Iran coach terms clash against Spain as 'Universe Cup final'
Isco reckons the match against Iran will determine Spain's World Cup destiny.
Kazan Iran sit top of the table as the only Group B team with a win so far
Spanish playmaker Isco says Wednesday's match against Iran will determine their World Cup destiny as they seek to register their first win in Russia following a gripping 3-3 draw against Portugal.
Champions in 2010 and among the favourites this year, Spain's World Cup ambitions were kept in check, almost single-handedly, by a stunning Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick.
The draw came just two days after Spain's campaign was thrown into disarray by the shock sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui following an untimely announcement by Real Madrid that he would join the 13-times European champions after the tournament.
Fernando Hierro, Spain's sporting director, is now at the helm but barely a week into the tournament - La Roja, expected to join Brazil, Germany and France in the latter stages, have endured more drama than they would have wanted or expected.
"It's a crucial match that will determine our World Cup destiny," said Isco. "We want to score from the opening minute, even though that won't be easy.
"We will stick to the style that defines us as a team, but we have to pass the ball around a lot more and maintain possession. If we play quickly across the pitch, the chances will come. I hope we score quickly."
Iran kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win against Morocco, thanks to a late own goal by Aziz Bouhaddouz, piling the pressure on Spain at Kazan Arena on Wednesday.
Iran sit 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.?Coach Carlos Queiroz concedes Iran now face one of the biggest challenges in their World Cup history, but maintains they can "make the impossible possible".
"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 have never beaten a European side at a World Cup - their only previous victory was a 2-1 win over the United States in France in 1998.
Despite the frustration of conceding an 88th-minute equaliser to Ronaldo following two goals from Diego Costa and a stunning strike from Nacho, Isco believes Spain's resolve remains intact.
"We had a setback but we stuck together and got on with the job," he said.
"We saw that in the first match. We never gave up, even after conceding a goal in the fourth minute. That shows what this team is all about. We'll never stop fighting."
|Spain rally behind De Gea |
Krasnodar - Spain players are rallying behind goalkeeper David De Gea as they prepare for their second group game against Iran.
De Gea endured an evening to forget in Spain's opening match against Portugal on Friday, committing a howling error to allow Cristiano Ronaldo to score his second goal on the way to a hat trick in the 3-3 thriller in Sochi.
New coach Fernando Hierro has found himself having to defend the 27-year-old.
"We don't doubt him and he doesn't doubt himself either," said Hierro after La Roja kicked off their Group B campaign.
"I embraced him. We know goalkeeper is a special position, with a special psychology, and we have no doubts. Honestly," added Hierro.
But De Gea's form has to be a matter of real concern.
It was his error that gifted Switzerland a goal in a 1-1 friendly draw just before Spain departed for Russia, and now - after one game - they have already conceded one goal more than in the whole of their triumphant 2010 World Cup campaign.
Iker Casillas was in goal then, the icon who De Gea succeeded and to whom he will always be compared.
"Only those of us who put on the gloves and go out on the field know how difficult it is," the man himself said. "The coach is with me, it was an error and these things can happen."
Spain's sports press have not been slow to criticise the 30-times capped goalkeeper for his recent blunders, but Hierro's squad have given him their backing.
"He is fine. Nobody likes making mistakes. He is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world," said Isco. - AFP