With the 2018 World Cup fast approaching, how is Group B shaping up ahead of the tournament? This preview contains all you need to know about betting on World Cup Group B.
For an overview of the potential squads and starters for each team read Pinnacle's World Cup predicted lineups.
World Cup Group B prediction: What do the odds say?
Elo World Ranking: 11
Pinnacle World Cup Power Ranking: 8
Previous best performance: 3rd (1966)
Top scorer in qualifying: Cristiano Ronaldo (15 goals)
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Odds to advance from group: 1.200*
Odds to win World Cup: 26.020*
Reigning European champions Portugal enter this tournament aiming to avoid a repeat of their group stage elimination in Brazil. Despite eventually winning Euro 2016 the Portuguese needed some late Cristiano Ronaldo brilliance to qualify as a best third-place team, a position that would see them eliminated from the World Cup.
Moving beyond the group stage has been an issue for manager Fernando Santos’ side in the past and this group may be trickier for the Portuguese than some would imagine. Spain eliminated Portugal in both Euro 2012 and the 2010 World Cup and will be favoured to get the better of them again in Russia.
The remaining two sides in the group are both the kind of deep defensive teams Portugal can struggle to break down, as Iceland and Austria proved in France. This time, however, Portugal can call upon a much-improved range of young attacking options.
Replacing the likes of unlikely Euro 2016 hero Eder with the superior Goncalo Guedes and Andre Silva will certainly lift some of the attacking burdens off of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shoulders.
Whilst Iran and Morocco cannot be written off it is likely this group will become a battle between the more proven Iberian rivals to top the group, a position that would likely see them avoid the menace of Group A’s likely winner Uruguay in the next round.
Given that Portugal have the ability to take points from Spain and are heavily favoured to defeat both Morocco and Iran, a bet on them to win over 5.5 points in group B could prove a sensible one at 2.020*.
Elo World Ranking: 4
Previous best performance: Winners (2010)
Top scorer in qualifying: Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Isco, David Silva (5 goals)
Key player: Sergio Busquets
Odds to advance from group: 1.051*
Odds to win World Cup: 6.400*
2010 Champions Spain endured a disappointing group stage elimination in Brazil. A tough draw combined with an ageing side that lacked dynamism in midfield prematurely ended their hopes of retaining the trophy.
This time promoted U21 coach Julen Lopetegui has incorporated several of the best players from his successful youth teams into the side. The experience of Xavi and Xabi Alonso has been replaced by the pace and skill of Thiago Alcantara and Isco, whilst young Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio adds some unpredictability from the bench.
With David De Gea replacing the error-prone Iker Casillas in goal, the Spanish have formidable talent in every position alongside a consistent style of play. It is no wonder many are tipping them to go the distance in Russia.
Despite the strength of Portugal and the somewhat underrated quality possessed by Iran and Morocco, this group should be Spain’s to win. They will be eager to secure a positive result in the opening fixture against Portugal which would make it very likely they top the group.
Even a draw against the Portuguese should put them in the driving seat to win the group. Portugal may struggle to run up the scoreline against the weaker sides in the group whilst Spain are capable of scoring plenty of goals when on top.
This is a definite advantage to Spain should goal difference be required to separate the sides. As a result, backing Spain to win Group B at 1.555* should offer value if results go as expected.
Elo World Ranking: 41
Pinnacle World Cup Power Ranking: 28
Previous best performance: Round of 16 (1986)
Top scorer in qualifying: Khalid Boutaib (4 goals)
Key player: Mehdi Benatia
Odds to advance from group: 4.540*
Odds to win World Cup: 401.300*
The Ivory Coast have become a World Cup mainstay so some were surprised when they failed to qualify from CAF group C. Morocco were deservedly victorious in that group and owe their spot at the World Cup to the defensive strength they will need to rely upon in Russia.
Juventus star Mehdi Benatia superbly martialed the Moroccan defence as they qualified without conceding a single goal. Real Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi and Fenerbache’s Nabil Dirar add extra quality to a dependable backline which will need to be at its best against the European giants.
Morocco also possess numerous talented attacking midfield options. Players of the quality of Amine Harit and Sofiane Boufal occasionally occupy the bench whilst Hakim Ziyech and Younes Belhanda are the mainstays in the creative midfield positions. These maverick talents can cause any teams problems on their day but lack consistency at times.
Despite their creative ability Morocco lack a quality option to lead the line. Unheralded Yeni Malatyaspor striker Khalid Boutaib top scored in qualifying but is a level below those providing him with chances. He will need to make the most of any opportunities that come his way if Morocco are to progress.
To advance Morocco will need a win against group outsiders Iran in their opening fixture. A victory in that game ensures that a positive result against either of the group’s big two will give them a chance of qualification. Those who rate the Moroccans as the group’s third best side are likely to find odds of 2.330* on them to win the match against Iran appealing.
Elo World Ranking: 21
Previous best performance: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014)
Top scorer in qualifying: Sardar Azmoun (10 goals)
Key player: Sardar Azmoun
Odds to advance from group: 9.930*
Odds to win World Cup: 401.300*
Iran qualified undefeated form AFC group A with six wins four draws and just two goals conceded. Despite often impressing in qualification, the Iranians have exited at the group stage from the four World Cups they have qualified for. It will take some surprising results for that record to change this time around.
In 2014 Iran picked up just one point on the way to finishing bottom of a group that, on paper, looked marginally easier than this one. The Iranians did return from Brazil with some credit, however, after running Argentina close.
Across their three games in Brazil, Iran demonstrated the defensive solidity that former Real Madrid manager Carlos Queiroz has brought to their national team. What they lacked was a goal threat, with Reza Ghoochannejhad’s consolation against Bosnia and Herzegovina their solitary goal.
The addition of the “Iranian Messi” Sardar Azmoun, Eredivise top goalscorer Alireza Jahanbakhsh and an improved Ghoochannejhad has added some of the offensive nous they missed in Brazil, but even adding those attackers to their side may not be enough to make Iran a consistent threat to opposing defences.
They will need to defend exceptionally well and make the most of the meagre opportunities that fall their way to progress from a strong group B. The opening game against Morocco will be pivotal to Iran’s chances. Anything short of a win in that match will make qualification a distant prospect.
Considering the fact that they are expected to lose to both Spain and Portugal and not fancied to beat Morocco, Iran will do well to secure more than one point from the three matches. They are available at 1.847* to win under 1.5 points.