World Cup 2018: A comprehensive look at Group B
Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup comprises of European Champions Portugal, former World Cup champions Spain, Morocco and Iran as the Asian qualifiers. Neighbours and European heavyweights Portugal and Spain will battle it out to top the group on June 15, in the second game of the group.
While these two will be favourites to get out of the group and into the Round of 16, Morocco and Iran are no pushovers. If you think this is a straight-forward group, do so at your own peril. A lot of the games in this group will be close, and we are bound to see a minimum of 1 upset.
Most likely to go through to the RO16: Spain, Portugal (but don't be surprised if the other two qualify)
Portugal come into the tournament as unlikely European champions and will love to show the world that the title was not a one-off result that went their way. The Euro 2016 was their statement that they were no longer solely dependent on Cristiano Ronaldo, but much more than that.
Portugal qualified for the WC as the toppers of their qualification group, snapping up 27 points out of a possible 30 - their only loss being a 2-0 defeat against Switzerland on the opening match-day.
Coach: Fernando Santos
The coach responsible for their victory in Europe, Santos has been praised as one of the best ever national team coaches for the Navigators. Portugal have a penchant to draw games with him and in a knock-out style tournament, it is a well-meaning tactic (think back to their Euro campaign if you disagree).
He has drilled the team defensively - something Portugal have usually lacked - and with the quality in attack that the Portuguese naturally have, Portugal looks destined for greatness this time around.
Rui Patricio, who has spent his entire club career at Sporting and has recently broken ties with them, was the unheralded hero of the Euros and is a solid keeper for the national team every time he dons their jersey. No worries there.
Their defence consists of 4 at the back. Usually, it is taken up by Pepe and Jose Fonte (who played most of the matches during their miracle run in France), but a lack of playing time at West Ham might see Bruno Alves partnering Pepe at times.
The full-back positions are taken up by Raphael Guerreiro (who plays as a midfielder at Borussia Dortmund but is an excellent left back for Portugal) on the left and Cedric Soares on the right. Barcelona's Nelson Semedo will be the back-up on the right, and you can imagine just how good Cedric is for the national team then.
The midfield is where things get interesting. Andre Gomes and Renato Sanches were surprisingly (well, not very) dropped from the squad which means that Sporting's William Carvalho and Monaco's Moutinho will play as the defending midfielders.
Despite not being as young as the other options, they are the anchor of the side and can be blindly trusted to deliver when necessary for the side. Also excellent presences in the dressing room, they are the engine on which the team runs.
Manchester City's Bernardo Silva should start for most teams as the creative midfielder, but it will be a toss-up between him and Sporting's Bruno Fernandes. Fernandes played a very important role in Sporting's season contributing 11 goals and 8 assists for them.
The attack will have the fortune of Cristiano up-top, and also for extra motivation. Partnering him will be Milan's Andre Silva and the aged and experienced Quaresma. Both of them have excellent (for once, excellent is an understatement) and that is one of the main reasons it works for Portugal.
To go with all this, they have some really fast players who can come in as super-subs and trouble teams with raw pace on the ball. Unfortunately, their hero of the Euro finals - Eder, will not be one of those.
Player to watch out for: Cristiano Ronaldo
Honestly, who else? There is no need to go into detail about how good Ronaldo is, and his thirst for the World Cup trophy will only make him even better. With the Ballon d'Or hanging in the balance as well, we might finally get to see the Ronaldo Portugal has always looked for.