Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup represents some solid teams that can shine in Russia featuring Iran, Morroco, Portugal and Spain.
With the FIFA World Cup 2018 nearing its inauguration, we at The Hard Tackle are looking at some factors and challenges that lay ahead of the mega competition. At the start of our journey, we are keeping an eye and predicting things which can happen in the group stage with each group in total focus. Today we have the exciting Group B in our sights.
On paper, there are only two clear winners from Group B, namely Portugal and Spain. While these two are entirely expected to go through to the next round and even make it the distance at the World Cup, one must remember that games aren’t won on paper and with a competition like this, where each team is gunning for national pride, absolutely anything can happen.
Yes, even Morroco or Iran can go through, and such instances have been happening for years now. If we have to go back to the last World Cup itself, Spain, the then holders, crashed out emphatically, against the odds. Thus, anything can happen in the World Cup, and Group B shouldn’t be any different.
Group B – Iran, Morocco, Portugal and Spain
June 15: Morocco vs Iran; Portugal vs Spain
June 20: Portugal vs Morocco; Iran vs Spain
June 25: Iran vs Portugal; Spain vs Morocco
Iran are no strangers to playing at the big stage, the World Cup. The competition in Russia will be their fifth appearance at the mega event. The Asian outfit became the second nation to qualify for the Russia World Cup and will certainly aim their sights on qualifying for the next round.
Iran have their history at the World Cup, despite not qualifying beyond the group stages in any of their four previous appearances. Their win over USA in the 1998 World Cup was iconic, and the fact that they held off Argentina right to the very end in the 2014 edition would serve as an inspiration to the team.
The competition is Russia would be the first time Iran will feature in back-to-back tournaments, and Carlos Queiroz will be in an optimistic mood for his vastly improved side.
During his managerial reign with Iran, Queiroz has opted to call up some foreign-based Iranians to the side, and since their inclusion, the team has played admirably. It will be players like Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Beiranvand and Saman Ghoddos that Queiroz would pin his hopes on.
Key Players: Saman Ghoddos, Sardar Azmoun
Shared by two players in the squad. Saman Ghoddos and Sardar Azmoun, but the latter would be more appropriate to take up the mantle. Azmoun has scored 23 goals in 31 appearances for Iran and Queiroz will be keen to unleash the striker against the likes of Spain, Morocco and Portugal to stand any chance of going through.
Morocco will be a happy nation right now as their national team is competing in the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. Former Ivory coast manager, Kerve Renard has done wonders with this team in the past few years and helped them qualify for the showpiece in Russia.
In the process, Renard has ensured his Moroccan team possesses one of the most physical defences along with teamwork and hunger they could be proud of. But, do they have it what it takes to overtake the likes of Portugal and Spain?
Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Medhi Benatia has captained his side well to qualify from the African Qualification rounds and is hoping his defence will be mean enough to ensure points in Russia.
The Moroccan team might not be as well known as some others participating in the World Cup, with the most famous name in the side being Benatia who is also the captain. But, as has been the case in previous World Cups, an unknown quantity like Morocco can be a dangerous proposition.
Key Player: Medhi Benatia
The talismanic presence of Morocco’s captain will instantly boost their morale and energy within the squad. Benatia will captain the side and try to achieve the impossible, that is to get into the Round of 16 or beyond that, to make a mark on his nation’s history.
The European Champions are ready to shine in yet another big event, this time in Russia at the World Cup. After defying the odds at Euro 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo & co. will be looking to take their chances at yet another international prize.
Despite being a regular at the World Cup stage and excelling at the continental level, Portugal’s best finish remains a third place finish back in 1966. But, with Ronaldo and many other rising stars on the grid, this could be their chance to win consecutive international tournaments.
The concerns, however, with this Portugal side is their ageing defence of Pepe, Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves. The defenders have tremendous experience on their side, but will that be enough to support a flamboyant attack upfront led by Ronaldo?
Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva
Portugal won nine of their ten qualifying games on the road to Russia, yet they only qualified on goal difference. Cristiano Ronaldo’s 15-goal campaign combined with a terrific contribution of 9 goals from Andre Silva did the trick for the Seleccao. Now in Russia, all hopes will surely be on Ronaldo’s shoulders to deliver the big prize for his country, the same way he delivered Euro 2016.
One of the clear favourites to win the World Cup in Russia, Spain head into the tournament at the back of some terrific form. La Furia Roja possess a formidable side, having scored 36 goals in qualifying while conceding only three in their ten qualifying games. While all eyes will on the titanic clash with Portugal in the first round, Spain will be eyeing the ultimate glory; they are here to win it.
Since 2006, the Spanish team has largely been on the rise and duly delivered in South Africa back in 2010. Despite an unexpected exit in Brazil 2014, Spain could be braced to come back to their usual self, with Julen Lopetegui picking up his strongest side ahead of the showdown in Russia.
Despite leaving out many high profile players out of the final 23-man squad, Spain still boast one of the most lethal attacks as well as the meanest defence in world football. Lopteguei left out many high profile names, which only shows the astounding depth in quality La Furia Roja have in their nation ahead of their showdown in Russia.
Key Players: Sergio Ramos, Isco, Diego Costa
All those names mentioned above are crucial to Spain’s chances at the World Cup. It’s not possible to name every player out of that star-studded side; it’s essential to focus on the spine of the team as well as the key cogs of this side.
Costa will finally want to shine on with Spain, and Isco had been one of Spain’s most important players all throughout the qualifying phase. Sergio Ramos, as always, fresh from a Champions League triumph, will want to do one better for his country.
Likely to Qualify: Spain and Portugal.
The two names who are expected to qualify are easy to predict in this group. But, the World Cup always has a surprise or two in store for everyone. Unless Spain have a meltdown ala Brazil 2014, they are on their way to qualifying for the next round, as are Portugal.
But, it won’t be right to write off Iran and Morocco just yet, as one slip up by any team automatically enhances the chances of the others. As of now though, the clear favourites to advance from Group B are Spain and Portugal.