In this post, we will take a closer look at Group B of Russia 2018 and try to determine which two sides are likely to prevail
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP B BETTING PREVIEW
European champions Portugal beat Switzerland 2-0 in Lisbon to progress to the World Cup finals as winners of Group B by goal difference. The current European Champions only loss to the Swiss side away from home and won all the remaining qualifiers. The Selecao have yet to win the tournament in their long international history, with their best result being a third-place finish in 1966 – while they were fourth in 2006 and made the round of 16 four years later in Rio.
This time around, veteran tactician Fernando Santos will still be at the helm, but all eyes will instead be on the man who dominates Portuguese football, captain Cristiano Ronaldo - a nation’s hopes pinned on him.
The 32-year-old has won 147 caps and scored an incredible 79 goals in a star-studded career, and he shone throughout qualification, bagging 15 to drag his side over the line right at the death.
Having won four out of the last five Ballon’d’Or awards, it is obvious how important he is to Portugal’s chances, but clearly the Real Madrid man cannot do it all on his own and will need Milan’s Andre Silva, among others, to chip in with a few goals.
The 22-year-old notched nine in qualifying and looks set for a big World Cup, while Porto’s William Carvalho is the rock in midfield set to snuff out opposition attacks.
They conceded just four goals in 10 qualifiers and will hope to be just as tight at the back in Russia. In the two most recent friendlies, Portugal beat 2-1 Egypt but suffered a 3-0 defeat against Netherlands.
Spain topped their qualifying group who included Italy with a record of W9 D1. They finished unbeaten and defeated the Azzurri 3-0 on home turf. La Roja suffered the ignominy of group stage exits at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship. have appeared in the last 10 World Cups, claimed their only title in 2010.
That was, however, during a purple patch that saw them secure back-to-back European Championships too, and they will be appearing at their 14th World Cup this summer. La Roja have made the quarter-finals three times since 1986, but failed to make it out of their group four years ago in Rio in what was an extremely disappointing campaign.
Julen Lopetegui has coached the side for the past couple of years and boasts an impressive win ration of 75%, while guiding his men to nine wins and a draw in qualifying. An impressive effort, no doubt, relying on the collective more than any one individual, with Diego Costa, David Silva, Alvaro Morata and Isco each scoring five goals.
All four will be vital to the side’s cause in Russia, but it was at the other end of the pitch that they really excelled.
Only three goals were conceded in 10 qualifiers as captain Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique combined to form a rock solid central defensive partnership, while Jordi Alba is now a vastly experienced presence at left-back.
The lynchpin in defense, however, is David de Gea - arguably the world’s best goalkeeper. With such a formidable team, we fully expect Spain to banish all disappointments of 2014.
Their most recent warm-up match ended in a 1-1 draw against Germany last March.
Morocco recorded a 2-0 win over Ivory Coast that sealed their place in Russia, without conceding any goal during the whole qualifying campaingn. They will be making their first appearance at a World Cup finals in 20 years next summer. They qualified for their fifth World Cup by topping CAF Group C with three wins and three draws. The won back to back friendlies in March as they beat 2-1 Serbia and 2-0 Uzbekistan.
The Atlas Lions have only made it out of the group stage on one occasion in their history, going in to lose to West Germany in the round of 16 back in 1986.
This time, Khalid Boutaib topped the Moroccan goalscoring charts in qualifying with four, while Hakim Ziyech notched two and five other players chipped in with one each. Juventus defender Medhi Benatia wears the captain’s armband and combined with his fellow defenders to keep six clean sheets from six qualifying matches - clearly the side’s main strength. Frenchman Hervé Renard is in charge of his fourth African nation, having managed Zambia twice, along with Angola and the Ivory Coast and can boast some talented players from around the various European leagues. Defender Romain Saiss is enjoying an excellent season with Wolves, while Feyenoord’s Karim El Ahmadi sits in front of the back four to provide protection. Nordin Amrabat, on loan at La Liga club Leganes from Watford, provides the width but it will be to Boutaib that they look for goals – and so they might.
Iran were the first Asian team to qualify - way back in June with a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan. They topped AFC’s Group A to qualify for Russia with an impressive haul of 22 points from 10 games, and will be making their fifth World Cup appearance in the summer. Last March they beat 4-0 Sierra Leone and 2-1 Algeria, but lost 1-0 against Tunisia. Since then, Iran have beaten 1-0 Uzbekistan in mid-May.
They have yet to make it out of the group stage and have won just one match during their forays into the global showpiece.
Carlos Queiroz is at the helm and can draw on his vast club experience of having managed Real Madrid while working as an assistant at Manchester United.
The 64-year-old Portuguese manager has coached the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, while also managing Portugal on two occasions. Not a bad pedigree to take to a World Cup!
He has been in charge of Iran since 2011, winning nearly 62% of his games and will hope to guide them to the knockout phase in the summer.
Captain Ashkan Dejagah has experience of Premier League football with Fulham and will spend the second half of this season on loan at Championship club Nottingham Forest. Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun, meanwhile, led the way for ‘Team Melli’ in qualifying with four goals while Mehdi Taremi bagged three.
They only scored 10 goals from 10 qualification matches and relied on a solid defence that conceded just twice. Will it be enough against the firepower of the rest of their group?
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP B BEST ODDS
Our expert team have selected the best odds available on the World Cup Group B Winner market. Back your favourite team at the odds shown below or claim a price boost by visiting our Enhanced Betting Odds section.
WORLD CUP 2018 GROUP B PREDICTIONS
Undoubtedly one of the easiest World Cup groups to predict. We're backing Spain and Portugal to progress, with "La Roja" favourite to get the nod over the European Champions. Very few chances to advance for Morocco and Iran, the two outsiders of the group B.
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