A busy day in the World Cup is rounded off by what could be the match of the entire group stage when the European champions Portugal and the former winners of this competition Spain get their campaigns underway on Friday evening.
You need to have been in a cave to be unaware of the talking point in the lead up to this one with the Spanish deciding to boot their coach into touch two days before the match. Amazingly things have been all quiet on the Portuguese front. This is the toughest match in the section for both on paper.
We finally saw Portugal deliver on the big stage in France two years ago and while you can ridicule their style and the fact that they barely won a match along the way, sometimes these tournaments boil down to who is the last one standing, and they should be given credit for it being them. Their task now is to back that up in this tournament.
Depending on your viewpoint, this is an aging Portuguese side who could be cannon fodder for a major shock in this group or they are a more dynamic and varied attacking side who no longer relies on the prowess of Cristiano Ronaldo as much as they did in the past. The proof will be in the pudding as to who is correct.
I guess there is a lot of conspiracy thinking and mindreading going on among the gambling fraternity as to how the issue with the coach being sacked so close to the match will have an impact on the players. The truth is nobody outside the camp knows for sure and even those inside will only truly be certain once this match has been played.
Spain were excellent in qualifying for this tournament but how much that matters now after the events of the last few days remains to be seen. Publicly at least everyone seems to be making out that it is business as usual but it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if it has had a bigger impact than those involved are letting on.
Portugal look to have a clean bill of health heading into the match which means they just need to decide on Pepe’s partner at the back with Jose Fonte and Bruno Alves fighting for that and who partners Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. That should be Andre Silva.
Spain have major doubts over Dani Carvajal after a hamstring injury meant he was not involved in training until Tuesday. If he is not passed fit for the match then Alvaro Odriozola will fill in. All eyes will be on the teamsheet to see who Fernando Hierro selects to lead the line.
While this is the pick of the matches, certainly in the first round of fixtures, if not the entire group phase, it isn’t really a match I want to get my teeth into. I think it will be a tight match and a low scoring one purely because a draw does neither of them any harm with what is to come but I have more doubts than I’d like given the Spain situation.
If I am right and it is low scoring and Spain do struggle it will do a number of my outright bets the world of good which is enough major interest for me but often in these tight, tense big games Sergio Ramos pops up with a goal so the 15/2 on him scoring anytime is worth a go. He’s the captain who needs to set the example on the pitch to put the last few days behind them. There is no better way for him to do that than getting his head on a set piece and contributing to any scoring the may be.
Back S.Ramos to score anytime for a 1/10 stake at 8.50 with 888sport