It’s very rare to see two football heavyweights facing each other in the group stage of World Cup. However, football fans will get to see European rivals and neighbours Spain and Portugal take on each other in Group B in Russia. Besides these two, Morocco and Iran complete the picture in the group.
Here’s our take on all four participants of Group B.
The Asian nation are the obvious underdogs in the group. Iran, currently ranked 36th in FIFA rankings, are making their fifth appearance at World Cup. In previous four attempts, Iran have managed to win just one game – a historic win over the USA in the 1998 event.
Iran have a few players who ply their trade in Europe. Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun has a knack of scoring goals for his national side, and Olympiacos midfielder Ehsan Hajsafi is a strong presence in the midfield. AEK Athens midfielder Masoud Shojaei will captain the side in the tournament.
Iran are favourites to finish bottom of the group at 4/5 odds, and they are available at 7/1 odds to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Like Iran, Morocco are also making their fifth appearance at the football’s biggest event. However, this will be their first one in last 20 years. Morocco’s best showing came in 1986 when they managed to top their group, thus becoming the first African nation to top a group and qualify to the second round of World Cup. Lions of the Atlas finished ahead of African heavyweights Ivory Coast in their qualification group to earn a spot in Russia.
Medhi Benatia of Juventus is the most recognizable name in the squad, and Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech is also coming on the back of a strong season in the Netherlands. Galatasaray midfielder Younes Belhanda will be the main creative force in the Tunisian side.
Morocco are available at 4/1 odds to qualify to the next round and at 2/7 odds to crash out in the group stage.
Portugal have been underwhelming in last two World Cups. However, following their Euro Cup success, they can’t be taken for lightly in Russia. In Brazil 2014, the Portuguese crashed out in the group stage, and they will be eager to make up for their disappointment four years ago.
They are favourites to qualify from their group, but we expect an interesting battle between them and Spain for the top spot in the group.
This is very likely to be the last World Cup for Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, and he would be desperate to steal the limelight once again in his career. He will be supported by talents such as Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho, Joao Mario, William Carvalho and Andre Silva in Fernando Santos’ squad.
Portugal are available at 1/3 odds to qualify to the next round and at 9/4 odds to top the group.
The 2010 World Cup winner have a lot to prove in Russia. Like Portugal, Spain also crashed out at the group stage of the tournament in Brazil. However, unlike Portugal, the Spaniards were equally disappointing at Euro 2016. Following two disastrous international tournaments, the Spain national side finds its reputation at stake in Russia.
La Roja were very impressive during the qualifying campaign as they topped their group with 28 points from ten games. Despite their recent failures in tournaments, Spain are one of the favourites to win the cup. Julen Lopetegui’s World Cup squad if full of world-class names in defence and in midfield. However, Spain have lacked a reliable striker in last few years, and it remains their biggest weakness. Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata is not included in the squad, and Spain’s strike-force consists of Diego Costa, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo Moreno and Lucas Vazquez.
Spain are available at 5/9 odds to top their group and at 1/10 odds to progress to the next round.
Portugal to progress to the next round.
Iran to finish at the bottom of the group.