FIFA World Cup 2018 – Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Portugal shocked everyone with winning the European Championship 2016 and will be looking to repeat that in the World Cup. They do have the quality but some luck will be needed to do so. Portugal did not go easy in the qualifiers, showing their full strength with winning 9 out of 10 games, although, they surprisingly lost to Switzerland (2:0). Nonetheless, they showed they are determined to show their worth once more. Much of the success can be linked to coach Fernando Santos, who has lost only 1 out of 17 qualifying matches with Portugal since he took over the team back in 2014. The only concern about the team is the age of some star players; Pepe, Jose Fonte, and Bruno Alves, as well as C. Ronaldo, who are all coming to an age when their performance starts to decline, although this won’t be such a huge problem in this tournament as it will be in the next one. With that in mind, a lot of hope is put in their youngsters.
Star players: Christiano Ronaldo/Andre Silva (who has formed a lethal partnership with C. Ronaldo)
Prediction: The quality is there and so is morale. If they manage to show some impressive performance, I can easily see them in the top 5, but it won’t be as easy as it sounds.
Spain, one of the football giants are here again and will be hoping to repeat their success from 2010. Looking at qualifiers, Spain easily sailed through the group with a record of 9-1-0, but to be fair they did not have a tough competition, except of course Italy, who in the end sadly did not qualify. The Spanish team is considered a complete team with strong defence, midfield as well as attacking line. The fact that they scored 36 goals and conceived only 3 in the qualifiers only proves my point. Despite the fact they had a relatively easy qualifying group, conceding only 3 goals as well as scoring 36 (which is 3.6 goals/match) is phenomenal. Their squad depth is their biggest strength and arguably they are one of if not the best in that aspect. Spain is coming into this World Cup with the title in mind and I cannot deny they are more than capable of achieving it.
Star player: Isco; looking at his performances this year, he will be the engine of the team.
Prediction: Top 3 finish should be within their reach
Morocco is making his first appearance in the World Cup since 1998 after finishing 1st in their qualifying group. Surprisingly they have not lost a match, finishing the qualifiers with an overall record of 3-3-0 and conceding 0 goals. Morocco is in my eyes an underachiever in African football stage when taking their talent and depth into consideration. I am surprised they did not qualify earlier, but finally, they showed they can step foot in World cup tournament once more. As seen from their performance in the qualifiers, Morocco has a solid defence at their disposal, but we cannot neglect their creative midfield as well as attack. They are a complete team, strong on both sides of the field. Of course, they are not at a level top teams are, neither do I expect them to achieve great things this year, still, it’s nice to see them playing at such a high level once more and hopefully they prove me wrong with nice results against Spain and Portugal.
Star player: Hakim Ziyech/Mehdi Benatia
Prediction: Morocco landed a really difficult group, as they will need at least 1 positive result against Spain or Portugal to advance. If they manage to do so I can see them advancing, but the likelihood of it happening is slim.
Iran is one more team that has not lost a match in the qualifiers, finishing with the 6-4-0 record and conceding only 2 goals whereas they scored 10. To be fair it was expected from them to qualify as they are arguably the best qualifiers in Asia. As a team, Iran has proven they are very well organised and they show that in their games, but sadly do not have the quality to go a long way in this tournament. Advancing from this group is close to impossible as I do not see them standing a chance against Spain and Portugal. Even Morocco seems better, but the game between them should be great to watch nonetheless. Their qualifying result is impressive, but they can be lucky if they win more than 1 game in the World Cup. Their best bet to do so will be the opening match against Morocco.
Star player: Sardar Azmoun
Prediction: Sadly Iran does not have the team to advance from the group stage, especially when taking a look at the teams they will face in group B.