World Cup 2018: Preview – Group B

2018 FIFA World Cup

251

The draw for Group B saw Euro 2016 winners Portugal pitted together with 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 winners Spain alongside the relatively unknown entities that are Iran and Morocco.

Read More: World Cup 2018: Preview – Group A

Teams

Portugal (FIFA Ranking – 4th)

Portugal qualified for the World Cup by topping Group B after registering 9 wins and 1 loss, the exact same record Switzerland in second place had. However, their miserly defence which conceded just 4 goals, and their impressive fire power up front saw them score 32 times during qualifying enabling them to top the group on goal difference.

World Cup 2018: Preview – Portugal

After Portugal shocked the world by winning Euro 2016..

Skipper Cristiano Ronaldo was the second highest scorer in European Qualifying behind Lewandowski with 15 goals whilst he also provided 3 assists for his team mates. Andre Silva also was a key figure for Portugal in qualifying and despite his relative struggles in club football he was able to score 9 goals with 1 assist in the Portuguese campaign.

Portugal is a well settled team under Fernando Santos, brimming with confidence since winning their first ever major international trophy in 2016. Santos has prepared the team to be solid at the back but at the other end of the pitch critics will always point towards an over-reliance on Ronaldo.

Portugal will consider themselves favourites to top the group, but will likely need to be patient against the likes of Iran and Morocco to get the result they want.

Spain (FIFA Ranking – 10th)

Spain cruised through qualifying undefeated in Group G, with 9 wins and 1-1 draw away against Italy seeing them comfortably secure direct qualification.

Under new manager Julen Lopetegui, who took charge of the team following Euro 2016, they are yet to be beaten and scored 36 goals, conceding just 4 during qualifying.

Spain spread the goals around during qualifying with Diego Costa, Alvara Morata, Isco and David Silva all scoring 5 goals each, and Vitolo Perez chipped in with 4 as their sharp passing game is one aspect that has continued from Del Bosque to Lopetegui.

World Cup 2018: Preview – Spain

Spain, ranked 6th in the FIFA World Rankings, is one of the…

Spain appear to have a much better balance of youth and experience than in their squads for their last two major international tournaments. Having a strong squad featuring some of the top European midfield talents such as Thiago, David Silva, Isco, Bernardo Silva and Iniesta, they are likely to be considered one of the favourites for the title this time around well.

Spain has the capacity to top the group and cause big problems for even the best of teams if they get into their rhythm.

Iran (FIFA Ranking – 37th)

Iran qualified for the FIFA World Cup after topping both second and third round groups during Asian Qualifying. En route they also broke the record in World Cup qualifying for consecutive clean sheets, registering 12 on the trot, conceding just 5 goals across 18 games.

Coached by former Real Madrid and two-time Portuguese national team manager Carlos Queiroz, the Iran defence will be a tough nut to crack, and will look to frustrate teams into making defensive mistakes.

Their main goal scoring threat has been Sardar Azmoun who bagged 11 goals across qualifying, and will be keen to display his talents in conditions well known to the Rubin Kazan forward. Mehdi Taremi also appeared on the score sheet frequently and had 8 goals to his name during qualifying.

Iran will have a tough task qualifying from the group. They will need at least a draw in both their tough games against Spain and Portugal and hope other results go in their favour. The Morocco match will be a game they will go in to expecting to win, but they will know that none of the results they will need to progress from this group will come easy.

Morocco (FIFA Ranking – 41st)

Morocco qualified for the World Cup by topping a group comprising Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali. Despite being seeded into Pot 3 of the qualifying draw, Morocco surprised everyone by topping the group, eliminating continental heavyweight Ivory Coast in the process.

What made the achievement even more impressive was that they did not concede even a single goal during the qualifying group stage.

World Cup 2018: Preview – Morocco & Iran

Morocco, are one of the five African nations to qualify….

Herve Renard has a knack for coaching African teams to punch well above their weight and after successful African Cup of Nation campaigns with Zambia and Ivory Coast, he returned to haunt his former employers with a plucky Moroccan team.

As with most of his teams, he has built his team around a strong defence. Morocco have a host of players playing in the minor European Leagues and Turkish League forward Khalid Boutaib was their top scorer with 4 goals during qualifying, with Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech in second place with 2 goals.

Despite Herve Renard building on the defensive backbone of Mehdi Benatia and Karim El Ahmedi, they have players with unquestionable quality in the likes of Mbark Boussoufa, Younes Belhanda and Sofiane Boufal. If they can keep it tight at the back, they can have the pace and ability to hurt teams on the counter, but similar to Iran, their chances of qualifying are rather slim.

Fixtures

15th June – Morocco vs Iran – 20:30 local time – Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg
15th June – Portugal vs Spain – 23:30 local time – Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
20th June – Portugal vs Morocco – 17:30 local time – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
20th June – Iran vs Spain – 23:30 local time – Kazan Arena, Kazan
25th June – Iran vs Portugal – 23:30 local time – Mordovia Arena, Saransk
25th June – Spain vs Morocco – 23:30 local time – Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad

Key Fixtures

15th June – Portugal vs Spain – 23:30 local time – Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi

Neither of the two heavyweights have any time to get in to their groove as they clash first up in a mouthwatering world cup tie.

Unfortunately given the circumstances and the quality of the other teams in the group, it is highly likely that they will be a bit more cautious in their approach to the game and not commit too much in terms of offence.

The last time these two teams met at the World Cup in 2010, Queiroz’s Portugal was defeated 1-0 by Spain in the round of 16.

25th June – Iran vs Portugal – 23:30 local time – Mordovia Arena, Saransk

If Spain get the better of Portugal in game 2 of the group, Portugal could well be under pressure to register a win against their former manager’s new team.

Iran will prove difficult to breakdown and it could turn out to be a fascinating contest given the context. Portugal have faced Iran once before in the World Cup in 2006, where they won 2-0 with Ronaldo scoring the second via a penalty.

FIFA World Cup Schedule in Sri Lankan time

Below you can find the complete schedule of the upcoming..

Prediction

Despite Portugal being ranked higher, Spain should be able to get a result over them in the opening fixture given the quality of their midfield and top the group in the process. This result is unlikely to have a big say in the overall scheme of things as both teams will likely make the quarter finals beating Group A teams.

Iran and Morocco have slim chances this time around and though they may frustrate their opposition it is unlikely they will be surprise qualifiers from this group.

>>For more World Cup News Click Here <<