Soccer

Previews for all eight World Cup 2018 groups- Group B

Group B features the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, but could see some upsets.

Welcome to What The Sports’ FIFA World Cup Previews! We are just  six days away from the most-watched sporting event in the world, and will countdown to June 14’s opening match with a preview of each group per day

Next up is Group B. It’s a top-heavy foursome, with European giants Spain and Portugal entering as consensus favorites to advance to the knockout stage. That said, fans of Morocco and Iran still have a lot to be excited about in Russia, and an upset isn’t out of the question. *prays for a Sergio Ramos loss*

Spain

It feels like a long time ago that Spain were the best team in the world. It’s been 10 years since the Spaniards ripped Europe apart to win the Euro Cup in 2008, and eight since their World Cup win in South Africa. After a few years of waiting for young talent to improve, the boys are back and terrifyingly good.

Who to watch

Diego Costa

It’s all about which version shows up. The former Chelsea man is maddeningly immature, and just as talented. Whether he’s bagging two goals per game or getting sent off for general mischief- or most likely both- Costa is a spectacle every time he steps on the pitch.

They win the group if…  

They win the battle in the center of the pitch. A midfield consisting of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Thiago and Isco makes every soccer perfectionist salivate. The four move the ball beautifully, and can create a chance out of nowhere. If they can create like they should on paper, the Spaniards will go far.

Most likely to be meme-d

The jerseys. With all due respect… what are these? The classic red look has been adulterated with some discolored, shark-tooth vibes. Adidas can do better.

SPain Kit

Portugal

The Euro Cup holders go into the tournament hoping to help Cristiano Ronaldo fill out his trophy cabinet. They struggled for from in the latter half of 2017, but a 3-0 drubbing of Algeria righted the ship as the Portuguese hope to show that they have more to offer beyond their star forward.

Who to watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

Duh.

They win the group if…

Cristiano Ronaldo has ample opportunities to take his shirt off. The rest of the squad steps up. Ronaldo is going to score, there is no doubting that. Outside of the main man, Portugal fields largely the same lineup that won the cup two years ago, only older. There’s an argument for continuity, but an aging squad needs to give the diving Portuguese opportunities to put the ball in the net.

Most likely to be meme-d

Pepe. The centerback is probably the meanest man ever. I have never once seen him try to win the ball. For example:

Morocco

They’re nicknamed “The Lions of the Atlas”, which is just awesome. Otherwise, the Moroccans don’t offer too much to be excited about. They’re part of a number of a teams that aren’t so bad that they’ll be embarrassed, but not good enough to make any noise. That said, they play fast, smart football, and could prey on weaker defenses.

Who to watch

Hakim Ziyech

Let the Messi comparisons begin. Slight frame, insane dribbler, quality left foot, the Ajax attacking midfielder is one of many players in the mold of Leo. No, he’s not as good as the GOAT (yes, I said it), but his creativity and flair in the No. 10 role is certain to cause problems.

They win the group if…

They defend. Juventus center back Medhi Benatia anchors a surprisingly good back four, and if the Moroccans can keep the ball out of their own net, they have a good shot at winning the group. The goals will come thanks to creativity and pace up front (not dissimilar to Liverpool’s attack, actually), but it’s the work- or lack thereof- at the other end that will make or break their knockout stage hopes.

Most likely to be meme’d

Their manager, Herve Renard. A model in his free time (presumably), the man is known for his outbursts on the sideline and beautiful hair.

Renard

Iran

Remember when Messi ended this team’s hopes in 2014 with that beautiful left-footed curler? Oh yeah, still takes me to a happy place. Reminiscence aside, the Iranians can defend. After conceding only five goals in qualification, the back four is fit and firing for Russia.

Who to watch

Sardar Azmoun

You’ll be forgiven if you haven’t heard of him, but Azmoun’s international pedigree is impeccable. In just 32 senior caps, the 23 year old has scored 23 goals. If the Iranians somehow sneak through, it will be in no small part thanks to this man.

They win the group if …

Spain forgets how to pass, Ronaldo’s surgical replacements all pop out at once, and Morocco don’t perform. Jokes aside, the Iranians play a tactically smart brand of football. They’re not a possession team, and like to press high up the pitch to win the ball and attack on the break. If they can grab a goal early in big games and then soak up pressure, they could shock the world.

Most likely to be meme-d

This guy. This man is going to have a very tough time if Leo breaks Iranian hearts again. So, uh, good luck to him.

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