World Cup Group B Preview

Two teams are clear favourites to go through. 

Portugal

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History

The number 4th ranked side in the world go into this competition as reigning European champions. Portugal have made 6 appearances in the World Cup their first coming in 1966 which also happened to be their best finish in the competition placing third. 

Team 

Goalkeepers – Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Göztepe)
Defenders – Bruno Alves (Rangers), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphaël Guerreiro (Dortmund), José Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Rúben Dias (Benfica), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Mário Rui (Napoli), Cédric (Southampton)
Midfielders – Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), João Moutinho (Monaco), João Mário (West Ham), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Adrien Silva (Leicester City) 
Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), André Silva (AC Milan), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Ricardo Quaresma (Benfica)
Manager – Fernando Santos 
Most Caps – Cristiano Ronaldo (149)
Captain – Cristiano Ronaldo
Star Player – Cristiano Ronaldo 

Portugal drew two and won one of their three friendlies. Portugal are European champions and should be one of the two teams to reach the round of 16. Portugal have a decent squad and they have a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, and so they could possibly reach the latter stages of the World Cup, winning it seems a stage too far. 

Spain

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History

Spain’s first World Cup came in 1934 and have since participated in 14 other iterations. They managed to win the coveted trophy in 2010 in what was arguably Spain’s golden era. Lately Spain have fallen short but a youthful squad could cause problems to opponents in this years competition. 

Team

Goalkeepers – David De Gea (Manchester United), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Defenders – Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Gerard Piqué (Barcelona), Nacho (Real Madrid), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Midfielders – Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Vissel Kobe), Saul (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Thiago (Bayern Munich), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Isco (Real Madrid)
Forwards – Rodrigo (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City)
Manager – Julen Lopetegui
Most Caps – Sergio Ramos (151)
Captain – Sergio Ramos
Star Player – Andres Iniesta

Spain are looking to reach the heights they reached in the first half of the decade. Gone are the days of tiki taka football and there is a focus on holistic development. This World Cup also happens to be Iniesta’s last World Cup and he remains the player that makes Spain tick. Spain will probably reach the round of 16 and going further like all other teams will depend on the draw but Spain could make it to he quarter finals at least. 

Morocco

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History

Morocco have participated in four world cups, their first came in 1970 and their best finish in the competition was the round of 16 which they reached in the 1986 World Cup. They return to the competition after missing the last four. 

Team 

Goalkeepers – Yassine Bounou (Girona), Munir Mohamedi (Numancia), Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti (IR Tanger)
Defenders – Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille), Manuel da Costa (Istanbul Basaksehir), Medhi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce)
Midfielders – Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Mbark Boussoufa (Al-Jazira), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Amine Harit (Schalke 04), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege)
Forwards – Ayoub El Kaabi (RS Berkane), Khalid Boutaib (Yeni Malatyaspor), Youssef En-Nesyri (Malaga), Aziz Bouhaddouz (FC St.Pauli)
Manager – Hervé Renard
Most Caps – Mbark Boussoufa (58)
Captain – Mehdi Benatia
Star Player – Mehdi Benatia

Morocco are an interesting team and should provide some interesting football to watch in their games. Portugal and Spain should be one step too far for them though but if Benatia is able to martial his defence adequately then a few surprises could be sprung. 

Iran

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History

Iran have made four appearances in the World Cup, failing to get out of the group stage in all four competitions. Their first appearance came in 1978. 

Team

Goalkeepers – Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)
Defenders – Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al-Sadd), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Oostende)
Midfielders – Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (Aek Athens), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis)
Forwards – Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersund), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen), Mehdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa), Alireza Jahanbaksh (AZ), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest) 
Manager – Carlos Queiroz
Most Caps – Ehsan Hajsafi (93)
Captain – Masoud Shojaei
Star Player – Reza Ghoochannejhad

Iran are a team that could surprise their group with players like Reza and Azmoun providing some quality options going forward. In most cases they will probably not go through the group but much like Morocco their main aim will be to provide some good performances for the fans. Iran have won two of their three friendlies and going into the World Cup in a positive mood. 

 

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