Iranian star to attack Spain
KAZAN, Russia (AP):
It was on a cold night of November two years ago that Iran centre forward Sardar Azmoun displayed his class to the world.
Playing against Bayern Munich in the Champions League with his Russian Premier League club Rostov, Azmoun collected a pass from a teammate on the edge of the area. He continued his run into the box, sent defender Jerome Boateng to the ground with a fine dribble and showed the composure of a seasoned veteran to slot the ball home with a calm finish.
That night, Rostov pulled off a surprise 3-2 win over Bayern, the kind of upset Iran will be looking for when it take on Spain at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday at the World Cup, following a 1-0 win against Morocco in its opening game. Spain drew its opening Group B match 3-3 with Portugal last week.
With his excellent dribbling skills, the 23-year-old Azmoun has all the qualities required to become a big star of the game. Already regarded as one of the best players in the Russian Premier League, Azmoun was impressive during Iran's unbeaten qualifying campaign for the World Cup, scoring 11 goals.
With 23 goals in 33 international matches, Azmoun is already fifth on Iran's all-time list, following in the footsteps of the great Ali Daei, who scored 109 goals in 149 appearances with Iran.
"As a child, I used to look up at players like Ali Daei, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic," Azmoun said. "Watching and studying them told me a lot as a player."
Azmoun has been nicknamed the 'Iranian Messi' although he takes his inspiration from the former Sweden international.
"Ibrahimovic is a great player, and as a fellow forward, he probably is the player I most want to play like."
Of course, Azmoun is lagging well behind Messi and Ibrahimovic in the football greats' hierarchy, but his potential is huge. At 6 feet 4 inches tall (1.86 metres), Azmoun has excellent qualities in the air, but he is also a top goal poacher with finishing skills.