Updated: Jun 17, 2018
Group B on paper seems easy to call, Spain and Portugal are the heavyweights and should go through. Thanks for coming, Iran and Morocco.
As you can see, it's never that straightforward, especially when the Islamic Republic of Iran is involved. The first ever International football match that I saw in the flesh was the India vs Iran game, nearly 3 years ago. The Iranians played us off the park and left a lasting impression in my mind. This Iran team have established themselves as the strongest team in Asia. The Iranians have not lost a game since March, 2015 and go into this tournament in excellent form.
Portugal on the other hand are grooming their second "Golden Generation". While this batch is not as good as the one that preceded it, they are still reigning European Champions. Given the quality that Iran have, I am not convinced that an ageing backline, an inexperienced midfield and a waning but still magnificent, Cristiano Ronaldo, are enough to help the Selecao through.
The Moroccans too are blessed with a wealth of talent going forward and with the likes of Ziyech, Amine Harit, Soufiane Boufal and Younes Belhanda, can be a threat to anybody. But, Mehdi Benatia aside, their defense does not strike too much fear. There is a team somewhere in there but maybe this particular World Cup has come too soon for this team.
The Spanish, under Julen Lopetegui, have revitalized their own "Golden Generation". Quite a few members have survived from the 2010 World Cup squad but they have been bolstered by a new generation. Led by Isco, this generation of Spaniards have nightmares to banish and have still got a lot to prove.
Individual match predictions,
My guess is 2 wins and a draw should be enough to top the group, and I would expect Spain to get those results.
Second and third will be harder to split. We're looking at 4-5 points in an ideal scenario. Morocco can cause an upset on their day, but the numbers suggest that it will be the Portugal vs Iran game that decided the second qualifier from the group. My bet is on Iran simply because Portugal haven't coasted through the groups in any of their last few tournaments. Their midfield is young but Ronaldo is 33 and their central defenders have an average age of 35! I can see both Morocco and Iran giving them problems.
Rounding off this post with position by position probabilities of qualification,
Have you read our individual team previews?
What do you think? Portugal or Iran? Tweet to @sgtsaltnpeppa