Portugal vs Spain - Preview - World Cup 2018

Portugal and Spain lock horns in the biggest opening round fixture
What a potentially scintillating encounter between two teams who have won the last three UEFA Euro Cups between them. Spain won it back-to-back in 2008 and 2012 and Portugal won the recent edition which took place in 2016. En-route to their 2012 glory, Spain defeated Portugal on penalties in a tightly-contested semi-final.

Both teams had a disappointing 2014 World Cup in which they failed to progress beyond the group stage and they will be looking to make amends as they’re the two favourites to make the Last 16 in this group.

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FIFA World Cup 
Group B
Friday 15 June 
Saint Petersburg Stadium 
20:00

To Win 
Portugal 33/10
Draw 22/10
Spain 9/10

Portugal

The reigning European champions were so poor in the 2014 World Cup which got off to a bad start with Pepe getting a red card and Germany annihilating them 4-0. Cristiano Ronaldo was injured and he only managed to score one goal in their three group stage matches as they crashed out of the tournament, finishing third behind Germany and the United States.

The dawn of a new era after Fernando Santos’ appointment saw them surprisingly win the 2016 Euro tournament after scraping their way through the group stage with three draws. The Selecao also managed to reach last year’s Confederations Cup semi-finals, only to lose on penalties to would be champions, Chile. They will look to players who ply their trade abroad such as Pepe, Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva, Jose Fonte and of course Ronaldo to produce the goods. 

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Spain

The 2010 World Cup winners will be looking to bounce back from their disappointing 2014 campaign which saw them bow out at the first hurdle. La Roja’s Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Isco, Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal will reunite with their Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo which in itself is a source of much intrigue as they’ve all won the UEFA Champions League together.

This could possibly be Andres Iniesta’s last tournament with his country and the players will be looking to honour their hero with great performances. Diego Costa’s match up with Pepe is another interesting battle as they’re known for being volatile characters. Expect them to try and get each other sent off. Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Thiago Alcantara and David Silva are league title winners in their respective leagues and they will be looking to transfer their winning mentality to their country.

Probable line-ups:

Portugal: 4-4-1-1
Rui Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; B. Silva, Carvalho, Moutinho, Mario; Fernandes; Ronaldo.

Spain: 4-3-3
De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Busquets, D. Silva, Iniesta; Isco, Costa, Asensio. 

Prediction: Spain Win (9/10)
Portugal might have players who’ve enjoyed recent success in their national team and respective clubs which will trouble Spain but Julen Lopetegui’s men are a combination of youth in Asensio and Vazquez, experience in Iniesta, Busquets, Ramos and Pique as well as competitive edge in David De Gea, Isco and Diego Costa. Put your money on La Roja.

Written by Benedict Ngwenya

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