The 2018 World Cup kicks off in just over six months’ time, but which side will emerge from the pack to lift the famous trophy in Russia? With 32 teams slogging it out for supremacy, Marathonbet takes a closer look at each World Cup finals group in a bid to whittle down the contenders.
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
This group presents one of the best matches early on in the tournament. European champions Portugal clash with 2010 World Cup winners Spain in a probable winner-takes-all match to see who tops the group.
Five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo will face off against his Spanish La Liga colleagues including Sergio Ramos, Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique. Portugal will be out for revenge after being dumped out Euro 2012 by Spain on penalties and a 1-0 loss in the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup. The last time Portugal beat Spain in a competitive tournament was in Euro 2004, when they nicked a 1-0 victory to send them through to the quarter finals.
In the qualifiers for Russia, Ronaldo and co topped their group on goal difference ahead of Switzerland while Spain were comfortable unbeaten winners of their group ahead of Italy.
Elsewhere in Group B, Iran became the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to book their place in Russia thanks to mastermind coach Carlos Queiroz – the ex-Manchester United number two who faces his fellow countrymen Portugal on June 25. Iran’s star man Sardar Azmoun is being touted as heir to the country’s goalscoring hero Ali Daei and wouldn’t be a bad shout to find the scoresheet at least once in the group stages. In 2013 he became the first ever Iranian to play in the Russian Premier League, starting and then returning to current club Rubin Kazan with a period at Rostov in between. Maybe a bit of local knowledge will help in Iran’s match against Spain as that is being played at Rubin’s home ground, the Kazan Arena.
At best Iran will be hoping to beat Morocco to third place. The African side booked their return to the World Cup finals after a 20-year absence, topping Africa Group C, and will make their fifth appearance at the tournament. Their best record at the World Cup was a last 16 finish in 1986 and they’ll be looking to rock-solid Juventus defender Medhi Benatia to try and keep out the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo. The big centre back has plied his trade at the likes of Bayern Munich in the past and is one of the only Moroccans in the squad to have tasted honours. He won the Bundesliga in 2014/15 and 2015/16 with Bayern and Serie A last year with Juve.
Group B top stat:
Iran striker Sardar Azmoun notched 11 goals in qualifying
Marathonbet odds for winning the group: Spain (13/25) Portugal (39/20) Morocco (14/1) Iran (25/1) . Check out the full Group B betting markets here.
When and where can I watch Group B games? And what TV channels are they on?
June 15: Morocco v Iran, St Petersburg (4pm, ITV)
June 19: Portugal v Spain, Sochi (7pm, BBC)
June 20: Portugal v Morocco, Moscow (1pm, BBC)
June 20: Iran v Spain, Kazan (7pm, ITV)
June 25: Iran v Portugal, Saransk (7pm, BBC)
June 25: Spain v Morocco, Kaliningrad (7pm, BBC)