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Ezatolahi to miss campaign opener due to FIFA ban

Saeid Ezatolahi

IANS - Iran's national football team on Wednesday were preparing for their opening FIFA World Cup game without star defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi, who is serving a two-game ban.

Iran will take on Morocco in their first Group B match on Friday, reports EFE news agency.

The 21-year-old, who featured for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid at youth level, is the only player at the World Cup expected to miss their team's opening game due to suspension.

FIFA's disciplinary committee had imposed a two-game suspension on Ezatolahi in October 2017 for violent conduct during a qualifying match on August 31 against South Korea in Seoul.

After a clash of heads in the 52nd minute, Ezatolahi was deemed by the referee to have deliberately stamped on South Korea's Kim Min-jae.

The Iranian defensive midfielder was given a straight red card for the offence.

Ezatolahi has already missed one game since the suspension, a qualifying match against Syria on September 5, which ended in a 2-2 draw.

Coached by Carlos Queiroz, Iran were the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to book their place at World Cup 2018 in Russia.

Nicknamed the "Persian Pogba," Ezatolahi plays for FC Rostov in the German top division and is considered one of the most talented footballers in Asia.

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