Tom Carnduff looks over the Group B action on Monday evening, and is backing Spain and Portugal to progress to the round of 16.
Group B recommended bets
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, our transparent tipping record
- Iran 0-1 Portugal
- Spain 2-0 Morocco
A Portugal win or draw against Iran would put them through. Spain face the same situation against Morocco but could also lose and still qualify as long as Portugal win. If both lose, and by the same scoreline, then fair play records or even drawing of lots could be needed to determine who qualifies.
Iran v Portugal (Group B, 1900 BST, BBC Four)
It's winner takes all in Saransk as three points for either side will be enough to see them progress to the round of 16.
As expected at this stage, Portugal trail Spain in the standings and will be backed to win here, but it will be far from easy.
Iran's last seven games have been won by a single goal margin, with five of those games finishing 1-0, and there is value in backing another low-scoring affair here.
A best price of 63/25 is available on Portugal to win the game by one goal, and that looks tempting based on what we've seen of the opposition in their first two games.
Iran will want to be tough to get past, but they can't settle for anything less than a win, and that could present Portugal with goal-scoring opportunities.
Add in the fact that two of Portugal's last three victories have been by the single goal, and you can see why that sticks out as the best bet for this encounter.
Cristiano Ronaldo has once again been a star for Portugal and it'll come as little surprise to see him strike again here. That's reflected in the odds-on prices available on him to score.
The Real Madrid man is now 2/1 to win the Golden Boot, narrowly ahead of Belgium's Romelu Lukaku despite both being on four goals.
He'll be looking to lead by example once again here, but it won't be as comfortable for Ronaldo as it has been in their last two outings.
Score prediction: Iran 0-1 Portugal (Sky Bet odds: 7/2)
- This is Iran and Portugal’s second encounter at the World Cup after 2006. Portugal won 2-0 thanks to goals from Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo – it was Ronaldo’s first ever goal in the tournament.
- Portugal have won three of their four World Cup games against Asian opposition, losing against host nation South Korea in 2002.
- Iran are winless in six World Cup meetings against European sides (D1 L5), with that draw coming against Scotland in 1978.
- Current Iran national coach Carlos Queiroz had two spells managing Portugal during 1991-1993 and 2008-2010. He took charge during the 2010 World Cup, overseeing their biggest ever victory in the competition (7-0 vs North Korea).
- Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco last time out was their first World Cup clean sheet since a goalless draw with Brazil in 2010, ending a run of five matches without a shutout.
- A win against Portugal will guarantee that Iran are in the World Cup knockout stages for the first time in their history – failing to make it out of the group in each of their four World Cup appearances.
- Iran have never won their final game of the World Cup group stages (D1 L3), scoring three and conceding 10 in these matches.
- Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has scored each of his country’s last five goals at the World Cup; the last player to do so for a particular nation was Oleg Salenko for Russia in 1994 (6 in a row).
- Against Morocco, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 85th international goal for Portugal, the most of any European player at international level in football history, overtaking Ferenc Puskas’ 84 goals for Hungary and Spain combined.
- Should he feature in this match, Joao Moutinho will make his 113th appearance for the Portuguese national side, overtaking Nani (112) to become the third most capped player in the country’s history, behind only Cristiano Ronaldo (152 before this game) and Luis Figo (127).
Spain v Morocco (Group B, 1900 BST, BBC One)
Morocco are one of the sides who have already been eliminated from the World Cup, and Spain need a single point for progression in Kaliningrad.
Spain should have plenty of opportunities for attack here, and whilst Diego Costa has been firing them in up front, I'd be looking at the creative midfielders to shine in this contest.
That's why their could be value in backing a Man of the Match pre-game, and for me David Silva could be the star of the show.
Silva has had another great season in a dominant Manchester City side, scoring ten goals and assisting a further 14 in all competitions.
He played the majority of the 3-3 draw against Portugal, whilst featuring for the entire game in the narrow 1-0 victory over Iran. Spain need a result and will put out a strong outfit, where Silva should once again play a large part in the encounter.
Morocco have lost both of their two games so far by a single goal, and will be maybe feeling a little hard done-by that they have been sent packing already.
Spain though, will want to use this game to not only secure a spot in the knockout stages, but to also justify their joint-favourites tag and Morocco are in serious danger of going home having failed to score a single goal.
Fernando Hierro's men are around the even money mark to win to nil, which looks considerable better value than their 1/3 pre-match tag for victory.
Spain to win by two goals is also available at 3/1 if backing winning margins is more your thing, which looks the most realistic option to me in that market.
Score prediction: Spain 2-0 Morocco (Sky Bet odds: 9/2)
- Spain and Morocco have faced other just twice before – a two-legged qualification play-off for World Cup 1962, with Spain winning 1-0 away and 3-2 at home.
- Spain have won three of their four World Cup matches against African opponents (L1), scoring 11 goals and never fewer than two per game.
- Morocco have lost just one of their last four final group stage matches (W2 D1), winning 3-0 against Scotland in 1998 - their most recent World Cup.
- Morocco have already been eliminated from the 2018 World Cup; they have now been eliminated at the group stage in four of their five World Cup campaigns, only progressing in the 1986 tournament.
- Morocco have lost four of their last six World Cup matches against European opposition (W1 D1), losing against Portugal most recently (1-0 in MD2).
- Should they lose this match, it will be only the second time that Morocco have lost all of their World Cup group matches in a single campaign, having previously done so in 1994.
- Spain have finished top of their group in three of the last four World Cup tournaments (before 2018), the only exception in this run is in 2014 when they finished third.
- Spain have won their final group game in each of the last eight World Cup tournaments, a run stretching back to 1986.
- Morocco have fired in more shots than their opposition in each of their last six World Cup defeats (v Portugal and Iran in 2018; Brazil in 1998; Netherlands, Saudi Arabia and Belgium in 1994).
- Striker Diego Costa has scored nine goals in his last nine international starts for Spain.
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Preview posted at 1635 BST (24/06/18)
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