Iran starts their fifth World Cup campaign with a must-win game against Morocco today but with a far from the ideal final countdown.
Lack of opponents for friendlies, an injury to top striker Mehdi Taremi, federation chief Mehdi Tadsch suffering a heart attack in a training camp, and an end of supply by boot providers Nike are the main issues Carlos Queiroz's team had to deal with lately. With 2010 world champion Spain and reigning European champion Portugal the other teams in Group B, Iran cannot afford to drop points in St Petersburg against the Africans if they want to advance out of the group stage for the first time.
Morocco has had less trouble in the buildup to their first World Cup since 1998, and also their fifth overall, with a last 16 berth 1986 the best showing. Herve Renard's side will have confidence after winning their final two tests 2-1 against Slovakia and 3-1 against Estonia.
Like other teams from Africa, Morocco has several World Cup players born outside the country - including five born in the Netherlands, who famously failed to qualify.