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MOSCOW, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) – Coach Carlos Queiroz said Iran will soak up the experience of facing World Cup contenders Spain on Wednesday but warned the Lions of Persia will produce their "best game ever" as they strive to cause the shock of the tournament.

Days after celebrating only their second-ever World Cup win in five editions with a 1-0 victory over Morocco that sent them top of Group B, Iran are expected to return to earth with a bump against a Spain side oozing class.

"For us it's a privilege and an honour to be here. It's a unique opportunity for us to play against Spain, one of the candidates to win the World Cup," Queiroz told a packed and, at times, chaotic media conference in Kazan on Tuesday.

"We're in a win-win situation because it's a unique opportunity for our national team to learn more about the game and to grow as players."

Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa scored twice while Real Madrid defender Nacho gave Spain a 3-2 lead before Cristiano Ronaldo snatched a 3-3 draw for Portugal with a late third in a spectacular game in Sochi last Friday.

Queiroz is under no illusions about the superiority of Fernando Hierro's side as the Spaniards look to claim their first win of the tournament.

But he says Iran are in Russia carrying the hopes of an entire nation, not just to make up the numbers.

"If there was a magic potion to stop the Spanish team, then $1 million would not be too much to buy it, even though we do have some financial troubles," said Queiroz, who was flanked by AEK Athens midfielder Masoud Shojaei.

Queiroz, a former assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, sounded a defiant message, saying Spain could boss the match technically but could not control how much Iran will fight.

"We are well aware of Spain's reputation, so we'll have to play our best game ever. In the end the football gods will decide," he said.

 

 

LONDON, June 19, 2018 (News Wires) - Iran has no plans to extend the range of its missiles since their 2,000-km (1,240-mile) reach is enough to protect the country, the Revolutionary Guards commander said on Tuesday, amid mounting US pressure over Tehran's missile programme.

Iran's government again ruled out negotiations with US President Donald Trump over Tehran's military capabilities and regional influence, saying that such talks would be against the values of the Islamic Republic.

Trump withdrew the United States last month from the 2015 accord between Iran and world powers that curbed Tehran's nuclear activity in exchange for sanctions relief.

He said the deal was deeply flawed as it had not curbed Iran's ballistic missile programme or reined in its support for proxies in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and said Washington would reimpose tough sanctions on Tehran.

"We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies' strategic targets are already within this 2,000-km range. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic...," Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

 

 

TEL AVIV , June 18, 2018 (News Wires) - Israel has indicted a former cabinet minister on suspicion of spying for Iran, Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said on Monday.

In a statement, the Shin Bet said Gonen Segev, energy minister from 1995 to 1996, had been living in Nigeria and “was recruited by Iranian intelligence and served as an agent”.

Investigators found that Segev made contact with officials at the Iranian embassy in Nigeria in 2012 and that he visited Iran twice for meetings with his handlers, the Shin Bet said.

Segev, it said, received an encrypted communications system from Iranian agents and supplied Iran with “information related to the energy sector, security sites in Israel and officials in political and security institutions”.

The Shin Bet said Segev, 62, put some Israelis involved in the security sector in contact with Iranian intelligence agents, introducing the Iranians as businessmen.

Segev’s attorneys, contacted by Reuters, declined immediate comment.

Segev, a physician, was jailed in Israel in 2004 after being convicted of attempting to smuggle Ecstasy pills into the country. He left Israel in 2007 after his release from prison.

The Shin Bet said Segev was arrested during a visit to Equatorial Guinea in May and extradited to Israel, where he is being detained. He was indicted on Friday.

Israel has long been locked in a shadow war with arch-foe Iran, which supports Islamist guerrillas in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon and whose nuclear program is widely believed to have been targeted repeatedly by Israeli saboteurs.

In January, Israel said it had cracked a Palestinian militant cell suspected of having been recruited and handled by Iranian intelligence officers who worked out of South Africa. The suspects’ lawyer denied the charges.

 
 
 

ST PETERSBURG, June 17, 2018 (News Wires) - A heartbreaking stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.

In a group where Spain and Portugal are strong favourites to qualify for the knockout stage, the result gives Iran an outside chance of an upset but was a bitter blow for an enterprising Moroccan side.

Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.

The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.

Morocco and the unfortunate Bouhaddouz were devastated as the country were forced to reflect on a second major footballing blow of the week after their bid to host the 2026 World Cup failed on Wednesday.

When the pain subsides, however, they should take heart from a performance which showcased some impressive talent, well assembled by French coach Herve Renard, and which will have been keenly noted by Spain and Portugal.

Perhaps it should have been no surprise that defences dominated given the two teams had been so impressive in that aspect of the game during qualification.

Morocco only conceded one goal in their eight games, while Iran let in just five in their 18 Asian qualifiers.

There was nothing cautious about the way the Moroccans approached the game, though.

They enjoyed more possession throughout and began in particularly aggressive fashion, taking the game to their opponents and overloading their right flank as they targeted Hajsafi.

That approach almost paid off when Nordin Amrabat whipped in a dangerous cross from the right but Younes Belhanda’s header from an acute angle flashed wide.

Iran were missing the calming influence of suspended holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi as Morocco over-ran them in the centre of the park with the clever Mbark Boussoufa directing play as the African side frequently attacked in numbers.

Morocco almost turned that initial pressure into a goal in the 19th minute when following a scramble in the area, Medhi Benatia’s shot was well saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Quieroz had clearly given his side instructions to defend deep and look to break on the counter-attack and two minutes before the break that approach almost bore fruit.

Striker Sardar Azmoun broke clear though the middle but he shot straight at Mohamedi who got up quickly to keep out a follow-up effort from Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

Chances were at a premium after the break, with both sides keeping their shapes well, but a sweetly-struck effort from Morocco's Hakim Ziyech brought out a fine save from Beiranvand nine minutes from the end.

Then came the error from Bouhaddouz, the drama and the agony as Iran grabbed just their second win in their World Cup history.

 

SAINT PETERSBURG, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Morocco kick-off their 2018 campaign against Iran at the Saint Petersburg Stadium on Friday.

The Atlas Lions will be making a return to the global tournament after missing out in the previous four editions and to ensure a decent campaign, they have played a number of tune-up games.

They will be heading into the competition on the back of an impressive 3-1 victory over Estonia, their second consecutive win.

The north Africans will be targeting maximum points against Carlos Queiroz’s men to boost their chances of qualifying for the round of 16 and can be backed at the odds of (2.30) with Bet365 to achieve the feat.

Although Herve Renard’s men have never met with the west Asians, nevertheless, (3.00) is on offer for both sides to cancel each other out.

Iran were dumped out in the group stage of the 2014 edition but were the second team to nick a place in Russia following a 2–0 home win over Uzbekistan.

They edged past Lithuania in their last warm-up game after previously suffering a 2-1 loss to Turkey. However, they have odds of (3.90) to surmount and put themselves in good stead for the knock-out stages of the tournament.

Morocco are unbeaten in their last five encounters and will be looking to maintain the form in this outing which punters can back with the same betting firm at the price of (1.28).

The Atlas Lions have scored in four of their previous five ties while Queiroz’s men have not failed to find the net in all their last 11 games. As a result, punters can reap profit by staking on both sides to score at odds of (2.25).

Considering that this is their opening game, they will likely be cautious with each other and Bet365 tips this contest to produce less than three goals at odds of 1.36).

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz believes his players have been brought closer together by Nike's decision to cut their supply of World Cup kit to the team but the acid test will come against Morocco on Friday.

Nike announced they have been forbidden from providing football boots to Iran's squad during the tournament, on account of sanctions imposed against the country by the United States.

The late decision has disrupted Iran's preparations, with some players reportedly having to buy their own footwear from Russian shops or even ask club team-mates for help.

"It has been a source of inspiration for us," Queiroz told Sky Sports.

"This last comment of Nike was, in my personal view, an unnecessary statement. Everybody is aware about the sanctions.

"They should come out and apologise because this arrogant conduct against 23 boys is absolutely ridiculous and unnecessary."

Iran head into the match against Morocco in Group B on the back of a difficult build-up to the tournament overall, after friendly matches against Greece and Kosovo were also cancelled.

It remains to be seen whether Queiroz's defiant verdict bears fruit, given any loser of Friday's crunch fixture in Saint Petersburg would be left needing to beat either Spain or Portugal to reach the last 16.

"We have the potential to surprise Morocco in our first match," Queiroz said. "We know their team very well but I suspect they know very little about us."

QINGDAO, China, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday he wanted more talks with Russia about what he called the “illegal” US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump said last month Washington was withdrawing from what he called “a horrible one-sided deal” and would reimpose US economic sanctions on Iran.

Rouhani, speaking at a summit of the Chinese and Russian-led security bloc the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the port city of Qingdao, said that Russia’s role in implementing the nuclear deal had been “important and constructive.”

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