With Group A done, we move to Group B!
This looks a fascinating group, with Portugal and Spain the two standout nations. However, Morocco are no pushovers and are currently unbeaten in just over a dozen games! With a talented bunch of players, I feel they could threaten Portugal and even Spain to an extent.
Finishing the group off, is Iran – lead by in-form AZ Alkmaar forward Alireza Jahanbaksh, who has a 1 in 2 goals to game ratio in Holland!
Here is my view on Group B:
Spain should be winning this group, even with Portugal and Morocco lurking. For me, they have a lack of pace upfront, and even though they have tried to change that with the inclusion of Rodrigo – he doesn’t look anywhere near Spain starting material so it’ll be the likes of Costa and Aspas leading the line, and for me they are both good enough in this Spain system.
They have a more than good enough squad to go far, but I don’t think they will win it. There is certainly a whoft of age about their squad – the likes of Costa, Busquets, Iniesta, Ramos, David Silva, Pique and a several more in their early 30’s – for several it could be a last World Cup! What counters this is the likes of Saul, Isco, Thiago, Nacho, De Gea etc who are all in their prime, or even slightly before it!
The other intriguing thing is that VAR will be used, so it is possible that Sergio Ramos won’t get away with certain things that he often does…
Portugal have a very good looking squad – some exciting players that will certainly be ones to watch this summer, especially Goncalo Guedes who just had a stellar season for Valencia. I always have a little reticence when considering Portugal, but with the emergence of numerous players of recent times it’s very hard not to think they’ll do well.
With Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes having excellent seasons for Lisbon, Guedes as mentioned above phenomenal for Valencia, Ronaldo being Ronaldo, Quaresma continuing to perform and even Bernardo Silva impressing whenever he’s had the chance at Man City – you have an excellent attacking lineup.
Defensively they are more a worry – Raphael Guerreiro is injury prone, Pepe slightly nuts, Bruno Alves ageing, Cedric & Jose Fonte having poor seasons for Southampton and West Ham…you worry. Ricardo Pereira was fantastic for Porto however, and in Anthony Lopes and Rui Patricio you have two fantastic keepers – so it’s difficult to know exactly what you’ll get.
When I first saw the Group’s – I mistook Morocco for Tunisia, and started to panic, being an England fan. Morocco are a danger. You look at their squad and see the likes of Ziyech, Benatia, the Amrabat brothers, Mbark Boussoufa, Nabil Dirar, Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid’s new sensation at right back) and Galatasaray’s Younes Belhanda – they are a side full of talent, even leaving out Southamton’s Sofiane Boufal!
Their strength is their back four – incredibly well drilled, going through qualifying without conceding, and only conceding 11 goals in 23 games spanning the last 2 years! However, despite the attacking talents, they have struggled to score too many goals – their patient approach to games may not work against Spain or Portugal.
However, if they attack a little more and with the magic of Ziyech, the pace of the Amrabat brothers and the ingenuity of the likes of Boussoufa and Belhanda – they can do some damage.
Similar to the Saudi Arabia review – I think Iran will struggle. Most of their squad players substandard football in comparison to the rest of their group, and their three best players are all forwards – and given the lack of time they may get on the ball it’s hard to see them doing anything.
Sardar Amzoun, Alireza Jahanbaksh and Reza Ghoochennejhad all play in decent European leagues – the former in Russia, and the latter two in Holland – Karim Ansarifard scored 18 goals for Olympiakos this season, but to be fair Greece is hardly the best league in the world to judge a player.
Personally I think they’ll end up bottom of Group B.
Group Forecast: 1st – Spain / 2nd – Portugal @ 11/8
Excellent Value: Forecast Above.
High Value: Iran 0 Points @ 5/2
Banker: Iran – Bottom of Group B @ 4/5