Rivals of the Iberian will reignite their historic soccer rivalry when tournament favorites Spain, do battle with a very talented Portuguese side in Cape Town. This round of 16 fixture possesses plenty of intrigue as it pits two of the world’s top soccer nations against one another, at such an early junction in the tournament.
It would be an understatement to say Spain hasn’t yet reached its peak in South Africa. After commencing their tournament with a stunning loss to the Swiss, they’ve had to battle for narrow victories over Honduras and Chile. Once believed to be the cream of the crop on the world stage, Spain’s reign of global dominance could come to an end with another sub-par performance against Portugal.
The Portuguese were situated in the unsavory ‘Group of Death’ in South Africa, being pitted against the likes of Brazil, North Korea, and Ivory Coast. However they looked impressive in all three of their matches, and still have yet to concede a goal at this year’s World Cup. They enter the match against Spain currently ranked 3rd in the world, and a victory against their main rivals from Spain would be vital in placing them as the world’s top soccer nation.
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Spain vs Portugal Odds:
Keys to the Game:
Both sides will every familiar with one another. The majority of the Spanish team plies their trade in La Liga, whereas half of Portugal plays in Spain as well. Many players in this match will perhaps hail from different countries, yet have to line up alongside each other shortly after the culmination of the World Cup.
Spain will surely enter this match as the prohibitive favorites despite their sub-par form of late. A win against Portugal will demand the best game possible from the Spaniards, especially when you account for the stellar defensive capabilities. La Furia Roja will likely be out with solid midfielder Xabi Alonso, and defender Raul Albiol. Luckily for the Spaniards, their bench players are much better than their opponent’s starting eleven. Whether that trend continues against Portugal remains to be seen, as Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas is sure to see an increased role.
Another element of this fixture Spanish fans will be anxious in seeing, is the emergence of Fernando Torres at this tournament. He has played in all three of Spain’s group games, yet remained largely anonymous during his time on the pitch. The Liverpool striker is either injured, or simply uninterested, although Spain will need him to perform if they wish to advance past Portugal. If the man known as El Nino continues to falter, David Villa will once again be counted upon to rescue the Spanish attack. He has proven to be dynamic in South Africa, showing the soccer world he was worth the large sum of money Barcelona dished out for him.
Conversely, Portugal enter this fixture full of confidence, devoid of any concern. Although they commenced the tournament with a lackluster performance against the Ivory Coast, a 7-0 thrashing of North Korea, and a scoreless draw with the powerhouse Brazilians, has fans believing they could be tournament winners. Portugal will be sure to again stress defense against a lethal Spanish attack. Although their opponents have been somewhat stagnant offensively of late, Portugal is well aware Spain possesses the quick-strike ability that has hurt them in year’s past. They’ll have to maintain their focus at the back end, and not allow the likes of Villa and Torres to have time and space to create dangerous opportunities.
However, this match truly comes down whether Portugal can create some opportunities of their own. It is no secret that Portugal has struggled to generate goals of late, a trend that must come to a halt against a Spanish squad who are bound to put some by goalkeeper Eduardo. If they are to improve their fading attack, all chances will be facilitated through the likes of the dynamic Cristiano Ronaldo. When the Real Madrid midfielder is on his game, there is truly nobody better. Against Spain, Ronaldo must focus on the utilization of his teammates instead of consuming himself in long-range attempts on goal against a capable Spanish keeper in Iker Casillas.
What to Expect:
This match should be one for the ages. These two nations are historic rivals on and off the soccer pitch, and expect tensions to boil over in South Africa. Although Portugal is traditionally renowned as a soccer giant, many perceived their ‘Golden Generation’ faded away following the 2008 European Championships. However, Portugal has done well thus far to dispel this nation, and will look to shock the world with a stunning defeat of pre-tournament favorites, Spain.
Expect Ronaldo to be dangerous throughout the match, with his pace and creativity giving a susceptible looking Spanish back-line great difficulty. Spain however, is far too skilled to bow out this early in the competition. Despite their slow start, La Furia Roja are hitting their stride in South Africa, keen on disposing of anyone who impedes them from being crowned World Champions. Look for Torres to regain his prolific form and get on the board early against the Portuguese. Ultimately, expect a tight affair in which the Spaniards control the majority of possession en route to an easy quarter-final opponent in either Paraguay or Japan.
Spain vs Portugal Prediction: Spain 2 – Portugal 1
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