Group B features the standout group stage fixture of the entire competition, when European champions open the tournament against Iberian rivals Spain on the 15th June. Making up the rest of the group are Morocco, who return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998, and Iran, who qualified for consecutive tournaments for the first time in their history.

Soccer World Cup Group B Preview

Date Venue Team Odds   Team Odds Odds
15-Jun-18 St Petersburg Morocco 1.24 v Iran 2.44 Draw  1.92
15-Jun-18 Sochi Portugal 3.33 v Spain 0.83 Draw  2.31
20-Jun-18 Moscow Portugal 0.53 v Morocco 5.29 Draw  2.77
20-Jun-18 Kazan Iran 15.18 v Spain 0.18 Draw  4.78
25-Jun-18 Kaliningrad Spain 0.35 v Morocco 7.20 Draw  3.65
25-Jun-18 Saransk Iran 9.02 v Portugal 0.30 Draw  3.68

 

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PROFILE: PORTUGAL

Portugal Soccer World Cup

FIFA Ranking 3rd World Cup Base Location Moscow
How they qualified Finished 1st in UEFA Qualifying Group B ahead of Switzerland
Form in 2017/18: Played 8, Won 6, Drawn 1, Lost 1 (includes 4 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 6 Tournaments
Played 26 Draws 4 Scored 43 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 13 Losses 9 Conceded 29 1 out of 1

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1986, 2002, 2014 2010 1966, 2006

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Spain: Played 1, Lost 1 Last Match: Lost 0-1, 2010 Round of 16
vs Iran: Played 1, Won 1 Last Match: Won 2-0, 2006 Group Stage
vs Morocco: Played 1, Lost 1 Last Match: Lost 1-3, 1986 Group Stage

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 24.00, 8th highest Group B Winner 1.95, 2nd highest
To Reach Final No (0.02), Yes (9.00) Elimination Stage Round of 16 (1.45)
Top Goalscorer Ronaldo (0.40), Andre Silva (4.00), Quaresma (24.00)

 

The current European champions make their 5th consecutive appearance and 7th overall World Cup appearance in Russia, hoping to make a significantly improved showing after another disappointing exit at the Group Stage in Brazil 2014. Manager Fernando Santos enjoyed a slightly better showing personally than his national peers in the same tournament, when he managed to guide Greece to a Round of 16 exit at the hands of surprise package Costa Rica.

Portugal’s base camp of Moscow is useful, but they’ll nonetheless face a lengthy, 1.600 km trip to Sochi occurs for the opening game vs Spain. Should Portugal leave that fixture in defeat, their travel fatigue could be an important dynamic, especially given Morocco’s relative advantage in travel distances for their first two games.

group b preivewIt goes without saying of course that captain and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo is their key player, but of curious importance may well be in defensive midfield where Fernando Santos won’t be able to call on the services of injured Danilo Pereira. William Carvalho offers experience but considerably less mobility than the nuanced talents of young Wolverhampton star Ruben Neves. Neves, alongside Portugal’s crop of other young emerging prospects like Bernardo Silva, Goncalo Guedes and Ruben Dias could well make an importance difference to a team that relishes high intensity counter attacking football.

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 2ND in Group B, Round of 16 exit

The European champions weren’t celebrated with delight at their very defensive tactical displays to win their maiden European crown, but the Santos charm appears to have waned since then. Much will depend on his squad selection, but the more the manager tends to rely too much on more experienced heads in his squad, the more likely Cristiano Ronaldo will have too big a task to carry his nation deep into the competition. A Round of 16 exit beckons, most likely to France.

Read More: Portugal vs Morocco Prediction

Read More: Portugal vs Spain Prediction 

PROFILE: SPAIN

Spain World Cup

FIFA Ranking 6th World Cup Base Location Krasnodar
How they qualified Finished 1st in UEFA Qualifying Group G ahead of Italy
Form in 2017/18: Played 7, Won 5, Drawn 2 (includes 3 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 14 Tournaments, 1 World Cup title (2010)
Played 59 Draws 12 Scored 92 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 29 Losses 18 Conceded 66 1 out of 3

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1962, 1966, 1978, 1998, 2014 1982, 1990, 2006 1934, 1986, 1994, 2002 1950 2010

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Portugal: Played 1, Won 1 Last Match: Won 1-0, 2010 Round of 16
vs Iran: Never played against them in World Cup competition
vs Morocco: Never played against them in World Cup competition

 

Various Odds of Interest
Outright Winner 6.50, 4th favourite Group B Winner 0.45, favourite
To Reach Final No (0.22), Yes (2.85) Elimination Stage Round of 16 (2.75)
Top Goalscorer Morata (2.25), Diego Costa (2.75), Isco (5.50), David Silva (6.60)

 

Following a humiliating exit in 2014 as defending champions, Spain enter 2018 with a wave of optimism given the depth in talent, even if once again there appears to an issue with the quality of the goalscoring options in the team. If experience is a factor, Spain have winners across the board, and it’s highly likely their side will feature a number of players from the behemoths of Real Madrid, Bayern and Barcelona, further emphasizing the quality of the talent at Julen Lopetegui’s disposal.

If there’s one thing that may well undo Spain in this World Cup, it’s their travelling. Their base of Krasnodar is quite remote from most locations, and their travels for each of their group games combined involves at least 4,000 km of travel. Sochi, the site of their opening game, also plays host to their likely Round of 16 encounter, but even if they progress through that, the remaining games continue to persist with long travels up north to St Petersburg and Moscow.

Spain PreviewExpect the leadership of Sergio Ramos to make a massive impact in any success the Spanish team accumulates, especially given his wide experience in games both big and small in significance. Goalkeeper David De Gea will be equally critical to Spain’s fortunes given their reputation of being a very difficult side to break down. But it’s in attacking respects that the next star needs to emerge, and this World Cup could become the perfect stage for Isco, Thiago Alcantara and Marco Asensio to make transitions into the superstars of the future.

Soccer World CupPrediction: 2ND in Group B, Semifinal exit if they handle the travelling

Julen Lopetegui will hardly have an easy time of choosing a squad, but he is familiar with many of its current options, especially the now-grown-up youngsters who won the Euro Under-21 champions with him in 2013. It’s this depth, especially in central positions that will make Spain difficult to beat. The Del Bosque identity still lingers, but under a different formation and against weaker opponents, Spain should be able to build up decent enough form to take them into a potential repeat of the 2010 semifinal against Germany. Much depending on how they’ll handle the traversals across Russia, though. Going by talent and depth, a semifinal berth is anticipated, with projected defeat to Germany. 

PROFILE: IRAN

FIFA Ranking 32nd World Cup Base Location Moscow
How they qualified Finished 1st in AFC Qualifying Group A ahead of South Korea
Form in 2017/18: Played 5, Won 2, Drawn 2 (includes 3 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 4 Tournaments
Played 12 Draws 3 Scored 7 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 1 Losses 8 Conceded 22 None contested

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1978, 1998, 2006, 2014

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Portugal: Played 1, Lost 1 Last Match: Lost 2-0, 2006 Group Stage
vs Spain: Never played against them in World Cup competition
vs Morocco: Never played against them in World Cup competition

 

Various Odds of Interest
Group B Winner 32.00, worst in Group Qualify from Group Yes (6.00)
Top Goalscorer Azmoun (4.00), No goalscorer (5.00), Jahanbakhsh (6.00)

 

Experienced manager Carlos Queiroz adds another Iberian flavor to this group, with his clash against his home nation of Portugal the most intriguing for Iran. Queiroz’s side will lack the flair and flash of Portugal, Spain and Morocco, but won’t give up goals easily to their opponents either, having displayed this propensity with 12 consecutive clean sheets in qualifying.

Iran’s travels are largely normal given the traversals that this tournament will impose upon its teams. Only the trip to Kazan for their 2nd match against Spain represents a travel challenge, and by comparison, their trip is still less that that of the Southern European side.

Iran’s team has become far better represented across Europe in recent years, so Queiroz will have a better chance to select players with more experience in such competitions, most notably Sardar Azmoun, who fortuitously plies his trade in Russia for Rubin Kazan. Veteran Reza Ghoochannejhad will add experience and composure to the goal threat, but it’s Swedish born utility forward Saman Ghoddos that may yet capture the imagination of Iranian fans and expectations alike.

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Soccer World Cup Prediction: 4th in Group B

Queiroz will no doubt conduct Iran into a side capable of strangling the creative rhythms of their opponents in this group. But despite this, Iran will likely find themselves short of the depth and quality needed to escape the group. Outside chances for qualification persist if they can implement their defensive solidity and fully leverage their more favourable travel arrangements. A respectable showing is expected, but one that ultimately ends with them bottom in their group.

PROFILE: MOROCCO

FIFA Ranking 40th World Cup Base Location Voronezh
How they qualified Finished 1st in CAF Qualifying Group C ahead of Ivory Coast
Form in 2017/18: Played 13, Won 10, Drawn 3 (includes 2 friendlies)

 

World Cup Record: 4 Tournaments
Played 13 Draws 4 Scored 12 Penalty Shootout Wins
Wins 2 Losses 7 Conceded 18 None contested

 

Group Stage Round of 16 Quarterfinal Semifinal Final
1970, 1994, 1998 1986

 

World Cup Head to Head Records:
vs Portugal: Played 1, Won 1 Last Match: Won 3-1, 1986 Group Stage
vs Spain: Never played against them in World Cup competition
vs Iran: Never played against them in World Cup competition

 

Various Odds of Interest
Group B Winner 15.50, 3rd highest Qualify from Group Yes (4.00)
Top Goalscorer Boutaib (4.00), No goalscorer (5.00), Bammou (6.00)

 

Morocco’s 20-year absence from the World Cup came at the expense of 2015 African Cup of Nations champions Ivory Coast, but this result was hardly without substance. Under coach Herve Renard, Morocco have combined tactical discipline and efficient defence to their creative flair. Experienced manager Carlos Queiroz adds another Iberian flavor to this group, with his clash against his home nation of Portugal the most intriguing for Iran. Queiroz’s side will lack the flair and flash of Portugal, Spain and Morocco, but won’t give up goals easily to their opponents either, having displayed this propensity with 12 consecutive clean sheets in qualifying.

Morocco’s travels aren’t ideal, but if they’re able to start well against Iran in St. Petersburg, they’ll be keen to take advantage of Portugal’s potential fatigue from their long return from Sochi. The final game vs Spain in Kaliningrad is a massive 1,700 km trip, but there’s every hope that Morocco would have done enough to wrestle a draw against the group favourites if need be.

group B Sofiane Boufal Morocco have several notable players of interest, many of considerable importance to their European squads. A successful World Cup campaign will start with Juventus’ experienced defender Medhi Benatia, who was directly involved as a goalscorer in the crucial World Cup qualifying win over the Ivory Coast. But the wildcards will likely be Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray) and Sofiane Boufal (Southampton) who are all creative forces in attacking midfield, dangerous with set pieces, and capable of defence splitting passes and threatening runs with the ball.

Read More: 12 Awesome Soccer World Cup Facts

Soccer World Cup Prediction: 3rd in Group B, but the one with the potential to surprise

Morocco’s qualifying record and form in 2017/18 continues to impress and their results are matched by the excitement regarding their disciplined organization combined with their creative talents. Ziyech, Belhanda and Boufal are all capable of producing World Cup magic on their own, and this potential could make for interesting encounters against Spain and Portugal. The European sides have experienced and deeper talent pools on their side, but Morocco won’t care much for such factors. 3rd place is expected, but if there’s a surprise in this group, it’s likely to originate from North Africa. 

Soccer World Cup Group Previews and Predictions

Soccer World Cup Preview – Group A (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, IR Iran)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group C (France, Australia, Peru, Denmark)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group E (Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group F (Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group G (Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England)
Soccer World Cup Preview – Group H (Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan)

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*Please note – odds mentioned above are correct at time of publishing but are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.


 

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