Spain and Portugal will clash on Friday night in Group B.
The match will see the two sides expected to go through the group and into the knockout round.
The Spanish won the tournament eight years ago in South Africa but failed to get through the group stage at the last World Cup in Brazil. Manager Julen Lupetegui has turned Spain back into serious contenders for the World Cuptrophy. However, he was fired just two days before the match against Portugal.
The Portuguese won the European Championship two years ago, and the side still has several key players from that squad. The most important is Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the most capped player in Portugal national team history (150) and has scored the most goals (81). Ronaldo will be at the heart of everything Portugal do at the tournament.
Against Spain, there is plenty of familiarity between the players on both sides. Ronaldo will play against five of his Real Madrid teammates. Meanwhile Portugal striker Goncalo Guedes plays his club football in Spain at Valencia.
Lupetegui has courted controversy on the eve of the World Cup. The Spain manager was announced as the new Real Madrid coach this week in a shock move by the club. He is a former Real Madrid B coach, but Lupetegui had looked likely to stay with the national team for some time. His move has been blasted by pundits. They argue it will take the team’s focus off of the tournament.
Spain and Portugal should go into the fixture with the main aim of not losing. Sounds simple, but each side will play for a draw at the very least. The two nations are expected to qualify for the next round, so getting through this match unscathed will be important to both manager. Neither team can win the World Cup by claiming victory in the opening fixture. They can certainly lose the tournament, however. A lopsided scoreline could hurt one of their chances of progression or a serious injury could dent hopes of qualification to the knockout round.
Portugal should line-up in a 4-4-2 formation. The emphasis will be on Ronaldo and he will likely be paired with Andre Silva. Spain should feature a 4-5-1 thanks to La Roja’s fantastic array of passing midfielders. Diego Costa will most likely start as the lone striker. Spain don’t have true wingers in the squad, and Lucas Vasquez and Marco Ascensio are really the only players who can play that wide role. It’s doubtful they will start the opening match.
Spain and Portugal will spend the opening part of the match feeling each other out. Neither team can afford a loss in the first match and leave themselves needing wins over Morocco and Iran to qualify. The fixture will end all square and with one point apiece.
Portugal vs Spain Betting Tips
- Over 2.5 goals