Diego Costa, right, celebrates after scoring Spain’s only goal against Iran. (Frank Augstein/Associated Press)

Spain 1, Iran 0

Group B, Kazan Arena, Kazan

The win Spain desperately needed came after 94 minutes of desperate, sprinting, all-out soccer that yielded only one goal and very nearly another. La Furia Roja defeated Iran, 1-0, to earn a much-needed three points in Group B and keep alive its hopes of advancing to the World Cup’s knockout stage.

The result left Portugal and Spain tied atop Group B, with Iran one point behind. Only two teams can advance, and only one match remains for each team in the group stage. Spain is guaranteed to advance with at least a draw against Morocco on Monday.

Iran committed to defending Spain’s possession attack for much of the game, allowing La Furia Roja to complete 720 passes and control the ball for 68 percent of the game. That proved too much for even Team Melli’s best defensive effort.

In the 54th minute, Andres Iniesta beat two defenders and caught Iran’s back line out-numbered around the 18-yard box. He played a nice pass into the box to Diego Costa, who controlled the ball and spun between two defenders. One tried to make a tackle and instead flicked the ball off Costa’s shin and then past Alireza Beiranvand, the goalkeeper, to open the scoring.

Iran looked like it had a response 10 minutes later after earning a free kick in the attacking half. The ball fell into the box undefended and wound up in a scrum until Saeid Ezatolahi found it and struck it past Spanish keeper David de Gea, inciting a frenzy in the Iranian technical area and on the field.


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But after a 20-second delay, officials took the goal off the board for an offside call, which was confirmed by video review.

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What’s next

Iran: vs. Portugal in Saransk, June 25, 2 p.m.

Spain: vs. Morocco in Kaliningrad, June 25, 2 p.m.

Complete World Cup scores and schedule

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In-Game updates

Yellow card to Iran’s Ebrahimi

In the 92nd minute.

Iran substitution: Ghoddos for Amiri

In the 87th minute.

Iran not dead yet

Team Melli is still fighting and nearly equalized in the 82nd minute. Amiri put the ball through the legs of a Spanish defender, then lofted a cross that was indefensible. Mehdi was on the other side, but his header was a foot high of the goal.

Spain substitution: Ascensio for Vazquez

In the 79th minute.

Yellow card to Iran’s Amiri

In the 79th minute.

Iran substitution: Jahanbakhsh for Ansarifard

In the 75th minute.

Spain substitution: Koke for Inesta

In the 71st minute.

Iran substitution: Mohamedi for Haji Safi

In the 70th minute.

Goal Iran — or not

Team Melli won a free kick 30 yards out that fell into the box without a Spanish answer. Saeid Ezatolahi found the ball and a struck it past de Gea, inciting a frenzy in the Iranian technical area and on the field.

But after a 20-second delay, officials took the goal off the board.

Goal, Spain!

Finally, La Furia Roja breaks through. Iniesta played a nice ball into the box to Diego Costa, who controlled the ball and spun between two defenders. One tried to make a tackle and instead flicked the ball of Costa’s shin and past Beiranvand, the goalkeeper, to open the scoring.

Iran misses a chance

Really, that should have scored, too. Iran won a throw in the attacking zone, and Karim Ansarifard was able to put a foot on an ensuing cross. He had Spanish keeper David de Gea cleanly beaten but pulled a shot from 12 yards out just wide. The ripple off the outside of the net made it look like he had scored.

Spain getting even closer

How hasn’t it scored yet?

It’s the 49th minute now, and Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand swatted away a header that was inches from trickling over the goal line, then punched away a strong drive from the 18-yard box after a semi-clearance moments later. And he saved the rebound, too!

Halftime: Spain 0, Iran 0

After 45 minutes, Iran and Spain are scoreless in Kazan, just how Team Melli likes it. Spain held the ball 73 percent of the half and fired 10 shots, four of them on goal. But Iran dropped all 11 men behind the ball and foiled each and every Spanish surge to go to halftime in a scoreless tie.

Spain knocks on the door

The Spaniards are edging closer and closer to the goal with every wave of attacks. Andres Iniesta was three yards from the net when this ball came on to his foot in the 42nd minute, but Team Melli’s back line rose to the task and deadened his shot. It’s an early game-saver for Iran, and another frustrating miss for Spain.

Iran committing to defense

Team Melli is perfectly content to let Spain control the ball and dance around the box, but Iran has done well to foil any promising Spanish chances.

Spain off to a strong start

Through 16 minutes, La Furia Roja has been on the ball 77 percent of the game and are playing with 85 percent pass accuracy.

Starting lineups announced

Opening thoughts

It will take a miracle for the Islamic Republic to defeat La Furia Roja, the 2010 World Cup champions who were somehow bounced in the group stage of the 2014 tournament. But Team Melli is in the upset business after a surprising win against Morocco last week. Spain is in the odd position of needing a win after conceding a draw to Portugal last week in the tournament’s most exciting match to date.

Team profiles

Iran (1-0-0, 3 points)

  • Last World Cup showing: Group stage, 2014.
  • Best finish: Group stage, 2014, 1998, 1978.
  • Notable: Coach Carlos Queiroz previously guided South Africa and his native Portugal to the World Cup, but he has yet to win a knockout-round game in two previous World  Cup trips.
  • FIFA world ranking: 37. ELO world ranking: 20.

Spain (0-1-0, 3 points)

  • Last World Cup showing: Group stage, 2014.
  • Best finish: Champion, 2010.
  • Notable: Spain conceded just two goals in seven matches en route to the 2010 championship. In four World Cup matches since, La Furia Roja have been outscored 10-7.
  • FIFA world ranking: 10. ELO world ranking: 2.

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