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Iran hold World Cup hosts Russia in Kazan

World Cup hosts Russia drew 1-1 with Iran on Tuesday in a friendly that did little to dispel doubts about their ability to challenge the elite next year.

Zenit St Petersburg striker Dmitry Poloz came off the bench to cancel out Sardar Azmoun’s 57th-minute opener for the visitors.

It was Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s fourth draw in 14 matches since he took over in August 2016.

Freed from the need to qualify as the host nation, his side has had to make do with a diet of friendlies — on Saturday they beat South Korea 4-2.

“After the break we looked a lot better but then we conceded a goal on a counter-attack,” Cherchesov said.

“I’m pleased with my team’s reaction as we have not only levelled but created more scoring chances.

“Now we need to analyse our performance in the matches with South Korea and Iran to draw the right conclusions.”

It was Iran, who have already qualified for next year’s tournament, who looked more creative in the first half, watched by 32,000 spectators at the Kazan Arena in eastern Russia.

AZ Alkmaar forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s powerful free-kick in the 21st minute skimmed inches over.

Iran’s Azmoun, who plays with the local team Rubin Kazan, had a chance to give Iran the lead five minutes later but saw his close-range header saved by ‘keeper Andrei Lunev.

Russia had just one chance before half-time when Zenit midfielder Alexander Erokhin sent a rebound from a Konstantin Rausch free-kick just wide.

Azmoun broke the deadlock for Iran in the 57th minute, firing past Lunev from a short cross by Mehdi Taremi.

The hosts hit back in the 74th minute when Poloz converted Alexander Samedov’s cross to level.

Russia piled on the pressure but their poor finishing let them down.

“It was a good game and an excellent lesson for us,” said Iran manager Carlos Queiroz.

“I really enjoyed the football today but we still have plenty of homework to do.”

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