Home » Football Tips » Group B Schedule Lends itself to Low-scoring Derby Draw

Group B Schedule Lends itself to Low-scoring Derby Draw

Go back to Blog

May 10, 2018
Cristiano Ronaldo reaching out with right arm

The FIFA World Cup group B program pitches the pool’s top two seeds, Portugal and Spain, into a derby match in the first batch of round-robin games ahead of, on paper, less taxing assignments against Morocco and Iran later on.

Portugal and Spain share a border and their rivalry is one of the oldest in international football with their first clash occurring in December 1921. Portugal and Spain have lined up against each other 36 times but only eight of their encounters have been competitive and two of them took place more than 60 years ago. Portugal and Spain have faced off four times in meaningful matches since 1984 for two draws and one 1-0 win for each team. Interestingly, all four of those competitive games between Portugal and Spain featured fewer than three goals and each of them was 0-0 at half-time. Given the composition of the 2018 Portugal and Spain squads and the importance of not losing first up in a FIFA World Cup pool, one thinks that the best bets pertaining to group B are on a low-scoring draw in the big match between the Iberian neighbours in Sochi on Friday 15 June.

According to the two best-known rankings, Portugal and Spain are the most evenly matched of the sides seeded to qualify from the eight FIFA World Cup pools. Portugal and Spain are third and sixth respectively in the FIFA World Ranking, while they are fourth and third respectively in the World Football Elo Ratings. One prefers the World Football Elo Ratings over the FIFA World Ranking so one agrees with bookmakers that Spain deserves FIFA World Cup group B favouritism over Portugal but that the gap is too wide.

Portugal and Spain Set for Stalemate

Portugal versus Spain in the first FIFA World Cup group B game will, fitness permitting, see Cristiano Ronaldo face many of his Real Madrid colleagues. The likes of Sergio Ramos, Isco, and Nacho know most of Ronaldo’s tricks so CR7 may be unable to cut loose against Spain in the same way that he has done versus so many club and national teams.

Morocco and Iran will compete with Portugal and Spain in FIFA World Cup group B. Morocco qualified for its fifth FIFA World Cup by winning four of its eight CAF preliminary matches and conceding just one goal. Morocco is 39th and 45th respectively in the FIFA World Ranking and the World Football Elo Rating and it is unbeaten in its 15 games since losing 0-1 at Cameroon in June 2017. Morocco is worthy of respect since it accounted for Cote d’Ivoire en route to the FIFA World Cup but its 1-2 friendly loss to the Netherlands in June 2017 suggests that Herve Renard’s side is a level or two below Portugal and Spain – remember, the Netherlands failed to qualify for the major tournament in Russia. Like Morocco, Iran boasts a lengthy undefeated run – it dates back 10 matches to February 2017 – but recent collateral form lines featuring the Korea Republic, Russia and Togo point to it being the weakest link in FIFA World Cup group B.

Spain is odds-on to win FIFA World Cup group B and similar prices are on offer about the pool favourite and Portugal being the two teams from the section to reach the last 16. If you cannot find more exciting odds-on propositions than those two then, seriously, you should give up punting.

What should get one’s pulse racing, though, is the prospect of backing Portugal and Spain to draw in their must-not-lose FIFA World Cup group B game and, if you do not mind locking up your money, you could do worse than to secure the odds available about under two and a half goals because they are likely to be much shorter at kick-off time.

About the author

Alan Penny
Alan Penny


Alan hails from Northern Ireland and is an avid fan of all sports. He has been with us since 2017 and serves as SBO’s Editor-in-Chief. Alan passionately covers everything from the latest regulatory developments across the globe to tips on the latest football matches.