This is the most clear-cut group at the World Cup according to many analysts. Portugal and Spain are expected to breeze past their competition and move on to the knockout stages without much of an effort. However, the World Cup has always been known for its surprises. There are always favorites that crash out and darlings that capture the world’s attention after a big upset. Morocco and Iran will see if the slipper fits in June.
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The Spanish will try to avenge an embarrassing burnout at the 2014 World Cup. Spain performed very well during qualifying, emerging on top of a tough group that included Italy.
This is one of the most seasoned teams you will find. Players like David Silva, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Ramos are still the heart and soul of the team. These players were on the most successful team in Spain’s history and know what it takes to win.
Previous editions of this team were largely made up of players from Spain’s most prestigious clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid. While those two teams are still likely to place the most players on the final roster, this team is more cosmopolitan than in years past.
The reigning European champions are now looking to claim their first World Cup. This might be the last time we see Cristiano Ronaldo on this stage, so there is pressure for the Portuguese to at least make a deep run in Russia.
There is no shortage of offensive talent on this team. Ronaldo is one of the top players in the world, of course, and the team has a superbly talented youngster in Andre Silva. Silva tore into opponents in qualifying, but he has struggled to consistently make the first-team with AC Milan.
Defense is an area of concern for Portugal. Bruno Alves and Pepe are likely to claim two of the spots, but it will be interesting to see who fills out the back line.
For the first time in two decades, Morocco is back in action at the World Cup. The Moroccans aren’t expected to do too much in a group with the Iberian Peninsula giants, but this country has more talent than you might think.
That’s particularly true along the back line. Morocco allowed more than one goal just once in 13 matches in 2017, giving up two to a talented Dutch squad in May. Juventus star Medhi Benatia is the team’s captain and leads the effort in that regard.
The key to it all might be 19-year old Achraf Hakimi. Hakimi is seen as Real Madrid’s future right back, and he will likely be asked to start despite having just six caps for the national team.
This will be Iran’s fifth trip to the World Cup, and the country is looking to make it out of the Group Stage for the first time ever. Iran has tallied just one win in 12 games on this stage, and getting that second win might be too much to ask in a group like this.
Unlike many longshots, Iran might decide to open up the game and play the style that suits them best. Rather than turtle in front of net and play for a draw, seeing if some of your talented forwards like Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard, can create some magic might be the way to go.
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It would be an amazing story to see either Morocco or Iran get through, but it’s a little much to ask. I can’t see Spain dropping points to either of those teams, and Portugal is unlikely to do worse. I think Spain will win the group with the full nine points, while Portugal finishes behind them with six.
2018 FIFA World Cup Teams to Advance: Spain and Portugal
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