#WorldCup2018 Profile: Ronaldo and Iniesta to battle for top spot in Group B

Group B is a slightly more glamorous group with “tikitaka” pass masters and 2010 World Champions Spain headlining the group along with current European Champions, Portugal their Iberian counterpart. Morocco and Iran make up the rest of the group and will be looking to spring up good performances in the Mundial.

Spain is the obvious front-runner in this group and probably one of the favourites to go all the way in Russia. Spain’s Coach Julen Lopetegui lines his team up in the 4-3-3 formation and many of the golden generation who won the World Cup and back-to-back European Championships are still in the squad and likely to start – Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets.

Euro 2016 champions Portugal line-up in a 4-4-2 formation with the experienced centre-back pairing of Jose Fonte and Pepe leading the back-line. Rui Patricio is a very capable goalkeeper with a lot of experience who excels at penalties. Joao Mario will likely play in the left wing while Ricardo Quaresma or Bernardo Silva will occupy the right flank. Cristiano Ronaldo and A.C Milan’s Andre Silva will lead the line with Silva acting as a target man while Ronaldo roams around the area. Portugal press aggressively and attack the wide spaces to create chances for their two attackers. It is very likely they go farther than people might expect.

Carlos Queiroz’s Iran side will be making their fifth World Cup and first ever back-to-back appearance in Russia. His side plays a very defensive 4-3-3, and their centre midfielders stay tight in midfield. Iran prefers to go long and rely on Alireza Jahanbakhsh who plays across the front-line to create chances for their talisman Sardar Azmoun who scored 11 goals for Iran during qualification.

Morocco will be appearing in their first World Cup since 1998 under the management of Herve Renard the two times African Cup of Nations winner. Morocco plays a 4-3-3 under Renard and are led by Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia. The Atlas Lions are very organised and defensively solid. They play long and will look to key players like; Khalid Boutail, Hakim Ziyech, Nordin Amrabat and Younes Belhanda to make the difference and qualify out of a tough group.

Predictions

  1. Spain {Group Winners}
  2. Portugal
  3. Morocco {Dark Horses}
  4. Iran

Spain is the clear favourite to emerge as group winner, despite slight line up issues with the right players to play to fit the system. Lopotegui has the problem every manager wants – a wealth of talent – they should have no problem navigating the group.

Portugal will most likely advance to the round of 16 despite an ageing Ronaldo. It is expected he will give this World Cup is all, which is clearly going to be his last. However, the team is not blessed with abundant talent.

Morocco and Iran are similarly difficult to beat and share a stretch of games without conceding. Morocco qualified for the World Cup without conceding a goal in qualification and it is expected they will want to build on defensive solidity; they will not be blown away in the group. However, they do not have enough to qualify out of the group.

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