World Cup 2018 Preview – Group B
The 2018 World Cup consists of 8 groups, each containing four teams and with that in mind, two of Europe’s top teams in Spain and Portugal would have been confident of avoiding each other.
However, such was the seeding when the draw for the World Cup took place, the current European champions, Portugal, were drawn in Group B along with Spain, Morocco and Iran.
While Spain and Portugal were unhappy to be in the same group, Morocco and Iran know they have a massive task ahead of them.
The Portuguese enjoyed tremendous success in their previous major tournament as they won Euro 2016 in France.
However, many fans believe they did not deserve to win it as they finished third in their group, having not won a single game. The 2-0 win over Wales in the semi-final was their only win in regulation time but having lost their first World Cup qualifying game to Switzerland, Portugal responded well to top the group.
Question marks will be raised about their ageing defence and the diminishing powers of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manager: Fernando Santos has constructed a solid team in his four years in charge of the Portuguese national team but fans will want to see him get the best out of his attacking players.
Key Player: This will be the last World Cup for Cristiano Ronaldo and he will need to have his scoring boots on if Portugal are to go deep in the tournament.
The Spanish meet Portugal in the first round of games in the group and will want to place down a marker with a good win.
A poor showing at both the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship has left Spain out of the discussion in terms of potential winners of this tournament but their defensive prowess in qualifying plus the guile of their attack minded midfielders make them a dangerous prospect.
Manager: Julen Lopetegui has come through the international ranks in Spain having coached the Spanish under 19’s, 20’s and 21’s. So, following his spell at Porto he was the natural choice and remained undefeated in qualifying.
Key Player: Sergio Busquets is the man who links the play together for Barcelona and Spain. With over 100 caps for his country, he will be the holding man in midfield, breaking up attacks and starting them for his team.
Morocco last appeared at the World Cup back in France 1998 and despite finishing with 4 points, they were eliminated at the group stage.
The Atlas Lions did well to come through a qualifying group containing Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali. Morocco did not concede a single goal in their six group games and pride themselves on being tough to break down.
Manager: French coach, Herve Renard, has enjoyed success with other African teams having won the African Cup of Nations with both Zambia and Ivory Coast. He will be looking forward to the challenge.
Key Player: Mehdi Benatia is the man at the centre of Morocco’s impressive defence and the Juventus man will be a vital ingredient of any success they have in Russia.
Many fans will remember Iran defeating the United States in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup before being eliminated from the tournament in the group stage. They have since qualified for two World Cup tournaments and failed to win a single game.
Team Melli came through qualifying without losing a game and finished 7 points clear of second place South Korea. Iran rely on their defence to get them through matches and their back line will be severely tested in this group.
Manager: Carlos Queiroz is massively experienced and this will be his second World Cup with Iran. The Portuguese will set up his team to be solid at the back.
Key player: With the emphasis on defence, striker Sardar Azmoun will need to be at his very best if Iran are to find the back of the net in any of their three group games.