(To win: 7.25; To win group: 1.50; To qualify: 1.05; Rock Bottom: 33.00)
Spain are coming to this World Cup as one of the strongest favorites to win the tournament and rightly so. After two disappointing major tournaments in 2014, where they didn’t pass the group stage, and in the Euro 2016 where they lost 2-0 against Italy in the Round of 16, the Roja seem to be now back at their best under Lopetegui, with 13 and 5 draws in 18 games under him since Spetember 2016.
This squad is a great mix between veterans like Piqué (31), Ramos (32), Busquets (29), Iniesta (34), David Silva (32) and Diego Costa (29), and younger players in their prime like Isco (26), De Gea (27), Carvajal (26), Koke (26)and Vazquez (26). They also have two young fantastic talents like Saul (23) and Asensio (22) coming up. In the quali they ended unbeaten with 28 points out of 10 games (9-1-0) and they impressed in the friendlies with a 6-1 win against Argentina, a 5-0 vs Costa Rica, and two draws against the mighty Germans (1-1) and Russia (3-3).
Their group is not an easy one. Portugal could be a dangerous opponent, while both Morocco and Iran are some of the best teams from their respective pots. If they go through as 1st as expected their road to the QF could be an easy one against the 2nd from Group A (Egypt, Russia, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia). In the QF they would get one between the winner of Group D (Argentina, Iceland, Croatia or Nigeria) and the 2nd from Group C (Peru, Denmark or Australia).
This means they have a good chance to reach the SF, where they would probably get Germany. In the last 5 meetings against them, they have only lost once (friendly in 2014), while they beat them both in the World Cup 2010 and in the Euro in 2008. BEST BET: Best European team @ 5.50. MOST PROBABLE STAGE OF ELIMINATION: Runner-up 6.00; Semi-Finals 5.50
(To win: 28.00; To win group: 3.20; To qualify: 1.14; Rock Bottom: 11.25)
Portugal have plenty of talents but usually never fullfil their full potential. They have qualified for their 7th World Cup, with a 3rd place (1966) and a 4th place (2006) as their best finish. They are coming from a win in the Euro 2016 and the improvements seen under manager Fernando Santos (32 win, 8 draws and 9 losses with Portugal) could be reflected at this edition, like their 2nd place at the Euro 2004 lead to a 4th place in the 2006 World Cup. They qualified from Group B above Switzerland with 27 points in 10 games (9-0-1), 32 goals scored and just 4 conceded. Their only loss came against the Swiss away (2-0). In the friendlies they didn’t impress with draws against the USA (1-1) and Tunisia (2-2), wins against Saudi Arabia (3-0) and Egypt (2-1) and a loss against the Netherlands (3-0).
Their squad have probably too many players not anymore in their primes, like Pepe (35), Bruno Alves (36), Jose Fonte (34), Fernandes (32), Moutinho (31) and Quaresma (34). Cristiano Ronaldo, although 33, he is still crucial and could lead them forward in the competition. Although dangerous and full of talents this team seem to have more defensive problems than the one that won the Euro in 2016. Their 2nd place in Group B, after Spain, could be in danger. In a way they remind me those teams that after winning a major competition decide to stick with the older players and don’t include new fresh meat, like Rony Lopes (21) or Ruben Neves (22) for example. Italy (2010) and Spain (2014) payed full price for not changing. In recent friendlies Guedes caught the eye with a brace against Algeria and he could be in the starting-11 from the 1st game. This is a team that can reach the SF, but also risk of being eliminated in the Group Stage by Morocco.
Like Uruguay this is a very dangerous team for bettors, but once in a while they deliver (Euro 2016). Either back them to go very far or exit in the group stage. BEST BET: Gonçalo Guedes to be Portugal top goalscorer @ 19.00. MOST PROBABLE STAGE OF ELIMINATION: QF: 3.75; R16: 2.62; Group Stage: 4.33
(To win: 501.00; To win group: 23.00; To qualify: 4.90; Rock Bottom: 2.40)
Morocco could be the surprise team from this group. The Moroccans come back to the World Cup final stages after 20 years after qualifying from a tough group above Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali. They finished unbeaten (3-3-0) and counting the friendlies played since the quali they are unbeaten in the last 7, with wins against South Korea (3-1), Serbia (2-0) and Uzbekistan (2-0). This is a team that can repeat the exploit they had in 1986, where they finished the group 1st above England, Poland and Portugal, but then were eliminated by the runner-ups West Germany. They have a very experienced squad with players like Benatia (31), Boussoufa (33), El Ahmadi (33), Belhanda (28), Boutaid (31), but also very interesting young talents like Amrabat (21, Feyenoord), Ziyech (23, Ajax) and Hakimi (19, Real Madrid).
If they go through as 2nd they have a good game against the 1st of Group A (Uruguay, Russia or Egypt). The QF should be their max reachable achievement, but a game against France could pump them up to play the game of their lives. BEST BET: Ayoub El Kaabi to be Morroco top goalscorer @13.00. MOST PROBABLE STAGE OF ELIMINATION: Group Stage: 1.16; Last16: 5.50; QF: 26.00
(To win: 501.00; To win group: 41.00; To qualify: 5.90; Rock Bottom: 1.70)
Iran are the typical team you don’t want in your group. Solid, defensive, tactically prepared. They qualified for the 2nd consecutive time to a World Cup after 2014, where, despite finishing rock bottom they didn’t make a fool of themselves against teams like Argentina, Bosnia and Nigeria. This year they qualified unbeaten from group A above South Korea and Syria conceding just 2 goals in 10 games. After the quali they had good results in friendlies with wins against Panama, Algeria and Uzebkistan, but they also lost against both Tunisia and Turkey.
They usually don’t concede more than 2 goals per game and they could be difficult to break down. Argentina struggled to score until the 90th minute in 2014. They weren’t lucky with the draw as the group is one of the most competitive even for the 3rd place. They should finish 4th in the end but not until battling until the last minute of every game. They can draw games against Portugal and Morocco in this group. BEST BET: Lowest scoring team in the tournament @ 11.00. MOST PROBABLE STAGE OF ELIMINATION: Group Stage: 1.11