Russia 2018: Group B Betting Guide

Attention! Actual odds referenced are correct at time of publishing at 1:11 pm June 11, 2018 and are subject to change.

Teams

  • Iran
  • Morocco
  • Portugal
  • Spain

Favourites to win group: Spain at 5/9 with 10Bet

Key Fixture: Portugal v Spain at Sochi on June 15th

Summary

In this section, two teams are expected to dominate and it would be a huge surprise if either Spain or Portugal didn’t make it through to the round of 16. There could be some danger in the Moroccan side and neither of those two favourites will want to lose when they face each other in the opening match but the odds really underline how the bookies expect this to go.

Spain are favourites to win the group at best odds of 5/9 with 10Bet while the Portuguese come along next at a top price of 9/4 with Black Type and SportingBet. Morocco are third favourites at a best of 16/1 with William Hill and BetBright while Iran bring up the rear at 40/1 with Sport Pesa.

We don’t think there will be too many surprises in this group but there could be some value in Portugal to win the section if they can come through a tricky opening tie.

Crucial Fixtures

Andres Iniesta

In this section we expect those two teams to progress safely through to the knockouts: Spain and Portugal look to be way ahead of the other nations in terms of quality so the key battle for us comes when those two meet in Sochi on June 15.

The scheduling is crucial here because this is the opening game of the group for Spain and Portugal and if one of those teams loses, they will be playing ‘catch up’ – most probably behind Morocco who should beat Iran on the same day.

For that reason, there could be a lot of interest in the draw between Spain and Portugal and that outcome is on offer at best odds of 63/25 with MarathonBet. The Spanish are favourites for the win at a top price of 22/23 with 188Bet while victory for Portugal is on offer at a best of 79/20 with MarathonBet.

If that match were to go with the favourites, the pressure would really mount on Portugal when they take on Morocco in Moscow on June 20 and that will then become a ‘must win’. The Portuguese are obvious favourites to take all three points in that game at a best of 4/6 with Black Type but pressure can affect any situation and much will depend on their performance against the Spanish.

Spain will also need to guard against complacency when they face the Moroccans but this section all comes down to that Spain v Portugal match at the start of the tournament.

Key Players

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal proved at Euro 2016 that they can match any side but obviously, Cristiano Ronaldo is going to be a key player if they are going to make their mark at the global tournament. We think that CR7 is a good option to win the Golden Ball for the World Cup’s best player at a generous 16/1 with Ladbrokes and we expect him to be at his sparkling best.

Spain come to Russia with a very experienced squad, some of whom have been involved since the country came to prominence by winning Euro 2008. David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta have all passed the 100 cap mark and Gerard Pique should join them during this World Cup.

Goals need to come through the team however: Spanish sides are known for playing without a direct striker at times and the leading scorer in the squad is Silva with 35 from 121 games.

Many of the Moroccan squad play outside of their own country, including the captain Mehdi Benatia, who was with Bayern Munich before joining Juventus in 2017. Benatia is their best player and one key to success while striker Ayoub El Kaabi has an exceptional record at the start of his international career – scoring 11 goals in his first 10 matches.

Iran aren’t expected to shine at this World Cup but opposing defences will need to watch striker Sardar Azmoun, who plays his football in Russia with Rubin Kazan and has an impressive record of 23 goals from 33 internationals.

Verdict

A number of groups have two clear favourites but the timing of the fixtures is key to how this section will play out. If Portugal and Spain were playing each other at the end of this phase, chances are that both would come into the match with maximum points and would be almost certain to progress to the next round.

As it is, the Spain v Portugal match kicks off Group B in a tie that neither side will want to lose. Although there is attacking flair in abundance in both camps, this should be tight defensively with neither team wanting to commit too many men forward and with that in mind, we’re tipping the draw in that match at 63/25 with MarathonBet.

Following that game, both of the two favourites should claim maximum points when they play the remaining sides – Morocco and Iran. We’ve mentioned the dangermen in both camps but against Portugal – the reigning 2016 European Champions – and Spain, who won three major trophies in a row from 2008, there is a gulf in class.

That just leaves the question of who wins the group and if all our theories are correct, it would all come down to goal difference. Spain have a number of flair players but as we saw when they won the World Cup in 2010, their success is based on defence first, with the team more likely to score on the counter attack.

Portugal have, in contrast, a greater goal scoring threat, led by Cristiano Ronaldo who has a remarkable record of 81 goals in 150 international matches. For the following tips to succeed, we need the Portuguese to avoid defeat against Spain because this is one section where there could be some decent betting value despite the fact that we have two hot favourites to progress to the knockouts.

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