The FIFA World Cup is finally upon us, with the big kick-off just hours away.
Global excitement is building and we’re all wondering who could be the breakout stars this time around, and perhaps who will obtain the prestigious Golden Boot award.
In Group B, we will witness European champions Portugal, 2010 World champions Spain, and Iran and Morocco, who will both be at just their sixth World Cup.
Portugal have assembled a relatively inexperienced side, leaving out star names such as Luis Nani, Renato Sanches and Andre Gomes, whilst the Spanish are entering the competition without the likes of Carlos Puyol, Xavi and Iker Casillas for the first time in for over a decade, as their golden generation comes to a close.
Most of Iran’s squad contains the majority of those involved in Brazil four years ago, whilst not a single Moroccan player has played at the elite competition before, as they enter the world stage for the first time since 1998.
So with all eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo and David Silva, who else should we be on the lookout for in Group B.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Little explanation needed! Cristiano Ronaldo helped his side conquer Europe two years ago in France – despite missing the majority of the final, and this will perhaps be the Portuguese internationals last World Cup, as he will be 37 come kick-off in Qatar. Could this be his crowning moment as the greatest of all time?
Achraf Hakimi was involved in Real Madrid’s Champions League winning squad this year, and although not an ever-present in the record-breaking side, the Moroccan has quickly established himself as a promising centre-back for years to come. Still only 19, Hakimi is surely a star for the future, and one of his countries main men already, and if Morocco are going to create an upset and get out of Group B, this youngster must keep up his already impressive defensive stability.
David Silva (Spain)
After such an incredible season with the champions of England, Manchester City, David Silva enters the tournament in frighteningly good form. At City, Silva is more of a provider than a scorer, but with Spain he becomes both of those, as the Spanish international already has 35 goals in 121 appearances for his country, which is quite astonishing considering he has played in a time where Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets were present. Silva is the standout player in this Spanish side now, and if the 2010 winners are going to reach the pinnacle again, Silva must continue to hit the back of the net.
Nordin Amrabat (Morocco)
Nordin Amrabat has been the most impressive Moroccan international in recent years, with spells at Leganes, Galatasaray and Watford. He possess lightning pace, with exceptional trickery on the ball, and now at 31, he will spearhead the Moroccan front-line, and in terms of goals, Amrabat will be the key for his country.
Andre Silva (Portugal)
Since his move to AC Milan last year, Andre Silva has established himself as one of the most promising youngsters on the European continent. With the likes of Luis Nani and Eder missing out in Portugal’s squad, head coach Fernando Santos has put a lot of faith into this young talent. Silva, still only 22-years old, has scored 12 times in 23 appearances already for his country, and regardless of what happens in Russia, this Portuguese youngster is a star of the future for sure.
Bernardo Silva (Portgual)
In a star-studded Portugal squad, Bernardo Silva could become the shining light in the European champions’ side. Although not starter all the time for Manchester City, when given his chance, the 23-year old has performed exceptionally well, providing majestic pace with wonderful dribbling ability and a knack for a goal here and there. Silva will be vital for Portugal this time around and could end up being one of the stars of the tournament if he continues the phenomenal form that he found at the Etihad.
Marco Asensio (Spain)
In terms of young stars under 23 in Europe, not many, if any, are better than Marco Asensio. The Real Madrid star has established himself on the European stage, helping Madrid win the Champions League once again. As youngsters go, this Spaniard is probably the best heading to Russia, and this may be the tournament Asensio establishes himself as one of the best around. He possesses astonishing ability on the ball and playing alongside the likes of David Silva and Andres Iniesta, the Madrid midfielder could be part of an exceptional midfield for Spain.
Diego Costa (Spain)
If Spain are to get to the top once again, Diego Costa must perform, period. The Atletico Madrid star is the only Spanish ‘number nine’ heading to Russia, as Alvaro Morata must settle for a place on the couch this summer, meaning hopes of scoring lie with the ex-Chelsea man. After netting 52 Premier League goals in just 89 appearances, Costa has proven he can score on the grandest stage, and he must do so at the World Cup if the Spanish are to reclaim the crown.
Sardar Azmoun (Iran)
Sardar Azmoun is arguably Iran’s best player, and if the Iranians are to complete an upset and progress at the expense of either Spain or Portugal, Azmoun will be key in that mission. The Ruben Kazan forward netted 12 times in 41 appearances for the Russian side this season, and although that doesn’t impress too much, his 23 goals in 33 appearances for his country proves how important he is for his nation. The 23-year old has 15 of those international goals in his last 19 appearances and could continue that blistering form in green and white in Russia.
Karim Ansarifard (Iran)
Karim Ansarifard is another Iranian player who boasts impressive goal-scoring numbers, with 18 goals in 27 appearances for Olympiacos this season. The Iranian forward stands at 6ft 2″ and could cause concern for any defender on the world stage with his physical superiority, and alongside Azmoun, the two could form a formidable partnership up top. There is little doubt that Ansarifard is Iran’s biggest hope at getting out of the groups, and with his 64 caps for his country, he brings heaps of experience with him as well.