Group B Preview
Group B sees the Iberian powerhouses of Spain and Portugal joined by relative minnows Iran and Morocco. Playing against household names like Cristiano Ronaldo and Andries Iniesta will no doubt be a dream come true for the smaller sides who will attempt to defy the odds in a group that many see as a foregone conclusion. Spain and Portugal go head to head in the opening game in arguably the tie of the group stages.
Current European Champions Portugal will look to carry that momentum into the global competition whilst Spain are bidding to recapture the magic that saw them win three major tournaments on the trot between 2008 and 2012. Both squads are lacking the depth that saw them claim silverware with Spain especially having to deal with the notable retirements of David Villa, their all-time top goal scorer, Xavi, the pivot of the all-conquering Barcelona and Iker Casillas their most capped player since the last World Cup in Brazil. Portugal will rely heavily on current Ballon d ‘Or winner Ronaldo to provide goals and captain a side torn between experience and youth.
Morocco are back at the finals for the first time since 1998 having enjoyed a stellar qualifying campaign, dumping out favourites, the Ivory Coast, to qualify for Russia. The African side is unbeaten since the start of 2017 and could pose a real threat to the established Europeans. Juventus centre back, Medhi Benatia will captain the side and provide top flight experience on the world’s biggest stage.
Iran will arrive in Russia as underdogs albeit with the experienced head in Carlos Queiroz who has previously coached opponents Portugal in the 2010 edition of the World Cup. No doubt it will be up to him to avoid being the group whipping boys.
Group B Fixtures:
Thursday June 15 – Morocco vs Iran, 15:00 (GMT), St Petersburg Stadium, St Petersburg
Friday June 15 – Portugal vs Spain, 18:00 (GMT), Fisht Stadium, Soch
Tuesday June 20 – Portugal vs Morocco, 12:00 (GMT), Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Wednesday June 20 – Iran vs Spain, 18:00 (GMT), Kazan Arena, Kazan
Monday June 25 – Iran vs Portugal, 18:00 (GMT), Mordovia Arena, Saransk
Monday June 25 – Spain vs Morocco, 14:00 (GMT), Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad