It is hard to believe that a strong nation like Spain has only one World Cup title. Julen Lopetegui is undefeated as manager for Spain. He had a row of impressive results (12 victories out of his 16 first games in charge).
The only result with a negative feeling is the 3-3 draw against Russia in the friendly match in November 2017. This show that despite having world class players, the focus must be present at all times.
The team is stacked offensively with loads of talent. The typical Spanish style of play is difficult to defend against for 90 minutes.
There is creativity, finesse and finishing ability.
Certainly a team who should be able to go all the way along with Germany, Belgium, and Brazil. It is a boring “prediction” to do, but difficult to deny.
Spain will have the fun task to try unlocking Iran’s and Morocco’s rock solid defenses. Just in order to make the group stage a comfortable journey.
First, they conquered Europe. Now, they are looking to make a statement on World’s biggest scene.
In their previous World Cup appearance, they failed to progress from the group. They had miserable matches against Germany and United States.
Portugal has matured and started to play at a higher level. More accurate to the material available. Their European qualifiers campaign took off and even surpassed Switzerland, which shows this team has character.
I would be boring if I even mention Cristiano Ronaldo. But his determination will decide how this Portuguese team will perform.
They have gotten a taste of success and winning something huge. If they can build on that, Portugal can harm anyone.
Iran will be their first opponent in the group. An easy game on paper but a tricky opponent that can set the tone for this group right away.
Morocco and the “derby” against Spain will be next. Perhaps a deciding match against Spain in the last match.
To watch out for: Concalo Guedes has been superb in Valencia. One of the main reasons for Valencia’s magnificent season in La Liga.
He belongs to PSG, but considering the competition in that star-filled team, Concalo Gueses might find himself a new permanent club soon enough.
Morocco went through the African qualifiers without conceding a single goal with the impressive goal difference of 11-0.
Hervé Renard has made wonders with a very talented player material which consist of defensive leaders and individual skill in the final third.
Mehdi Benatia is the captain of the center back position, sided by Nabil Dirar on the right flank, both representing big clubs in Juventus and Fenerbache respectively.
It is on the final third where it gets interesting, where Hakim Ziyech from Ajax is a wonderful passer of the ball and Sofiane Boufal from Southampton who can be an x-factor.
Karim El Ahmadi on the defensive midfield position is the glue that holds midfield and defense together. Unfortunately for Morocco, the group is very tough with Spain, Portugal, and Iran, but this is also a great test.
The positive vibes in this Moroccan side can steal points from all group opponents but they need to be at their best.
In my opinion, Morocco is the most underestimated team in the World Cup considering their player material and a very competent coach
To watch out for: 24-year old attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech from Ajax is very technically gifted and possess the vision to split defenses or score on his own. A successful tournament will see him move to a bigger club.
One of the most successful nations in Asia. Α team on the rise as they make their fifth-ever appearance in the World Cup.
Managed by Carlos Queiroz, Iran has proven to be stingy and difficult to beat. He leads the team since 2011 and only lost 8 times in his 69 matches with Iran.
They went undefeated through the Asian qualifiers with 6 victories and 4 draws and only conceded two goals.
A gut feeling says that Iran can become an unpleasant surprise for Spain and Portugal. They have an ability to keep games close thanks to a stellar defense and organization on the pitch. This is of course rhymes well with Carlos Queiroz philosophy.
To watch out for: Despite born in 1995, striker Sardar Azmoun plays for Rubin Kazan. So, Russia isn’t a strange place for him. Given his young age, having scored 22 goals for Iran is impressive.