The Asian qualifier has never beaten a European side at a World Cup
On paper, Spain should be able to deal comfortably with Iran in the first meeting between the two countries but Germany’s loss to Mexico in the first match of its title defence on Sunday was a warning to all the game’s heavyweights.
“What happened to Germany could happen to anyone,” Fernando Hierro told reporters on Monday.
“The 32 teams here are very good and the first game is always tough. Anxiety plays a big role. We got a point against the European champion and now we’ve got Iran …”
Hierro’s main concern, however, will be that Spain is able to break down an obdurate Iranian defence that conceded only five times in 18 qualifiers.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz’s tactic against Morocco was to frustrate the opposition in the hopes of triggering a “mental collapse” but the Portuguese admitted it would need a very different approach for the 2010 World champion.
“Against Spain, everybody from the goalkeeper to the striker can create things, so we need to think of a different strategy,” he said.
Iran sits top of the pile as the only Group B team with a win so far, an achievement that sparked incredible celebrations in the streets of Tehran and elsewhere throughout the Islamic republic.
“If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final,” said the former Real Madrid coach.
“It was not a miracle that we won. What can happen once in a while is a group of people, when they are united, can create super stories and super things.
“Our attitude is to try and make the impossible possible.”
Yet keeping the Spanish armada at bay to claim the point that would boost hopes of qualifying for the last 16 looks a tall order.
Iran has never beaten a European side at a World Cup — its only previous victory was a 2-1 win over the United States in France in 1998.