2018 FIFA World Cup Preview: Group B

On June 14th, the 2018 World Cup begins in Russia. Expect a month of football filled with controversy due to the use of VAR for the first time in the history of the competition. Without further ado, here is our Group B preview.

Group B

Portugal, Morocco, Iran, Spain

Portugal

The Euro 2016 Champions will have high hopes for this World Cup with Cristiano Ronaldo at the forefront of any triumph. They will most likely finish behind Spain and make it into the last 16 which will be an improvement on their last World Cup performance.

Key Player

Cristiano Ronaldo. Who else but CR7? The 33-year-old is fresh from winning his fifth Champions League. Not content with that, Ronaldo also claimed that the competition should be renamed the ‘CR7 Champions League’. Ronaldo’s confidence knows no bounds and he has shown that can deliver for country as well as club. Portugal’s all-time top scorer managed 15 goals in qualification and should be on top form to help the Selecao sail through their group.

Manager

Fernando Santos is a former Portuguese defender who has been in charge of the national team since September 2014. He has already guided his side to victory in the Euros, their first ever major tournament honour, now he has to show the world what he can do.

Performance at 2014 World Cup: Group Stage

Embed from Getty Images

Morocco

For the first time in 20 years, Morocco will be competing at the World Cup. Finishing above Spain or Portugal seems more or less impossible but the Atlas Lions will give it their best shot.

Key Player

Medhi Benatia. A captain in every sense of the word. Benatia dropped himself from the national team in 2017 because he had lost his place at Juventus stating he’s “not above the rules”. He could have represented France and Algeria but he instead chose to represent Morocco and now he will lead them out at the World Cup.

Manager

Herve Renard has had plenty of success with African nations. In 2012 he won the Africa Cup of Nations with Zambia and then he repeated the feat with the Ivory Coast in 2015. He is the first coach to win two Africa Cup of Nations with different countries. This will be his first time in charge of a team at the World Cup.

Performance at 2014 World Cup: DNQ (Did Not Qualify)

Embed from Getty Images

Iran

For the first time in their history, Iran have reached consecutive World Cups. A win against Morocco would give Iran hope but, unfortunately, another group stage exit seems highly likely.

Key Player

Alireza Jahanbakhsh is a star player for Iran. He was in fine form this season, scoring 21 league goals for Dutch side AZ Alkmaar. In doing so, he became the first Asian player to be top goalscorer in a mainstream European league. The World Cup is the perfect stage for Jahanbakhsh to showcase his talents and at the age of 24, he could earn himself a move to a bigger club if he performs well.

Manager

Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz will face his home nation in Group B which will be an interesting meeting. He has helped three nations (South Africa in 2002, Portugal in 2010 and Iran in 2014 and 2018) qualify for the World Cup. Queiroz is the longest-serving manager in the history of the Iran national team after being in charge for over seven years following his appointment in 2011.

Performance at 2014 World Cup: Group Stage

Embed from Getty Images

Spain

Despite an incredibly poor performance at the 2014 World Cup where they exited in the group stages, Spain are one of the favourites to win the World Cup and rightly so. They have world-class players in every position and that is why some big names will be watching at home.

Key Player

There are plenty of stars to choose from but Andreas Iniesta is one of the best. The 34-year-old is the most decorated midfielder of the current generation. He recently ended his career at Barcelona and now wants to end his international career on a high as well. Iniesta was the match-winning hero at the 2010 World Cup as Spain lifted the trophy for the first time in their history. He will be vital to their hopes of more World Cup glory this time around.

Manager

Julen Lopetegui became Spain’s head coach in 2016 but he has been key to their youth development for a decade. Lopetegui led Spain’s U19 and U21 teams to European Championship success in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Performance at 2014 World Cup: Group Stage

Embed from Getty Images

Group B Prediction

  1. Spain
  2. Portugal
  3. Morocco
  4. Iran

Featured Image Credit: FIFA.com

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