How qualified – Won CAF Group C
Best performance – Round of 16 in 1986
GOALKEEPERS: Mounir El Kajoui (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)
DEFENDERS: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolves), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Badr Benoun (Raja Casablanca), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (LOSC)
MIDFIELDERS: M’barek Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke 04)
FORWARDS: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (Saint Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard de Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax).
How qualified – Won AFC Group A
Best performance – Round One – most recently 2014
GOALKEEPERS: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo).
DEFENDERS: Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal).
MIDFIELDERS: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Haji Safi (Olympiacos), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).
FORWARDS: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Mehdi Taremi (Al Gharafa), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest).
How qualified – Won UEFA Group B
Best performance – 3rd place in 1966
GOALKEEPERS: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon)
DEFENDERS: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica)
MIDFIELDERS: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Mario (West Ham), Joao Moutinho (AS Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), William Carvalho (Sporting)
FORWARDS: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)
How qualified – Won UEFA Group G
Best performance – Winners in 2010
MIDFIELDERS: Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets (both Barcelona), Saul Niguez, Koke (both Atletico Madrid), Isco, Marco Asensio (both Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), David Silva (Manchester City)
FORWARDS: Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Rodrigo (Valencia), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)
- Morocco vs. Iran (4pm, ITV)
- Portugal vs. Spain (7pm, BBC)
- Portugal vs. Morocco (1pm, BBC)
- Iran vs. Spain (7pm, ITV)
- Spain vs. Morocco (7pm, BBC)
- Iran vs. Portugal (7pm, BBC)
On paper at least Group B looks like being one of the tightest in the tournament. The chances of it being opened up have not been helped by the fact that the first set of matches sees the two lesser sides in Iran and Morocco, and the two stronger sides in Spain and Portugal, facing each other. That should create plenty of drama and tension but just how much excitement we will see remains to be seen.
All four sides look strong defensively and there are concerns over the quality of every attack in the group so there feels like the potential for an upset here with one of the big two failing to escape the group especially were they to lose the opening game and have to play catch up against tough defences.
I wasn’t overly keen on Spain’s chances in this tournament prior to the tournament beginning but when you factor in the defensive qualities of Morocco in particular but Iran to an extent, I don’t think it will take much for either Spain or Portugal not to qualify. The obvious bet is for Morocco to qualify as I believe they are better than Iran but I think I’m going to push the boat out a little.
The 14/1 on the Portugal and Morocco dual forecast looks too big to me. It would not take a lot for Spain to implode given the managerial situation and if Portugal win that first match the Spanish are right under pressure. Morocco never conceded a goal in qualifying and are definite sleepers in this group. Should Spain fail or struggle like they did four years ago when a stronger side on paper failed to negotiate their group then Portugal and Morocco can come first and second in whichever order.
Given how tight this group has the potential to be I’m not liking too much with the individual team markets but there is one bet where there is a little bit of value and it comes from Portugal where Cristiano Ronaldo is probably the most likely top scorer but one man could be value to beat him.
You would think that the basis of the defensive meetings in this group will be around dealing with the threat Ronaldo poses which could play into the hands of Andre Silva, his strike partner. He bagged nine goals in qualifying and has a good record at this level with 12 goals in 23 caps and if sides do contain Ronaldo, Silva can take advantage.
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