13th of June 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
The first major clash of the 2018 FIFA World Cup will take place on Friday at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi where reigning European Champions Portugal take on Spain. The two nations have last met in the semi-finals of the 2012 European Championships, the match ended goalless but Spain eventually pulled through to the final after a tense penalty shoot-out. Overall, the two teams have met eleven times in the past and Portugal have won just twice against Spain. None of those victories were in World Cup matches, either in qualifications or final tournaments. Spain have collected five wins against Portugal, four of them in World Cup matches.
Portugal have high hopes for the 2018 World Cup after having won their first major international trophy two years ago at the European Championships in France. Their qualification campaign was pretty much carefree, they won nine of their ten matches and finished at the top of their group table ahead of Switzerland. They haven't been that impressive in this year's warm-up friendlies, a 3-0 defeat against the Netherlands was followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw against Tunisia but the last match produced an easy 3-0 victory over Algeria. Head coach Fernando Santos doesn't have any injury concerns ahead of this match.
Spain might not be the dominant force that they were a few years ago, but they still have a formidable recent record as they have not lost a single match since Euro 2016. Their qualification campaign was almost flawless, with nine wins and one draw, 36 goals scored and just three conceded. Moreover, they produced some impressive stuff in this year's warm-up friendlies, most notably the 6-1 victory over Argentina in March. Things got quite interesting in the Spain camp on Wednesday, head coach Julen Lopetegui was dismissed by the Spanish FA because he had just been named as the new Real Madrid boss and the FA were not made aware of the negotiations. Former international Fernando Hierro will take charge of the team during the final tournament. Right-back Daniel Carvajal is a serious injury doubt for Friday's match.
Portugal: Patricio - Soares, Pepe, Alves, Guerreiro - B. Silva, Carvalho, Mario, Quaresma - Ronaldo, A. Silva
Spain: De Gea - Odriozola, Pique, Ramos, Alba - Alcantara, Busquets, Iniesta - Isco, D. Silva - Costa
My prediction: Spain to win 1-0, they are the stronger team and I think they will make that count, regardless of the bizarre head coach drama.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Portugal win - 4.50
Draw - 3.40
Spain win - 1.95
5th of July 2018
18th of June 2018
Spain federation just fired their coach so the team performance would be a complete misery at this tournament I think, especially before the opening game.
I was definitely going to stake on a Spain win yesterday but now I'm not so sure, the coaching chance could have all kind of different effects over the team especially when it has been done in the last moment...the Portuguese would try to take advantage in this one so it would be a really tough call.
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