World Cup 2018: Group B Preview
MOSCOW, June 12, 2018 (News Wires) - The 2018 FIFA World Cup has a couple of uncertain groups and group B is definitely one of them. Group B presents us with the worst possible draw for any African country.
The group has Spain, defending European champions Portugal, Morocco and Iran. Spain fielded a strong 23-man squad for the tournament and are possibly favourites to top the group. Unfortunately, this looks bad for Morocco as their progression chances range from slim to none thanks to the two power-houses.
Spain comes into this tournament somewhat under the radar after crashing and burning out of the group stage four years ago in Brazil. Although some players from the past World Cup are still around like Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, and David Silva, this Spanish team has a number of fresh faces who could be difference makers. World Cup rookies like Thiago Alcantara, Alvaro Odriozola and Marco Asensio should play important roles. Notably, Spain hasn’t lost since new manager Julen Lopetegui took over, an impressive stretch of 19 matches.
Morocco is back at the World Cup for the first time in 20 years after winning a qualification group that included heavily favored Ivory Coast. More than 60% of the players representing Morocco were born outside the country, making for an intriguingly diverse group with a wide range of backgrounds and some impressive club credentials.
Portugal received one of the rawest deals of them all. The defending European champions immediately became second fiddle in their own group after drawing Spain, probably the strongest of the eight teams clustered in Pot 2. On the other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. were fortunate with the other two teams lumped into Group B: Iran and Morocco.This at the very least gives them an assurance that they will make it to the knockout stage despite not topping the group.
Iran is making its second consecutive World Cup appearance and is led by a Portuguese manager in Carlos Queiroz, a longtime assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United who managed Portugal from 2008-10. This team easily won its qualification group and features 13 players stationed in Europe.
Players to watch
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): This Portuguese side has a healthy dose of non-Ronaldo quality, but this team’s fortunes still rest on the shoulders of its No. 7. Now 33, this might be Ronaldo’s last chance to add the one thing missing on his sparkling resume: a World Cup title. He had another fantastic season for Real Madrid, scoring 26 goals in 27 La Liga appearances and 15 Champions League goals in just 13 games, and we know that he is never lacking in confidence. Portugal can play with anyone when Ronaldo is at his dangerous best.
Koke (Spain): The 26-year-old Atletico Madrid man has taken the reins from Xavi as Spain’s deeper-lying playmaker, and he’s a worthy candidate to do so. Teams are going to sit back and let Spain possess, so Koke’s task will be to make the type of incisive passes that rip defenses apart.
Sardar Azmoun (Iran): Iran doesn’t have enough quality to control possession against Spain or Portugal, so it’ll rely on absorbing pressure and trying to steal a goal via counterattack. Its best bet to do so is to play through Azmoun, the talented 23-year-old striker, who plies his craft for Russia’s Rubin Kazan.
Hakim Ziyech (Morocco): The 25-year-old represented the Netherlands, his country of birth, at the youth level before pledging his future to Morocco in 2015. Since then, he’s emerged as a star attacking midfielder for Ajax and will play a key role in Russia.
Friday, June 15 : Morocco vs. Iran
Friday, June 15: Portugal vs. Spain
Wednesday, June 20: Portugal vs. Morocco
Wednesday, June 20: Iran vs. Spain
Monday, June 25: Spain vs Morocco
Monday, June 25: Iran vs Portugal