Notable Spanish Footballers:
David Silva (Manchester City), David De Gea (Manchester United), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Alvoro Morata (Chelsea), Isco (Real Madrid)
This is a close group, but it’s one the Spaniards expect to win. It’s all but a sure thing that they will advance. Spain as well as Portugal are head and shoulders above the others in this group. Anyone outside of the two countries that oppose them would call this a two-horse race.
Spain is eight years and two world cups removed from a 2010 win that ended a history of world cup failures. To date, Spain has made 14 world cup appearances. They will be looking to add to their lone World Cup title.
La Roja crashed out of Brazil’s World Cup 2014 in the group stage. They didn’t do much better in France’s EURO 2016 failing to bring home silverware. The country will be expecting the squad to show massive improvements in this campaign. This is the final chance for Andres Iniesta who will retire at the end of the Spanish campaign.
Spain has lacked strong leadership since Vicente Del Bosque retired from world football. Julen Lopetegui has maintained the pass heavy style that has led to the prominence of Spain as a football power, but has done so using aging players. Many wonder if the squad can beat the Germanies and Brazils of the world in later stages.
The 4-5-1 Spain prefers features Chelsea’s Alvoro Morata as the main Striker. The midfield is chalk full of talent. City man David Silva, Iniesta, and Barcelona holding midfielder Sergio Busquets highlight just a few of Spain’s world class midfield stockpile.
The defense is as good as ever. While Pique may no longer be the insurance that Spain once had in Puyol, he’s incredible when paired with one of Spain’s all time greats in Sergio Ramos.
David De Gea is in a coinflip argument with Manuel Neuer of Germany for best goalkeeper in world football today. De Gea is Spain’s best player and difference maker in the tournament. The Manchester United man and rumored Real Madrid departure rarely concedes in the Premier League.
Why Spain Could Win Group B?
Christiano Ronaldo is no stranger to Spanish players, and he stands in the way between Spain and a Group B victory. Spain will be preparing for that game almost exclusively as the rest of the group seems to pose little to no competition.
Alvoro Morata must be in form for Spain to win Group B. If the Chelsea man cannot improve on what has been a lackluster 2018 campaign in the Premier League, Spain will struggle and need to turn to someone else. Even with that question mark, Spain has shown an ability to score from the midfielder. They’ve never needed a true striker.
On paper, Spain is deeper than the others in this group. Portugal cannot compete with the shear amount of world class talent on the Spanish roster. If Spain are well oiled and in form, they can easily win Group B. This is largely why the odds indicate them as favorites in the group.
Odds to Win Group B: +180
Odds to Advance from Group B: -650
Odds to Win World Cup: +2500
Notable Portuguese Footballers:
Christiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Pepe (Beşiktaş ), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifange F.C.), Bruno Alves (Rangers), Rui Patricio (Sporting Clube de Portugal), Renato Sanches (Swansea), Jao Mario (West Ham)
Many have an opinion that differs with Portugal manager Fernando Santos. At LazyBets, we don’t think that Portugal are a second-tier team in the world cup as Santos does. Portugal are not below Brazil, Argentina, France, Spain, and Germany. They are in that group.
Having Christiano Ronaldo alone makes a team a world cup contender. Though he’s into his 30’s now, Ronaldo still dominates La Liga with Real Madrid. He single handedly put Portugal in a position to win Euro 2016 and he’ll be looking to do the same thing in 2018’s World Cup in Russia.
Portugal qualified for the World Cup by winning European Group B and finishing ahead of Switzerland. Hungary fell victim to the two in the group as Portugal rode its 4-4-2 offensive style to the top of the division.
The Portugal backline is old, but it’s an experienced old. Rui Patricio quarterbacks from goal as Bruno Alves, Pep, and Jose Fonte take turns anchoring the center half positions. Each center back has extensive international experience. Alves is quickly approaching 40 years of age.
Since the Euro 2016 victory, Portugal’s attacking midfielders have sputtered. Jao Mario and Renato Sanches each struggled at Inter and Bayern Munchen respectively before middling spells on lower Premier League loan duty. Portugal will depend of them for meaningful minutes in the midfield. If these players show up as they did for Euro 2016, Portugal could be looking at a deep run.
Why Portugal Could Win Group B:
Two words: Christiano Ronaldo.
Argentina has Messi. Egypt has Mo Salah. Portugal has Christiano, and he can completely win the tournament, let alone Group B.
Portugal is solid enough at the back to get by. They have a decent group of midfielders and a very productive Bernardo Silva feeding in crosses to the likes of Ronaldo. Really, it all rests on him. If the Ballon d’or perennial finalist brings the stuff that typically wins the award, Portugal will be tough for Spain to stop. Morocco and Iran are really hoping for injuries here.
Odds to Win Group B: +1600
Odds to Advance from Group B: +425
Odds to Win World Cup: +30000
Notable Moroccan Footballers:
Sofiane Boufal (Southhampton), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), M’Barek Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Nordim Amrabat (CD Leganés), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid)
Morocco got a really tough draw here. The Atlas Lions are into the World Cup for the first time since they made a bid in the group stage of the World Cup of 1998 in France. It’s the first time in 20 years that the Moroccans will be playing amongst the powers of the world.
Morocco won group C in the African Group and placed ahead of the Ivory Coast. This is their forth appearance on the World Cup stage. The Moroccans typically line up with a 4-5-1 system that is centered around quick passing and attacking play. Hervé Renard and Patrice Beaumelle pilot morocco. Beaumelle operates as an understudy to Renard, but his advice deeply impacts the club’s tactics.
The team is headlined by fancy dribbling and technique. Top dribblers like Sofiane Boufa and Nordim Amrabat highlight a group that traditionally ends up on YouTube skill clips.
The defense is well equipped too. Mehdi Benatia of Juventus and Achraf Hakimi are used to top competition on the backline.
The only problem for Morocco is being outgunned. The small African nation needs to oust recent Euro Cup and World Cup winners to get to the knockout stages. What a story it would be if they could do it.
Why Morocco Could Win Group B
Really, all hell must break loose for Morocco to win Group B. The squad are deep underdogs to advance at over four to one. They’re much deeper underdogs to win the group. It’s unlikely that one of Portugal or Spain will fall, let alone two. Because of this, Morocco’s best hope is an upset or a major injury that sees them through to the second phase of the tournament.
Odds to Win Group B: +2200
Odds to Advance from Group B: +475
Odds to Win World Cup: +30000
Notable Iranian Footballers:
Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersund)
Iran, much like Morocco, make their forth World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018. The club has a current FIFA ranking of 40 and has never won a title.
Iran qualified as the first team out of the Asian group. There they beat out South Korea. The ordeal was nothing short of impressive. Iran recorded 12 consecutive clean sheets on their way to this years world cup bid.
Iran is known for its counter attacking style and plays a very defensive style. This was largely the catalyst for so many clean sheets during qualifying. The Iranians did switch tactics in recent friendly matches leaving some doubt over what style we will see them play come kickoff in June.
Carlos Queiroz loves his 4-2-3-1 system and with Spain and Portugal lurking, it’s tough to see Iran pressing up the pitch as it did with lesser competition in sides like Panama and Russia. Iran will be hoping to sneak a 1-0 victory and two draws on its way to an unprecedented group stage.
Why Iran Could Win Group B:
Much like Morocco’s situation, Iran needs a lot to get first in Group B. Aside from two France 2010 level meltdowns, Iran is hoping to stay well organized and snag second place in a loaded group. Such a result would likely see the sacking of a top 10 manager. Otherwise, Iran and Morocco are looking to build character and play some good competitions against some highly regarded world powers.
Lazy Bets Picks:
This looks like a cut and dry group. I personally hope that it is. Both Spain and Portugal possess a level of class that is good for the fan. While both typically are criticized for diving on the world stage, the delights of Ronaldo and Iniesta cannot be denied. I think Spain wins the group with Portugal second.
Things could get crazy in this group. Don't be surprised if Iran or Morocco make a run at it. They're both talented clubs.
1) Spain -190