6 June 2018

Africa: X-Raying the 2018 FIFA World Cup Groups - Group B

Photo: The Guardian
All the Groups for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

There are two lion packs in Group B joined by the Fury of Spain and those Portuguese who love building castles.

Tournament football is radically different from a league that is played over 38 weeks spanning nine months. The team that will win the 2018 FIFA World Cup will play seven matches over a 30-day period. Mental, physical wherewithal and fast recuperative powers will help the winner plus a slice of luck and some favourable VAR decisions.

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and Iran

Spain - They have the players and the know-how to go far in the competition but there are fears the group could be ageing. They are set to start another great era with some young and talented players.

Average Age: 28.5

Total number of Caps: 937

FIFA Ranking: 8

Manager: Julen Lopetegui [51]

Three best players: Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, David de Gea

Greatest Display: Winning the 2010 World Cup

Nickname: La Furia Roja [Red Fury]

Conclusion: One of the three red-hot favourites to win after a shambolic title defence in Brazil. With two teams from La Liga winning both European club tournaments, the players are primed and ready to take on the world. They could be let down by an inadequate front line.

Portugal - After the surprise win at Euro 2016, expectations are higher and with Cristiano Ronaldo, they will stand a chance. The young guns in the team like Bernardo Silva and Gelson Martins must come to the party to give adequate support to Ronaldo.

Average Age: 28.4

Total number of Caps: 892

FIFA Ranking: 4

Manager: Fernando Santos [63]

Three best players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho

Greatest Display: Semi-finalist at the 1966 edition

Nickname: Seleccao das Quinas (Team of the Castles)

Conclusion: The manager thrives on defensive solidity but he has to deal with an ageing centre, which means they will concede goals. Can they score more will the major question to be asked in Russia. The second round looks like the likely bus-stop.

Morocco - This is a capable group of players that have been drilled to near-perfection by their manager. They will not concede easily but might be punished for shirking some offensive nuances.

Average Age: 26.9

Total number of Caps: 519

FIFA Ranking: 42

Manager: Hervé Renard [49]

Three best players: Nabil Dirar, Mehdi Benatia, Younes Belhanda

Greatest display:

Nickname: Atlas Lions

Conclusion: They are not supposed to stand a chance against Spain and Portugal but a good result against any of these two teams could open up a passage into the second round.

Iran - They always have a surprise in them and that could be in their opening game against Morocco.

Average Age: 27

Total number of Caps: 687

FIFA Ranking: 36

Manager: Carlos Queiroz [65]

Three best players: Sardar Azmoun, Ashkan Dejagah, Ehsan Hajsafi

Nickname: Shirane Pars (The Lions of Persia)

Conclusion: With a very astute manager and some experience in the ranks, especially from some few players who plied their trade in Europe at some time, not conceding a basketful of goals would be the success in Russia.

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