Group B: Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Iran
The biggest mystery of Group B is not which teams will go through, but in what order Spain and Portugal will do so.
After an embarrassing 2014 group-stage exit, the 2010 champions will be desperate to put on a show as they kickstart their World Cup campaign in Russia. Spain are one of the strongest and most talented squads in the competition this year with a world-class player for every position on the field and players like Isco, Marco Asensio hoping to prove their worth. Since the arrival of Julen Lopetegui, Spain have not lost a single match. Keeper David De Gea will be Spain’s player to watch, having shown tremendous growth at Manchester United this year, ending the season with Golden Glove Award.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao)
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad)
Midfielders: Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid)
Forwards: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Rodrigo (Valencia), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid)
The champions of Europe will hope to extend their success in the world (just like Spain when they won Euros in 2010 and then World Cup two years later in South Africa) when they kickstart their FIFA World Cup 2018 campaign in Russia. Portugal will, once again, put all their hopes on captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who played a key role in the country’s Euro 2018 title campaign. The 33-year old Real Madrid forward, who might be appearing in his last World Cup, will be hoping to make a breakthrough in the only competition he has struggled in so far. Portugal proved that they are not a one-man country during their Euro 2016 campaign as well as the final against France when their captain got injured and was taken off the ground on a stretcher.
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica)
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), Joao Mario (West Ham United), Joao Moutinho (AS Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), William Carvalho (Sporting)
Forwards: Andre Silva (Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)
Appearing in the football tournament for the fifth time, Morocco qualified for the tournament without losing a single match or conceding a single goal in their final qualification round. With a stern defence, Morocco are definitely the dark horses from Group B. Morocco’s opening match against Iran will be the key to their confidence for their rest of the campaign. Juventus defender Medhi Benatia, who has played for the country for the last ten years, will use his confidence and experience to drive his team ahead. Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech is regarded as one of the most gifted playmakers in Europe and the team will rely heavily on the experience of the 25-year old to take them to the knockout stage.
Goalkeepers: Mounir Mohamedi (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)
Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga)
Iran are appearing in their fifth and second consecutive World Cup this year and will hope to cause an upset in a relatively tough group. The team will rely heavily on the duo of Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun to lift them to the next stage despite their tag as the underdogs. Manager Carlos Queiroz is known to fans for his time under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and as Portugal coach having steered them to a knockout loss in 2010. Despite having an attacker like Azmoun, goals did not come easily for the Asian side during their qualification for the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beyranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo).
Defenders: Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos).
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatollahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos).
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Mahdi Taremi (Al Gharafa), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).