ST. PETERSBURG, Russia Ė Iranís national team was preparing on Wednesday for its opening World Cup game without star defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi, who is serving two-game ban.
Iran takes on Morocco in their first Group B match on Friday.
The 21-year-old, who featured for Atletico Madrid at youth level, is the only player at the World Cup expected to miss his teamís opening game due to suspension.
FIFAís disciplinary committee in October 2017 imposed a two-game suspension on Ezatolahi, 21, for violent conduct during a qualifying match on Aug. 31 in Seoul against South Korea.
After a clash of heads in the 52nd minute, Ezatolahi was deemed by the referee to have deliberately stamped on South Korean Kim Min-jae.
The Iranian defensive midfielder was given a straight red card for the offense.
Ezatolahi has already missed one game since the suspension, a qualifying match against Syria on Sept. 5, which ended with a 2-2 draw.
Coached by Carlos Queiroz, Iran was the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to book its place at World Cup 2018 in Russia, and will face Morocco on Friday.
Nicknamed the ďPersian Pogba,Ē Ezatolahi plays for FC Rostov and is considered one of the most talented footballers in Asia.