Iran were cut to just 12/5 to qualify in the World Cup 2018 Group B odds after opening with a surprise 1-0 win over Morocco.
A stoppage-time own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz settled the St Petersburg clash and Team Meli went from rank outsiders to 10/1 third favourites to top the table.
Things will get much tougher from here on, though, with Spain and Portugal waiting to burst Iran’s bubble following their 3-3 draw in Sochi.
La Roja showed plenty of spirit after having to cope with a dramatic late change of manager and are still 3/5 favourites to advance as pool winners.
Portugal were inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick and they are 17/10 to finish at the summit.
Standings Group B
Ronaldo is confident Portugal will progress to the knockout stages after hitting the 51st treble of his incredible career in the battle with Spain.
The Real Madrid superstar said: “It is one more in my career, but the most important thing to me is to highlight what the team has done.
“We played against a favourite team that wants to win the World Cup and we were winning twice during the game.
“We almost made those three points and we managed to draw. We are very happy because this game was about to end and we managed to equalise.”
The Euro 2016 champions were outplayed for large parts of that match, though, and Spain can also take plenty of positives from such a high-class affair.
Diego Costa bagged a brace to twice help La Roja come from behind and Nacho also struck with a fine effort from the edge of the box.
Stand-in coach Fernando Hierro, who only replaced the sacked Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday, was quick to defend David De Gea after his mistake led to Ronaldo’s second goal.
“We don’t have any doubts about De Gea and he doesn’t have any doubts about himself either,” Hierro said.
“I gave him a long embrace, we know that being a goalkeeper requires special psychology and is a difficult position to play in.
“He has had lots of good days. We are a family, we are a team and we stick together.”
|Morocco vs Iran||0 - 1||Saint Petersburg Stadium|
|Portugal vs Spain||3 - 3||Fisht Stadium|
|Portugal vs Morocco||1 - 0||Luzhniki Stadium|
|Iran vs Spain||Kazan Arena|
|Iran vs Portugal||Mordovia Arena|
|Spain vs Morocco||Kaliningrad Stadium|
Few pundits were predicting Iran to enjoy any success in pre-tournament World Cup 2018 Group B predictions but Team Melli will now be dreaming of the knockout rounds.
They soaked up plenty of early pressure from Morocco before coming more into the game and then grabbing a shock late victory.
“Our strategy was to create a mental collapse in the Moroccan players,” head coach Carlos Queiroz said of the country’s second-ever World Cup win.
“We tried to do that by creating frustration and block all the playmakers and the players who can create something.”
Queiroz is wary of what comes next, though, adding: “Against Spain, everyone from the goalkeeper to the striker can create things, so we have to think of a different strategy.”
Morocco boss Herve Renard is not ready to throw in the towel ahead of facing Portugal in Moscow.
He declared: “As long as there are still two matches to be played, whoever the opponents, there is still hope.
“We are in a difficult situation but many things can happen, so we need to concentrate on what we did right and things we did not do so well.”