World Cup 2018 – The Fans’ Preview: Group B

World Cup 2018 is going to be here very soon, the biggest sporting event on earth and i think its time for a quick overall view of of the teams in the competition. We will post some analysis to share with you and lets get a few of the microwave pop corn ready, clean your sofa and stock up your fridge and do the count down!!!

Group B at this summer’s World Cup makes a pretty strong case for the dreaded title of ‘Group of Death’.

 

Neighbours and winners of the last two European Championships Spain and Portugal will face off, while miserly Morocco and Iran – the first team to make it through qualification – form an intriguing group.

 

While the two European giants are clear favourites to progress, Morocco have history against Portugal, while Spain’s last showing at a World Cup was abysmal.

 

Here’s what the fans think…

1. Iran

Name: Najib

Best moment during qualification: When we beat Uzbekistan in June 2017 to become the second team to qualify behind Brazil. I remember partying on the streets of Tehran followed by a round of chai and shisha.

Proudest moment ever as an Iran fan: The proudest moment for any Iranian fan is the 1998 World Cup match against USA. It was a tense match at 1-1 until the 84th minute when Mehdi Mahdavikia scored. I also think it was our first ever World Cup win.

Worst moment ever as an Iran fan: Losing 3-1 to Bahrain in 2001, which was the first step in failing to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. I remember riots after the match because people thought the players were pressured into losing.

Player to watch that other fans might not be aware of: [Rubin Kazan forward] Sardar Azmoun. He is quick, strong and a prolific scorer for Iran.

Which group game are you most nervous about: I think all the teams in Iran’s group are going to be very difficult. Spain is always one of the best teams and will be tough to beat. Portugal are European Champions and have some amazing players and Morocco are also not an easy team, even though they are ranked a little below us.

Realistically how far will Iran go: I think realistically, given the teams in our group, getting out of the group stages will be a big achievement. Hopefully, we can do it and surprise everyone!

2. Morocco

 

Name: Benjamin Hajji @MaghribFoot

Best moment during qualification: I could say our 6-0 win against Mali, but you can’t get past the big finale against the mighty Ivory Coast in Abidjan. Several planes chartered Moroccans over, creating an incredible atmosphere, but we were still coming in as underdogs. Two quick goals from right back Nabil Dirar and captain Medhi Benatia killed the game off before half-time. The minutes following the final whistle is still just a blur, with an explosion of emotions.

Player to watch that other fans might not be aware of: Mbark Boussoufa. The engine in this Morocco team and our most important player alongside Benatia in my opinion. Everything is going through the little maestro when in possession, and together with Karim El Ahmadi they form what I think is one of the strongest central midfield partnerships in the tournament. Turning 34 in August, I still think it’s a shame that he never got to show his abilities in one of Europe’s top leagues, but hopefully he can catch the public eye this summer.

Which group game are you most nervous about: Definitely the opener against Iran. I think that game will decide our fate in the tournament in many ways. Two teams with a similar style of play, building on a solid defensive foundation with creative offensive profiles in charge of making something happen on the opponent’s half. Three points in that game and we will have every chance of going through!

Realistically how far will Morocco go: Spain and Portugal are obviously huge favourites, but I don’t think you should write us off just yet. Morocco have historically performed well against European opposition, which suits us better than the physical and cynical style of play often faced in Africa. If we beat Iran, we will definitely be able to get something out of at least one of the other two games.

I’m hoping for second place in the group, before eliminating Uruguay in the round of 16. Dima Maghrib!!

3. Portugal

Name: João G. Oliveira @JGOliveira

Proudest moment ever as a Portugal fan: Winning Euro 2016. Personally, being abroad at the time this happened was just amazing and an overwhelming sensation.

Worst moment ever as a Portugal fan: The Euro 2004 final loss at home. It was gutting to see our country losing a major competition in front of the fanbase.

Player to watch that other fans might not be aware of: Bruno Fernandes. Possibly the biggest sensation of this year’s Portuguese league. The 23-year-old Sporting CP star has assists, long range goals and intelligence beyond belief.

Which group game are you most nervous about: Spain.

If Cristiano Ronaldo were to break his leg before the first game of the tournament how devastated would Portugal fans be: I wouldn’t change my expectations personally. We went on to win the Euro 2016 final without him. But we would be very sad because he is one of the best in the world and as our captain and symbol, we feel like he belongs to us. A bit like Eder.

Realistically how far will Portugal go: Quarter-finals.

4. Spain

Name: Nahuel Álvarez

 

Best moment during qualification: The 3-0 victory over Italy. Not only by the result, but also by the level of football displayed by the national team against such a hard side to beat. Even Gerard Piqué (the match was played at the Santiago Bernabeu) received cheers from the ‘Madridista’ crowd.

 

Proudest moment ever as a Spain fan: This is very difficult to say. Recently we had many, many great performances (if you omit the last Euros and World Cup). But personally I think the moment that was key to changing the history of Spanish football was the penalty shoot-out versus Italy in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Euros. I think almost all Spaniards remember this game with a sense of pride, knowing that the Cesc Fabegras penalty was one of the moments of football history for us. I go back sometimes and watch the videos and I still get nervous!

 

Worst moment ever as a Spain fan: Easy! Some people might not remember this one, but I still remember the score clearly Cyprus (yes Cyprus) 3-2 Spain in 1998. Some would say Joaquin missing the penalty vs South Korea, or Raul missing against France, but how can you lose against Cyprus!? Unbelievable!

 

One player who made the squad but shouldn’t in your opinion: Thiago, for me is a bit overrated, yes he has done some things for Bayern, but I think he has never performed as a world class player, and he is going to get a lot of minutes in the World Cup and I think we could use another striker instead.

 

After winning the World Cup in 2010 and the Euros back to back, are Spain fans still hungry for another tournament win? YES! YES! And YES! Both fans and players are eager to win, and to prove that they are back with some members of a new football generation. There is also another factor that should be taken into account: Iniesta!

 

If we don’t get to see Iniesta wear ‘La Roja’ again, what a great image it would be to see him make Spain world champions in his last match!

 

 

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