WORLD CUP PREVIEW GROUP B
Portugal – Qualifying was a breeze for the European Champions as they cruised to 9 victories out of 10 to finish top of their group. Ballon D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to 15 goals, just 1 shy of Robert Lewandowski’s tally for Poland.
Spain – Almost a perfect qualifying campaign for Spain. Only Italy took points off of the 2010 winners in a 1-1 draw in Turin. Spain dominated the return fixture though winning 3-0 thanks to a brace from Isco.
Morocco – Up against the star studded Ivory Coast, Morocco impressively sealed qualification with a 2-0 victory away from home. Khalid Boutaib finished top scorer for the Moroccans with 4 goals in their 6 qualifiers.
Iran – With 6 wins and 2 draws, Iran went unbeaten in qualifying, only conceding 3 goals along the way. Head coach Carlos Quieroz, famous for being Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United, has made Iran very tough to beat and they could surprise a few people.
Portugal – Bernardo Silva
Obviously, Cristiano Ronaldo will grab the headlines for Portugal but in Bernardo Silva, Portugal finally have an attacking talent to back up Ronaldo. The City winger has impressed in his first season in England and Portugal may not have to rely so much on CR7.
Spain – Isco
With a lack of world class forwards in the squad, if Spain are to challenge for the trophy then the midfield may have to contribute a lot of the goals. In Isco, they have a top quality attacking midfielder who, along with David Silva, will need to contribute with goals. Especially if they ever recreate their Euro 2012 winning formation with no out and out forwards.
Morocco – Medhi Benatia
Having spent the past 2 seasons playing with the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, captain Benatia should be well prepared for this World Cup. If Morocco are to make it anywhere they will need to make themselves tough to beat and in Benatia in defence, they may have a slight chance.
Iran – Ashkan Dejagah
Famous for his wonder goal for Fulham in the Premier League a few years ago, Dejagah could make the difference in an Iran team that will be focused on defence first. Plying his trade for Nottingham Forest now, Iran will be hoping for a big performance from their captain.
1st – Spain
1st place will boil down to the opening game between Spain and Portugal and I believe Spain have the edge. The games against Iran and Morocco should be won comfortably with Spain having too strong a squad for either to challenge.
2nd – Portugal
With Cristiano Ronaldo in attack, anything is possible for Portugal. With Spain’s superior defence and midfield, I think they will be beaten to top spot. Boss Fernando Santos will be hoping Bernardo and Andre Silva can back up the world’s best player and give Portugal a real chance of progressing to the latter stages.
3rd – Iran
Iran could prove to be something of a surprise package. Well coached by Carlos Quieroz, Iran have become very tough to beat, conceding very few goals. Can they stop Portugal or Spain from scoring to sneak a 0-0 draw or even a 1-0 win? Doubtful but I think they will stop Morocco.
4th – Morocco
Impressively qualifying against Ivory Coast, Morocco will fancy their chances of an upset in this World Cup. I fear they will end up on the end of at least 1 heavy defeat however leading to them ending up bottom of the group.
Iran 3rd place – 15/8
Spain, Portugal, Iran, Morocco – 4/1
Isco top goalscorer – 8/1
– Robert Shiers