World Cup Group B: Portugal, Spain Stand Apart

Monday, April 23, 2018 8:46 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 23, 2018 8:46 PM UTC

There is no group of death at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but there are a few groups where first and second place will be highly contested. Group B is one of those. 

Skybook Odds to Advance from Group B
  • Spain -1600
  • Portugal -450
  • Morocco +400
  • Iran +550

There is no group of death at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but there are a few groups where first and second place will be highly contested. Group B is one of those groups. FIFA has Portugal ranked as the No. 4 team in the world, while Spain stands as No. 8.

Meanwhile, the Skybook odds have Spain as the favorites to finish first at -200, while Portugal is +200. Either way, both of these teams are almost a guarantee to make it out of the group stage, while the other two -- Iran and Morroco -- are forced to play the role of underdog.

To add to the drama, the only game between Spain and Portugal will be on the second day of games, June 15 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. This will set the tone for how the rest of the group plays out, as the winner of that match will have a huge leg up on finishing 1st in Group B. Surprisingly, these teams do not have much recent match history, so it is difficult to predict how this game might play out. The most recent contest between Spain and Portugal was a 2012 UEFA Championship match, which Spain won in penalty kicks.

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With Iran ranked at 36 and Morocco at 42 in FIFA rankings, it will be a giant upset if either of these teams makes it out of the group stage. For that to happen, it would require a giant slip up by either of the top two teams, and it just so happens that Spain has disappointed on a couple of recent occasions; at the 2016 Euro, they finished second behind Croatia in the group stage before getting knocked out by Italy in the next round.

Prior to that, Spain lost in the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, behind Chile and the Netherlands. However, while those instances were certainly disappointments for the Spaniards, failing to advance in a group with teams like Morocco and Iran would be nothing short of a complete disaster for either Spain or Portugal.

As for the game between Iran and Morocco, it will be a bragging rights match between the countries who have played each other only twice in international competition, the last being a 2002 draw in the now-defunct LG cup. The only game prior to that was an international friendly in 1978 that Iran won 2-0. The match at the 2018 World Cup should be interesting, as both teams are coming off impressive qualifying runs and have a number of players signed to European clubs. Both countries typically employ a defensive-minded approach to the game.

Morocco is the only African team to have qualified without letting up a single goal, and Iran is known for sitting back on defense and relying on a counter attack. In the last World Cup they held Argentina off the scoreboard for a full 90 minutes before Leo Messi scored in extra time to win the match.

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