka, when asked about his slow march back to a competitive level. “I need to be really patient with myself, to accept less in a way. “I improved a lot physically and I am getting closer at least in the practice court. But I know that the next few months will not be easy. So I just need to take every match, every win as something really positive and keep doing the right job every day.” Wawrinka had two operations last year Credit: PA Tuesday’s centre-court schedule at the Fever-Tree Championships looks like a crowd-pleaser, featuring not only Murray but Novak Djokovic and the new British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Dan Evans will be in action on Court 1 against Adrian Mannarino, on the same day that the All England are due to discuss whether to offer him a wild card. For the second time in a fortnight, Evans was the subject of a letter of support on Monday from Toby Perkins, the Chesterfield MP who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tennis. Perkins wrote to Wimbledon’s chief executive Richard Lewis to suggest that Evans is a deserving case.
The triple grand-slam champion Stan Wawrinka became the latest big name to welcome Andy Murray back to the tennis tour on Monday night. “It’s never easy when you don’t see a player like him on the court,” said Wawrinka. “You’re not used to it.” But first Wawrinka had business of his own to attend to, as he claimed only his fifth victory of 2018 over British No. 2 Cameron Norrie. Wawrinka is still in the middle of his own comeback from injury, having undergone two knee operations last year. On Monday, he significantly reduced the amount of running he had to do by belting down 13 aces in a quickfire 6-2, 6-3 win. Wawrinka was aggressive in his returns too, striking a couple of clean forehand winners that flew past Norrie almost before he had completed his service action. Afterwards, he admitted that he had found this victory particularly satisfying in the light of his recent drought, which has seen him win only one match since the first half of February. “Mentally, it's tough when you see how far you are and how long it will take,” said Wawrinka, when asked about his slow march back to a competitive level. “I need to be really patient with myself, to accept less in a way. “I improved a lot physically and I am getting closer at least in the practice court. But I know that the next few months will not be easy. So I just need to take every match, every win as something really positive and keep doing the right job every day.” Wawrinka had two operations last year Credit: PA Tuesday’s centre-court schedule at the Fever-Tree Championships looks like a crowd-pleaser, featuring not only Murray but Novak Djokovic and the new British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Dan Evans will be in action on Court 1 against Adrian Mannarino, on the same day that the All England are due to discuss whether to offer him a wild card. For the second time in a fortnight, Evans was the subject of a letter of support on Monday from Toby Perkins, the Chesterfield MP who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tennis. Perkins wrote to Wimbledon’s chief executive Richard Lewis to suggest that Evans is a deserving case.
Stan Wawrinka claims much-needed win with victory over Cameron Norrie at Queen's
The triple grand-slam champion Stan Wawrinka became the latest big name to welcome Andy Murray back to the tennis tour on Monday night. “It’s never easy when you don’t see a player like him on the court,” said Wawrinka. “You’re not used to it.” But first Wawrinka had business of his own to attend to, as he claimed only his fifth victory of 2018 over British No. 2 Cameron Norrie. Wawrinka is still in the middle of his own comeback from injury, having undergone two knee operations last year. On Monday, he significantly reduced the amount of running he had to do by belting down 13 aces in a quickfire 6-2, 6-3 win. Wawrinka was aggressive in his returns too, striking a couple of clean forehand winners that flew past Norrie almost before he had completed his service action. Afterwards, he admitted that he had found this victory particularly satisfying in the light of his recent drought, which has seen him win only one match since the first half of February. “Mentally, it's tough when you see how far you are and how long it will take,” said Wawrinka, when asked about his slow march back to a competitive level. “I need to be really patient with myself, to accept less in a way. “I improved a lot physically and I am getting closer at least in the practice court. But I know that the next few months will not be easy. So I just need to take every match, every win as something really positive and keep doing the right job every day.” Wawrinka had two operations last year Credit: PA Tuesday’s centre-court schedule at the Fever-Tree Championships looks like a crowd-pleaser, featuring not only Murray but Novak Djokovic and the new British No. 1 Kyle Edmund. Meanwhile, Dan Evans will be in action on Court 1 against Adrian Mannarino, on the same day that the All England are due to discuss whether to offer him a wild card. For the second time in a fortnight, Evans was the subject of a letter of support on Monday from Toby Perkins, the Chesterfield MP who is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tennis. Perkins wrote to Wimbledon’s chief executive Richard Lewis to suggest that Evans is a deserving case.
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. 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World Cup 2018 kits: ranked - Every strip assessed including Peru, Nigeria, England and Panama
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
Former Watford chairman banned for life from English football over forged bank letter
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
Former Watford chairman banned for life from English football over forged bank letter
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
Former Watford chairman banned for life from English football over forged bank letter
A former chairman of Watford has been banned for life from the English game after admitting supplying falsified financial information to the football authorities. Raffaele Riva has been punished for submitting a forged banking letter - the existence of which was exclusively revealed by the Daily Telegraph almost two years ago - when Gino Pozzo became the club’s sole owner. The faked filing, provided as proof Pozzo had enough funds to bankroll Watford, allowed the Italian to take full control of the Hertfordshire club. The Premier League side were fined almost £4 million in August after admitting providing a letter fabricated to appear as though it was written by HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks, to the Football League (now EFL) shortly before their 2014-15 promotion-winning campaign. A copy of the document was obtained by the Telegraph, which it passed on both to HSBC and the police after alerting the EFL, sparking an internal investigation by Watford and a 10-month inquiry by the governing body. The club pleaded guilty to filing the letter and were fined £3.95m - the largest ever EFL financial penalty - by a disciplinary commission and ordered to pay an additional £350,000 in costs. The fine would have been even larger - £5.75m - but it was reduced after Watford were deemed to have fully cooperated with an independent investigation and had met their financial commitments in full. Giampaolo Pozzo (centre) and son Gino (left) took over after the letter was sent Credit: GETTY IMAGES Separate action was launched against Riva, who resigned as the club’s executive chairman a week after the Telegraph revealed he had secured the faked letter. As well as banning him for life, a disciplinary commission fined him £50,000 and ordered him to pay £65,000 towards the costs of the EFL, ruling he would be unable to seek a review of his suspension until at least November 2, 2026. The EFL said in a statement: “Mr Riva accepts that his actions have had a serious impact on the integrity of the EFL and that they have caused embarrassment to the EFL and the club, which Mr Riva very much regrets.” The earlier inquiry found no evidence Pozzo himself had any knowledge a forgery had been obtained or submitted on his behalf, despite it allowing him to succeed his father, Giampaolo, as the club’s ultimate beneficial owner in the summer of 2014. The fabricated document stated that the holding company which owns Watford, Hornets Investment Limited, had sufficient financial resources with the bank for it to issue “a cash-backed unsecured bank guarantee up to the amount of £7 million” during the 2014-15 season. The letter was headed HSBC ‘Premier’, an arm of the bank that did not even deal with corporate customers, while a source told the Telegraph that Hornets Investment had never been a customer of HSBC. The faked document was one of two obtained by the Telegraph dated a week apart and worded almost identically. Riva secured the letters from an associate, who, according to information received by the Telegraph, denied any intention for them to be used in any formal filing. A week before resigning, Riva issued a statement in which he said he said he had no knowledge he had been provided with a forgery until informed by the Telegraph. Watford would not comment on precisely who else at the club saw the document before it was submitted, and accepted by the Football League, amid serious questions about exactly what checks took place to validate it. Before the fake HSBC letter was filed, Watford submitted a two-year-old document from Credit Suisse – with which Hornets Investment did bank – that was rejected by the league as proof of funds because it was out of date. Gino Pozzo was aware of the knockback, as was the club’s chief executive Scott Duxbury - who succeeded Riva as chairman - although the inquiry found no evidence he or anyone else at the club had any knowledge of the forgery. The inquiry also found no evidence Pozzo did not have sufficient funds to satisfy the league over the change of ownership, with Watford deemed to have obtained no competitive advantage by submitting a falsified document. No evidence was found of other irregularities in Watford’s submissions to the EFL. There is no known precedent in professional English football for the filing of forged documents, although Chesterfield were docked nine points in 2001 for financial irregularities, including falsifying gate receipts and giving a player two contracts.
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018 kits: ranked - Every strip assessed including Peru, Nigeria, England and Panama
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018 kits: ranked - Every strip assessed including Peru, Nigeria, England and Panama
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup 2018 kits: ranked - Every strip assessed including Peru, Nigeria, England and Panama
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article
World Cup hype is to be discouraged, especially if it’s about England’s chances. Nevertheless, here is a grand statement: this is the best World Cup for kits of all time. Recent tournaments have been weighed down by a few templates dominating the overall set, this year the majority of teams have something unique. There is a pleasing mix throughout of tradition being respected, but playfully twisted. Astonishingly, among 64 kits not one is entirely horrendous. As ever, these rankings are entirely subjective but they are also entirely correct. To my mind a good international tournament kit is five things: Correct for its time, slightly different to what has come before, aware that it will be seen on TV far more often than in person, memorable, and, perhaps most important of all, not all-white. For those keeping score at home the manufacturers count this year breaks down as follows: World Cup 2018 kit manufacturers With that bit of thrilling administrative business taken care of, let's begin our countdown with the very worst kit of this year’s World Cup. 64. Switzerland home Credit: PUMA The trouble with the aforementioned lack of honking clangers in this year’s collection is that someone still has to come bottom. Luckily no-one will shed any tears for Switzerland, seemingly invited to every World Cup despite never bringing anything good to drink. This is a marble cake monstrosity, an OS map of a doomed hike, a pattern in lieu of a personality. The overly-relaxed promotional shot also suggests Switzerland just aren’t taking this competition seriously enough. Too late to swap them out for a more interesting team? 63. Australia away Credit: NIKE Always a worrying sign when it’s hard to picture Mile Jedinak in a kit but no struggle whatsoever to imagine the same outfit on Shane Warne. This fails an important test: does it look like a football shirt? Would pass for the uniform of a garden centre employee with the addition of an “I’m here to help” badge. Unfortunately the gaudy crossing streams bring to mind some top lads messing about at the urinals. On this evidence both have an awful lot to learn about hydration. 62. Serbia away Credit: PUMA Pretty ropey business from Puma which has decided with all the wisdom of a large cat that away shirts at this year’s tournament MUST be white. Shame such decisiveness wasn’t in play for that stripe running down the middle which isn’t quite sure where to start or end. In France for Euro 2016 you could buy face-painting sticks which smeared something like a French flag down your face*. This looks like an accident with one of those. Improved by a number on the front as demonstrated by the fine men to the right. * If you’d like to see a man who really likes football kits being accosted by one of these, this is the video of your dreams: 61. Morocco home Credit: Adidas Morocco delayed their launch for both of their shirts until this week, because they were so concerned about forged versions reaching the market, both abstract and actual. Was it worth the wait? No, no it was not. Somehow both dull and brash. A deeply uninspired effort. 60. Egypt away Credit: GETTY IMAGES Rubbish. Put a pyramid on it, at least. So lacking in verve that in the event of a kit clash Egypt might as well just play in skins. 59. Iran home Credit: AP Really not sold on the idea of a modern kit launch, Iran simply strode out of the tunnel for a friendly against Turkey wearing this, their new home kit. No photoshopped Lions, no meaningless three-word mottos, no press releases about fabric which periodically sprays your skin with expensive serum. We applaud their approach, but not their anonymous kit. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? It’s the same template as Morocco home with the same half-arsed lack of flair as Egypt’s similarly white away shirt. Seeing the spectacular work Adidas has done for several of the kits higher on this chart it’s clear where its priorities lie. 58. Saudi Arabia home Credit: Nike How to make the blank canvas of a white Nike kit instantly less appealing? Add a sickly shade of green! Limp and tedious. 57. Panama home Credit: New Balance As long-time kit ranking-enjoyers will attest, I am in the tank for New Balance. It generally finds a way to upheld the best traditional aspects of a team’s look while adding memorable flourishes. What happens when a team has no notable tradition to speak of? Maths-paper squares, it would seem. Disappointingly cheap-looking. 56. Belgium away Credit: Adidas The Watford side of the 1980s may seem like an unlikely influence for an international football kit in 2018, but here we are. Something a bit public transport upholstery about the shirt, which appears to be mere lines at first, before squares start appearing like a disappointing Magic Eye. Fails to hang together in a pleasing way as a set, and I suspect it’s that weak Pro Evo-like team emblem which is to blame. 55. Tunisia home Credit: Uhlsport A schoolfriend of mine once brought back several Tunisia home shirts from a holiday so our dreadful five-a-side team could have a matching kit. Suffice to say they were not Official Licensed Team Products. The memory of that shirt and all of its kind, shiny, utterly impermeable, clinging to your entire back after five minutes, came flooding back seeing this aggressively boring home kit. Little to recommend beyond some minor attempts at geometry on the side. Not good enough. 54. Senegal home Credit: Puma Last year Senegal wore a fearsome roaring lion on their shoulder, made out of bold dashes of colour: Credit: REUTERS This year Senegal have moved on with their lives and are trying to forget about their wild summer of lion. They have deleted his number. They’re going out less. They have, unfortunately, got dull. Sublimated patterns are all well and good in the context of pictures of kits on the internet, but IRL this is a tedious white shirt with some uninspired trim in an unappealing green. 53. Morocco away Credit: Adidas An Adidas teamwear template that’s available for any Sunday League team that fancies it. Not a particularly offensive one, but surely something slightly more exciting is possible? As may have been mentioned before, this is the World Cup. 52. Switzerland away Credit: Puma Honestly, Switzerland, why bother? What is the point? You’re cheating yourself, Switzerland. You’re capable of more, Puma. That’s too many logos, both of you. Liven up your ideas. You are harshing my World Cup buzz. 51. Iceland away Credit: Errea Some sad news for you: this will not be Iceland’s World Cup. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and international football tournament shock artists do not repeat the trick in consecutive competitions. Especially when Gylfi Sigurdsson is injured. Still, we will have a great time getting behind Iceland, enjoying their incredible support and trying to clap along with them at the correct moment. We will just not be wearing this shirt, because the collar is silly and there is something iffy about those sleeves. 50. Iran away Credit: GETTY IMAGES A little more oopmh behind this Iran effort, but still impossible to shake the feeling their only notable contribution to this World Cup will be to provide a future low-scoring answer on Pointless. 49. Spain away Credit: Adidas Unsure about what’s happened here, but somewhere along the line mistakes have been made. Spain have been wearing white as change or third strips since 1982, but few stick in the memory beyond this belter from 2016: Credit: EPA This one will not be hanging around for long in anyone's mind, with its trim like dubious Sangria and a vague waterfall of pointless turquoise. The abandonment of a largely-glorious history of navy away shirts should lead to a root and branch review in whichever Spanish quango is responsible for choosing kits. 48. Uruguay away Credit: Puma Yr man here looks like he’s on his way to cause some aggro. Don’t try that in Russia, pal. It will not end well. Few discerning remarks for another tedious white away shirt from Puma’s big book of uninspired ideas. 47. Belgium home Credit: Adidas Theoretically amazing but does not come off. A re-hash of Belgium’s Euro 84 kit, a tournament in which they beat Yugoslavia, were hammered by France then lost 3-2 to Denmark after leading 2-0. If we’re commemorating farce let’s give Gareth Southgate a cool “retro” umbrella. Proof that Argyle and football shirts just don’t mix, as everyone except Plymouth die-hards will admit. Gives impression that Belgium would much rather be good at cycling than football. Check out those constricting sleeves - only suitable if you have the freakishly tiny upper arms of Chris Froome. 46. Serbia home Credit: Puma More middle of the road than a central reservation. Cannot be redeemed, even by a number font on loan from a Disneyfied Balkans-themed restaurant menu. 45. Tunisia away Credit: Uhlsport Like a dull Denmark. Won’t upset anyone, either stylistically or on the pitch. (Let’s see how well that statement ages after the match taking place in Volgograd on 18 June…) 44. Poland away Credit: Nike We have similar to come in this countdown with Poland’s home effort which is (spoilers) identical, albeit in a different colour. So just hold that thought if waiting for a verdict on this one and remember that, sometimes, white looks better than red. The socks, sadly absent here, are also red. Red, red, red. Never much fun. 43. Saudi Arabia away Credit: Nike Fairly muted and tasteful, whether or not the team can muster a single second of balletic glory which mirrors the Nike promotional material here remains to be seen. Some extra points for the number placement above the right breast, a welcome trend for several of Nike’s shirts in Russia. 42. Iceland home Credit: Errea Lovable though Iceland are, there is a fine line between joyful throwbacks to the design trends of 1997 and just looking like the Chesterfield side who nearly reached the FA Cup final. Unfortunately this falls just the wrong side. Never mind, it will bring back happy memories for Sean Dyche. 41. South Korea home Credit: Nike That’s quite the bland shirt you have there, South Korea. You are in danger of disappointing the excellent tiger who lives on your emblem. The black shorts help the overall look, as does a very excited model. 40. Japan away Credit: Adidas It takes a special sort of kit tragic to see a new shirt and immediately think “Albania change 2016.” Reader, I am that anorak. This is a more refined take on the radiator texture chic explored by the Eagles in the last European Championships. It still looks more like it was designed more to impress as a niche Parkrun choice than to create TV memories at an international tournament. That’s a trend to be discouraged. 39. Senegal away Credit: Puma A shade of green which does not look interested in messing around. The overall combination of pattern, trim and sublimated image is a touch dated but just about gets over the line between striking and naff. 38. Nigeria home Credit: Nike This is it, the great novelty. The bold statement. The reported 3million pre-orders. Memorable, certainly. Bold, undoubtedly. But somehow quite calculated, a bit knowing. A feeling that its designers are deliberately attempting to court controversy rather than make something with the sort of weird beauty which will inevitably divide opinion. Perhaps I am too cynical, and I appreciate the effort. But I cannot find it in my heart to love the kit. A nation weeps as one. 37. Sweden home Credit: Adidas Like any self-respecting adult I have a favourite two-colour combination for sports kits and it’s yellow and blue. I have, though, been burned by too many forgettable Sweden appearances at World Cups. They have been no fun since 1994. Neither is this kit, really, despite the same diagonal stripes also seen on Real Madrid’s current home shirt which look like an afterthought. 36. Panama away Credit: New Balance A man, a plan, a canal… Pretty patterns! This is a bit more like it from Team Canal and their official Matchday supplier - Team Balancing Things in New and Inventive ways. Some risk, some invention, an odd plunging collar. A qualified success. 35. England home Credit: Nike A return to the sort of England kit a seven-year-old would draw if brought up in the 1990s, after some CONTROVERSIAL experimentation with devilry such as light blue sleeves and (gasp!) red socks for Euro 2016. Everything about that tournament must now be expunged from English football history, but I’m not convinced that a return to such a safe set is helpful. Especially at a time already coloured by questionable memories of how perfect things used to be in England in the good old days when everything was simpler. Add my name to the growing list of people who wish they’d gone with their excellent training top as home shirt instead: Credit: Nike 34. Portugal away Credit: Nike Nice try Portugal, with your constellation of stars on the front, but this is still all-white and therefore not eligible for the upper reaches. Can imagine Ronaldo will look resplendent in this while eagerly indicating that he wants a throw-in delivered to him NOW by one of the inferior men he must tolerate every couple of years for a few weeks. I bet one of his own team-mates will try to swap shirts with him. 33. Peru home Credit: Umbro Has Umbro muffed it? I think it might have done. You wait so long for a proud Peruvian sash at a World Cup then when it comes it’s served with a side order of unnecessary gold ribbon. You can’t even pick it off. You probably can, but it will invalidate your shirt’s warranty. A country who are a wonderful addition to the tournament, a great shame the kit isn’t the classic it should be. 32. Australia home Credit: Nike If you like your lager advertising chummy, your Cahills to be called Tim (not Gary), and your dinkum fair have we got the World Cup kit for you? ‘Straylia! Seismograph sleeves complement gold as bold as a slap in the face from a lovable rogue in Earl’s Court Walkabout. 31. Russia home Credit: Adidas Remember the Soviet Union? I don’t, really, but expect its citizens would be as proud as their rulers would permit to wear this. Strong, bold and inscrutable. Stick “CCCP” on the front and put Frankie Goes To Hollywood on and we’re back in 1984. No not Relax, the other one. No! not The Power Of Love… Oh, forget it. 30. Nigeria away Credit: Nike Not the Nigeria shirt that everyone (anyone) is talking about at this year’s World Cup, but the sensible Super Eagles Super Fan’s Super Choice. An unusual shade of dark green, rarely seen on a football shirt. Perhaps with good reason, this is the kit most likely to suffer the same “players can’t pick eachother out” fate as Manchester United’s grey from 1996. 29. Spain home Credit: Adidas I am a little wary of the trend to look backwards when designing kits. Nick a flourish, sure, but there seems little point in slavishly aping past designs. Adidas has largely “drawn inspiration” rather than “shamelessly pilfered” from its past for this tournament, but this lapses into outright cover version. Spain reached the quarter-finals in 1994 wearing a very similar shirt to this, but the lined effect on this year’s diamonds takes the edge off in 2018. There has been some controversy about what looks like purple, which is a contentious colour in Spain because of its use in the Republican flag, used by anti-monarchy protesters. Despite it all, this is fairly tasty. Shorts and socks especially so. 28. Egypt home Credit: Adidas Tidy, no nonsense, playing a straight bat, stiff upper lip, masking the sadness of an entire nation about a bad thing Sergio Ramos did. 27. Portugal home Credit: Nike Nothing to fault, nothing to feel excited about. Green socks are fairly jolly. Portugal have been gradually losing claret since peak-bastard Cristiano in 2006. This edges back to that deeper, more soulful colour than recent journeys towards the light. Embrace the evil, Portugal. Strike us down with all of your hatred. 26. Argentina home Credit: Adidas Very little to see here beyond some acceptable gradient work on the blue stripes. Some kits are protected like greenbelt land. The excess white at the shoulder where the blue marries the sleeve looks almost like a manufacturing error. There are perhaps six people in the world who care about this. 25. Costa Rica home Credit: New Balance Here we go Costa Rica, that’s how you do a subtle shirt pattern! The lines are DNA, apparently for… reasons. Don’t ask New Balance too many questions or you’ll end up in that glass chamber. 24. Poland home Credit: Nike As has been covered at length, all-white is not the way to my heart, but this is very tidy indeed. Brought to life by its diagonal halving, elevating it immediately from dull to borderline memorable. What does it all mean? Nothing. Almost certainly nothing. 23. Argentina away Credit: Adidas The closest we come to a template to be bored of at this year’s World Cup is this, the Adidas nipple-emphasis side-stripes. Happily, like its similarly ubiquitous USA 94 designs worn by Romania, Sweden, Bulgaria and Norway, it’s a peach. We’ll be seeing plenty more of it in what remains of this list. Argentina have one of the less memorable incarnations, but it’s still totally pleasant. 22. South Korea away Credit: Nike Now we’re talking. This is how to jolt an all-white change strip into life - by adding the graphic style of an aspirational hi-tech power shower that you will never be able to afford. 21. England away Credit: Nike Shades of 1998 here, when England had a deeper shade of red which also featured a St George’s cross pattern. Picture David Beckham’s free kick against Colombia. Yes, that’s the one. Now how do you feel? Maximum patriotic! Six pints before kick-off! A scuffle outside a suburban chain pub! It’s coming home, it’s coming home etc. 20. Mexico home Credit: Adidas Welcome back, delightful Adidas template. Okay, you’re approaching our nipples from a different angle. Look, I’m open-minded. I’ll give it a go. Variety is the spice of life. This ticks a lot of boxes. A retro flourish, confident boldness, unusual socks. Yes to all. 19. Denmark away Credit: Hummel Don’t panic, fans of the 1980s. The appropriate fawning over Denmark and the manufacturers of their kit will follow when we reach their home kit. Odd how white shorts under red shirts looks textbook, but the opposite seems transgressive and maverick. Nevertheless, nothing wrong here whatsoever. 18. Russia away Credit: Adidas Briefly made me smile, which is more than the country of Russia is likely to do for the majority of fans visiting this summer. Official literature says the shirt pattern “Depicts an abstract vision of Russian architecture and pays homage to the architectural landmarks and industrial cities of the country’s….” Hahahahaha! Looks more like the user interface of a sinister computer program that’s methodically stealing an entire continent’s private data. Shorts and socks: decent. Overall verdict: da. 17. Colombia away Credit: Adidas Missing Holland? And the 1994 World Cup? Hey, things are looking up! The Colombia party bus pulls into the official Fifa World Cup Parking Zone and is ready to shake things up. Hop on board, and remember - it’s pronounced Ham-ez. Try it with some other familiar J-words and phrases until you get the hang of it: Hury service, hoint custody, ham har. Congratulations, you are now a citizen of Colombia. 16. Peru away Credit: Umbro This is far better work from the boys from the… place. With the… stuff. Anyway, reawaken Nobby Solano because a new day is dawning. The accent gold makes far more sense here than on its hostile invasion of the home shirt. A winner. 15. Mexico away Credit: Adidas How often can you say you’ve never seen a football kit quite like this before? (Be quiet, Nigeria home) 'Soy Mexico' is printed on the collar, not a tribute to the least-used condiment bottle in your new neighbourhood taco pop-up, but “I am Mexico” in Spanish. A distant cousin on the 78-9 away shirt (made by Levi’s, fact fans), but the vertical stripes on that have been rotated. Six thumbs up. 14. Croatia home Credit: Nike There’s no easy way to break this to you Croatia, but your checks need some balances. They have grown too big. You’re out of control! The subtle effect on their edges is a nice way to spruce up what must be one of the hardest shirts to do anything inventive with. Is really going to sing with some numbers in Nike’s off-centred position judging by Luka Modric in the promotional shots: Credit: NIKE 13. Uruguay home Credit: Puma Say what you like about the Uruguay brand (and MANY have), but they have really taken ownership of a very specific shade of blue. Still light, not-quite-sky: pre-dawn. It does a wonderful job of masking some truly reprehensible tackles. The pattern shares the same message as the timeless classic by Inner City: "We're having big sun". Sure, why not? 12. France away Credit: Nike Remember when England tried to get a bit clever by roping in graphic designer Peter Saville and putting some multicoloured patterned crosses on their shirt? Sure you do: There is something similar going on here, but it’s far nicer. As the French say “un touch de class”. 11. Sweden away Credit: Adidas A nourishing meal of lines and squares on this shirt, previously sighted in less appealing form on Belgium’s change shirt. The difference here is that the pattern becomes a focal point with this colour scheme, rather than something to squint at which may cause migraine. These shorts also look like the best day of your summer holiday. The model on Adidas’s website is promising some very relaxed socks too: Credit: ADIDAS 10. Denmark home Credit: Hummel Nothing too fussy going on here, which has hurt similar straightforward red-shirted outfits lower down in this ranking. But come on. Denmark, in a World Cup, in Hummel, as the football gods intended. What am I not made of? Stone. The answer is stone. 9. Brazil home Credit: Nike Nike taking few chances with one of the least-ruinable kit configurations in football. You don’t take chances after the trauma of 2014 and losing 7-1 on your own patch, you look to shut up shop, minimise anyone’s ability to hurt you and keep it tight at the back for the next 300 or so years. A kit to make new and better memories in. 8. France home Credit: Nike Manchester City share this new Nike Vapor template, but it makes more sense here with a darker blue base colour and the brighter accents on the sleeves. The white shorts and red sock combo create an overall vibe like an accomplished classical music performance. 7. Costa Rica away Credit: New Balance There is some subtle magic occurring here because with white, black and a some basically invisible shirt patterning this should be forgettable. And yet, I can’t stop looking at it. Perhaps I have been hypnotised by that shiny spiral of a crest. I do not mind, this is wonderful. 6. Croatia away Credit: Nike Intimidatingly cool. Transcending the usual busted flush of all-dark kits with an unapologetically massive crest, pleasingly retaining its usual colours. Bigger checks suit the muted palette. Nailed on future-classic. 5. Germany away Credit: Adidas This is firmly up the correct alley of taking inspiration from the past rather than merely replicating it. Describe this to someone who hadn’t seen it and you’d probably use the same adjectives as doing similar for the West Germany 1990 away strip. They are related, but cousins rather than twins. The green has grown up, the geometry has shifted into something more complex, creating unresolved patterns which somehow add up to something coherent. Masterful and mesmerising. 4. Japan home Credit: Adidas A pattern which doubles as a Cheese Box board, the square-drawing game which no-one ever played on the back of Top Trumps cards. There’s something strange and novel at work and it deserves to win hearts and minds. It’s as if Japan know the team’s not up to much so have concentrated trying to win at kits. In other words: Ideal. Unusual and beautiful. 3. Brazil away Credit: Nike Pow! An utter stunner. Even the socks look super-cool. Would endorse getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt, while getting drunk on Caipirinhas wearing this shirt. 2. Germany home Credit: Adidas Simultaneously modern and retro. Both bold and classy. Again, it has an echo of the 1990 West Germany kit but isn’t ripping it off. A sublime piece of work. You’d thank them for beating you on penalties. 1. Colombia home Credit: Adidas On first impression it looked to me like the yellow here was not quite popping like on Colombia’s also-spectacular 2014 shirt, with the neat diagonal pinstripes. I also wondered about stripe overkill this time: There are stripes on the nipple-troublers, located just underneath the Adidas shoulder stripes. But I have peeked at this kit periodically since it was unveiled in March. It got better every time I returned to it. As my excitement for the tournament has built, so has my appreciation for this kit. My initial problems were nit-picking in the extreme, the result of a winter which wouldn’t go away. Now the sun is out we can see this kit for what it is: borderline pornographic. Our winner. Thom Gibbs's previous kit rankings | Putting things into order since 2014 John Devlin’s delightful new book True Colours: International Football Kits was a valuable resource during the compilation of this article. More information here. World Cup 2018 | The best of the Telegraph's coverage WorldCup - newsletter promo - end of article