World Cup Group B Preview - All-Iberian clash to be key

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 9,200

Pin Spain are favourites to top the group. EFE
Spain are favourites to top the group. EFE

World Cup Group B Preview - All-Iberian clash to be key

Matt Morley by Matt Morley @rfutbol - 0 9,200

We take an in-depth look at Group B ahead of this summer's World Cup.

Who is in the group?

Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Iran.

Who are the favourites?

Julen Lopetegui's Spain side have looked in fine form since he took the helm following Euro 2016, with 'La Roja' yet to taste defeat under the 51-year-old. Despite Portugal sitting higher in the rankings, Spain will be the favourites to progress as group winners.

The teams:

Spain:

The 'Selección' has a point to prove following a disatrous attempt to retain their title in Brazil. With the youthful exuberance of the likes of Marco Asensio and the more experienced heads of Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and David Silva, there looks to be an interesting blend to this Spain squad. With a core of David De Gea, considered by many to be the finest goalkeeper in the world, Ramos, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta and Silva, there is plenty for Lopetegui to work with. The fact that the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata have been left at home is a testament to the wealth of options available to Lopetegui, who will be keen to show that the decision to reward him with a new deal recently was a good one. The tournament will be a huge opportunity for Rodrigo and Iago Aspas to prove their doubters wrong, with the former likely to lead the line when 'La Roja' get underway against Portugal. 

Portugal:

Considering they are the reigning European champions, it is interesting that most seem to be dismissing Portugal's hopes of progressing far into the tournament as non-existant, particularly given that they are currently ranked fourth in the world. Though their squad is much-changed from their success in France two years ago, with no fewer than 10 players who were named champion left at home, there is still plenty of talent in this side. Gonçalo Guedes lit up La Liga at times this season during his loan spell with Valencia, whilst Gelson Martins' impressive displays with Sporting CP have reportedly alerted a host of European giants. Bernardo Silva will be looking to show the sort of form that earned him his move to Manchester City, with the winger currently of more importance to his country than his club side. In Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal retain one of the finest players in football. Andre Silva remains a bright prospect, but a disappointing season domestically has seen his reputation take a huge hit, whilst it remains to be seen if Ricardo Quaresma has enough in the tank to have an impact at this level. Fernando Santos will also have to deal with something of a dad's army at the back, with Jose Fonte (34), Bruno Alves (36) and Pepe (35) his go-to defensive options.

Morocco:

Whilst many are writing off the Atlas Lions' chances, one look at their squad tells them they can give anyone a game on their day. With Medhi Benatia marshalling the backline and a midfield that includes the creative talents of Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda, Mbark Boussoufa and Nordin Amrabat, amongst others, there is a chance that Herve Renard's side could surprise a few and make the knockout stages. After 20 years without a World Cup, Morocco will be keen to impress and Renard's disciplined but attacking style of play could win over neutrals when the tournament gets underway.

Iran:

Another side that have already been written off but Carlos Queiroz's side looked imperious at times in qualifying, going unbeaten in 18 games and not conceding for nine on the bounce. Queiroz insists they are not going to the World Cup "as tourists" having qualified for back-to-back tournaments for the first time in their history. However, having won just one game at the World Cup in four appearances at the tournament, an early exit is to be expected, particularly given the make-up of their group. 'Iranian Messi' Sardar Azmoun is likely to be key to their hopes, with the Rubin Kazan man set to line up on his home ground when Iran take on Spain in their second game of the tournament.

Team guides:

Spain:

Portugal:

Morocco:

Iran:

Matt Morley

Matt Morley

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