Portugal, Spain favourites but Santos wary of Morocco and Iran

Peter Castro
December 4, 2017

The 2010 World Cup winners Spain were placed in the same group as Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal at the 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.

A fairly balanced draw left the 6,000 dignitaries assembled at the State Kremlin Arena in Moscow with no standout "group of death" to mull over, although some intriguing matchups do lie ahead once the tournament kicks off next summer. "Portugal are the current European champions, they have players of a very high level".

"From the players' point of view, I'm sure they are very excited to play against Portugal and Spain and also Morocco, because it's a unique and rare opportunity for Iranian players to play against such great players and such great teams".

Croatia, debutants Iceland, and Nigeria will all fancy their chances of joining favourites Argentina in the knockout phase from Group D. It is the fifth time Nigeria have been grouped with Argentina in their six World Cups. "Portugal has to accept that we are one of the favorites but if you look in a bit more detail, you can see it's very hard", Santos said.

Messi literally dragged Argentina to the 2018 World Cup - including a final day hat-trick - but he'll obviously need some help in the finals if he's to scoop awards.

For fun, we also included the top four teams in the world that did not qualify for the World Cup in a hypothetical Group X. That group would be tougher than any group that is in the World Cup.

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Belhanda added; "Playing against big stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta is exceptional and it will bring so much happiness to us".

"Without a doubt, Spain and Portugal are favorites, but only on paper. I hope they avoid each other because it would probably make a good semi or final".

"I can not say whether I'm happy or not", Russian Federation coach Stanislav Cherchesov said, after also drawing Egypt and Uruguay.

With a potent attack featuring teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe and Atletico Madrid hotshot Antoine Griezmann and a midfield stuffed with talent, France should be among the World Cup favourites. "It's going to be a hard tournament", Portugal coach added.

La Roja have overcome their Iberian neighbours in their past two meetings in major competitions and have gone on to win the title after those encounters. "They are the champions of Europe and they have fantastic players", Lopetegui told Spanish TV station Cuatro.

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