In the second group of the FIFA World Cup 2018, there are two fierce competitors who will be looking to one-up each other to qualify for the round of 16 stage and will be two teams who are hoping to cause upsets along their way.
Group B has Iran, Morocco, Portugal and Spain clubbed together. Let’s take a look.
They became the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to book their place at World Cup.
Their coach is Carlos Queiroz and this will be the third FIFA World Cup that the Portuguese will be in the dugout for having previously led Iran in 2014 and Portugal in 2010.
The team made their way into the World Cup on the back of a rock-solid defence. Coupled with open attacking play with the help of winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh and strikers Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi, the team has found new outlets to trouble the rival defence.
The problem for the team is that they haven’t performed well against quality opposition and this will be an uncharted ground for the Asian side when they deploy their tactics.
Key Players: Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi
Verdict: Group Stage
Being one of the five African teams that have qualified for the World Cup, Morocco has some big shoes to fill. Having world-renowned players in their roster like captain Mehdi Benatia, Karim El Ahmadi and Hakim Ziyech will help them mount a real challenge against their teams.
Their French coach Herve Renard has multiple CAF Africa Cup of Nations and he took over the reigns of Morocco in 2016 that led to come back to the biggest stage in the footballing world since 1998.
With the country eyeing to host the FIFA World Cup 2026, Morocco needs to deliver big at the upcoming tournament and make a resounding statement to the community.
Key Players: Mehdi Benatia, Younes Belhanda, Hakim Ziyech
Verdict: Group Stage
UEFA Euros 2016 Champions Portugal are one of the favourites to win the competition. The Cristiano Ronaldo led side had a phenomenal campaign and proved to be a tough adversary to their opponents.
Their coach Fernando Santos has finally found the right balance to the side that helps Ronaldo be as flamboyant as he wants but also lead the side with apt support from the entire team. Nani, Eder and Renato Sanchez are some of the stars of the previous tournament.
An interesting take while looking at Portugal is that they haven’t ever won a FIFA World Cup and if Cristiano Ronaldo wants to immortalise himself as the Greatest of All Time, he needs to have a World Cup in his trophy cabinet to argue.
Having already won the UEFA Champions League for the third season in a row with Real Madrid, Ronaldo will be looking to carry forward the momentum and showcase that how cerebral his team can be.
Key Players: Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, Joao Moutinho
The European side makes the fourth the team in Group A. The 2010 Champions had a horrifying World Cup performance in 2014 when they were ousted in the group stage having lost to Chile and Netherlands.
This calamity caused their manager Vincente del Bosque to leave the team. The management appointed Julen Lopetegui.
Lopetegui has arguably the hardest job amongst all the coaches who will be going to Russia after Germany’s Joechim Loew, when he has to select his starting XI amongst a squad that is exorbitantly talented.
David de Gea, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Alvaro Morata, David Silva and many more are part of the Spanish team.
However, he needs to be careful with the team selection and must seek to follow the guidelines del Bosque did when he found the perfect balance in the team that had explosive firepower but commendable control over the game as well.
Key Players: David de Gea, Isco, Diego Costa
With the presence of these two European giants, it will be tough for Iran or Morocco to make a mark at this World Cup, but counting them out before the tournament starts wouldn’t be a wise move. As we have come to see in recent tournaments and international competitions, the underdogs are always capable of conjuring surprises.