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World Cup Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco

The ESPN FC crew discuss the World Cup draw.

An intimidating group? Spain and Portugal stand out as the two favourites to progress, but in Iran and Morocco they have been drawn against two tricky teams who are absolutely capable of bloodying noses. Morocco were the only African nation to qualify without conceding a goal, and their sturdy defence will be required if they are to make it through, while Iran have Saman Ghoddos, the Ostersunds attacker who is obviously used to causing upsets. The European sides should go through, but it won't be easy.

Predicted finish

1. Spain -- Under Julen Lopetegui, this is a Spain side that really are still in a state of evolution, with the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio part of a younger generation looking to emulate the glory of their predecessors. Nevertheless, they surely have too much talent to finish anywhere other than top.

2. Portugal -- What to make of Portugal? Should their unexpected success at Euro 2016 mean anything? After all, Denmark and Greece didn't even qualify for the 1994 and 2006 World Cups after continental success two years earlier. Much will depend on getting a system that makes the most of Cristiano Ronaldo.

3. Morocco -- A bit of a wild card under Herve Renard, Morocco could cause a few surprises, and their enthusiasm will certainly not be in question, having not qualified since 1998. One of the tournament's more unpredictable sides.

4. Iran -- Carlos Queiroz has received criticism for being too defensive, and while that could frustrate a team like Spain, it might not ultimately be counterproductive. They will need to win at least one game to progress, which is tricky to see happening.


Group B
Spain and Portugal are tipped to battle it out for supremacy in Group B.


Must-see match: Spain vs. Portugal

Quite apart from the spicy nature of a "local derby," this is a game between two teams on an upswing, both gradually improving despite one winning the last major tournament and the other quite emphatically not. In theory, this should be the game that decides the group, although opinion might be split whether facing Russia on home turf or the trickier probable test of Uruguay in the next round is preferable.

Isco is a centrepiece of a new generation of Spanish stars seeking to emulate the success of their predecessors.

X factor: Herve Renard

The king of the African Nations Cup, Renard and his crisp white shirt have won that tournament twice, with Zambia and Ivory Coast, but he has yet to manage at the World Cup. The two European teams will be favourites to progress, but Renard's history of producing unexpected results at major tournaments could spoil that prediction.

Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League and European football. Follow him on Twitter @NickMiller79.


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