An interesting group full of potential surprises. Spain is the overwhelming favourite to go through as the top team but their path should not necessarily be easy. European Champions Portugal has improved considerably after their success at the European Championships in 2016. Morocco is a team full of exciting players and they had a strong qualifying campaign while Iran also was quite strong in their qualification journey. This is a group where things can get really tricky for the heavyweights Spain and Portugal if they fail to beat Iran as Morocco could well capitalise. Get ready for surprises here!
Strong at the back and initiating quick counter-attacks, Iran will definitely be a tough side to play against. With a lot of their players playing consistently for clubs in Europe, coping with the physical and tactical side of play would not be as big a challenge as it was in the past. Coach Carlos Queiroz has enough club and international experience to get the best out of this team.
History- 1st Round in all their previous World Cups
Qualification Form- Topped their group winning six and drawing 3 without losing a single match
Watch out for- Sardar Azmoun- ‘Iranian Messi’ Sardar has an incredible 23 goals in 31 appearances and his performances with Rostov in the Russian Premier League, Champions League, and Europa League suggests he can be the difference between Iran being moderate to being good enough in challenging top sides.
Morocco is the only African team to qualify for Russia without conceding a goal. Their game is built on solid defence and hard work. The experience of Karim El Ahmadi, M’barek Boussoufa, and Juventus’s Mehdi Benatia fit well with the intelligence of Hakim Ziyech and the strength of Nordin Amrabat. Altogether a side very much capable of competing against the top sides of the group.
History- Round of 16- 1986
Current Form- Unbeaten during qualification winning 5 and drawing 3 matches
Watch out for: Achraf Hakimi- A Real Madrid youth product, Achraf Hakimi could set the World Cup alight with his quick turn of pace, excellent crossing ability and stamina. Having already played for Real Madrid at a UEFA Champions League, the 18-year-old is not new to playing and performing on a big occasion.
After their hugely successful Euro 2016 campaign where they lifted the trophy beating the overwhelming favorites France, Portugal will look to replicate a similar run at the World Cup. The team looks a much more settled unit than the Euros but they have huge problems in defense. An aging defense featuring Pepe (who will be 35 next summer), José Fonte (34) and Bruno Alves (36) has seen them leak goals throughout the qualification campaign and could well be worked upon by their opponents at the World Cup. This makes the form of Cristiano Ronaldo all the more important as Portugal will look to their talisman to supply them with his specialties, lots of goals and assists. With Ronaldo chasing his own personal landmark, a sixth Ballon d‘Or, he will definitely look to make a mark at the biggest stage of all.
History- 3rd in 1966 World Cup
Current Form- Table toppers of their group ahead of Switzerland with 9 wins and one loss.
Watch out for: Who else than Cristiano Ronaldo, the man needs little introduction. A goal-scoring machine with amazing career stats. A World Cup to add to that won’t be bad, but that may be a hurdle too high even for his lofty standards.
The best goalkeeper in the world with an assured defense in front of him. A midfield full of talent and versatility and a goal-scorer in the form of his life in Iago Aspas. Even if he has an off-day, the goal-scoring attacking midfielders can bag in the goals if needed, Spain looks threatening this year.
History- Champions, 2010
Current Form- Won 9 drew 0 lost 1, table leaders of their group ahead of Italy
Watch out for: Isco- Class personified, Isco has established himself as the main creative force in the Spanish team among his immaculately talented midfield compatriots. He has the knack to create something out of nothing and score important goals at crucial moments in the game.