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Iran – In 18 world cup qualifying matches the Iranians only allowed five goals and never lost. This team predicates itself on staunch defense and quick counterattacks. In a group with heavyweights Spain and Portugal, Iran needs to continue this impressive play if they hope to make it to the knockout stage. Two players to watch for are Saman Ghoddos and Sardar Azmoun, the heart and soul of Iran’s attack.
Morocco – Welcome back! Morocco has gone 20 years (5 world cups) without making an appearance on the sport’s biggest world stage. With a roster full of players on European clubs, this team won’t shy away from the tough task at hand. Although it’s unlikely, Morocco has a great chance to make the knockout stage if the other teams in this group overlook them. A couple players I will be watching on this roster will be back fielders Mehdi Benatia (Juventus) and Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid).
Portugal – Although they were the Euro 2016 champions, manager Fernando Santos is trying to keep his team humble and focused. Obviously we all know Cristiano Ronaldo is a major factor here, but don’t overlook Bernardo and Andre Silva. Both will need to create and finish while Ronaldo will surely be heavily marked. The biggest issue Portugal will have throughout the tournament will be their defense. Other then Pepe this defensive group is young, inexperienced, and unproven.
Spain – Spain has quickly become a favorite to win the World Cup this year and rightfully so. Head to toe this is one of the more sexier rosters… and yes it’s 90% of the same guys from the catastrophe in 2014, but with a new manager and play style this team has been reborn. New manager Julen Lopetegui took a team loaded with talent and said “Hey, why don’t we use this talent?”. With the recent comeuppance of tactical midfielder Isco (you know he is legit cause he only goes by one name) and David De Gea now firmly in goal, this team is set up to go far.