World Cup Preview – Group B
FIFA Ranking: 4th
Qualification: Since winning the European Championships in 2016 Portugal have been near perfect in the run-up to the 2018 Finals. In their ten qualification games, they racked up 32 goals and conceded just 4. They also put in a decent showing at the Confederations Cup last summer going unbeaten in four of their five games.
History: Portugal have made it to the semi-finals on two occasions in their history, once in 1966 and then again at Germany 2006.
Head Coach: Fernando Santos guided Portugal to victory in the European Championships in 2016 and is unbeaten in 39 of the 48 games he’s taken charge of for the National team. Santos also took Greece to the knockout rounds in Brazil ‘14.
Players to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) Bernardo Silva (Man City) and Ruben Neves (Wolves)
Stage of elimination: If Portugal can win this group we see them reaching the quarter or semi-finals. If they finish runners-up, they’ll probably have a tough R16 game with Uruguay
FIFA Ranking: 8th
Qualification: Spain went unbeaten in qualification with 9 wins, 1 draw, and 0 losses (36 scored, 3 conceded) Their only real test came against an out of sorts Italian side so it’s hard to know if they’re truly back to their best but early signs seem to indicate that we’ll see a much better showing from Spain this time round.
History: Spain won the World cup back in 2010 and have qualified from the group stages in 7 of their last 9 attempts.
Head Coach: Julen Lopetegui
Players to watch: De Gea (Man Utd), Isco( Real Madrid), David Silva (Man City), and Morata (Chelsea)
Stage of elimination: Considering Spain’s head to head record with Portugal we make them favorites to win the group. Should they win they’ll likely have an favorable R16 game with either Russia or Egypt. Expect Spain to make it to the quarter or semi-finals
FIFA Ranking: 42nd
Qualification: Morocco finished top of a very tough Group in the CAF qualifiers. In their six group games they went unbeaten (3-3-0) and didn’t concede a single goal. Their defensive prowess in qualification wasn’t a fluke, expect their stingy defense to cause plenty of headaches for the other teams in the group.
History: This is Morocco’s first appearance since France ‘98. Only once in their history did they make it to the knockout stages. That was at Mexico ‘86
Head Coach: Hervé Renard
Players to watch: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus) Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid) Hakim Ziyech (Ajax)
Stage of elimination: This side isn’t just a defensive powerhouse, they also have plenty of creative attacking talent, if they’re to qualify they’ll need big results against Spain and Portugal. Expect them to fall just short of making the R16
FIFA Ranking: 36th
Qualification: Iran finished top of Group A in the Asian World Cup qualifiers, they also went unbeaten in their group games and conceded only twice as they ground out result after result. Like Morocco, their backline will prove very difficult to break down.
One problem for Team Melli will be their goal scoring threat, they scored only 10 times in the final group phase and the quality in this group is a huge step up from the AFC qualifiers. If they are to have success they will be relying on the “Iranian Messi” Sardar Azmoun to put in some big performances, the 23-year-old has scored 23 times in this 31 appearances for the national team.
History: Iran have appeared in the World Cup finals four times previously. They failed to qualify on each occasion and won only 1/12 games
Head Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Players to watch: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ) Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen) Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan)
Stage of elimination: Although we believe Iran can frustrate any team in World Football we believe the quality in this group will be too much. Expect them to miss out on a R16 place.