One of the most eagerly anticipated World Cup group stage matches will see Portugal face Spain this Friday at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi. The near neighbours have been drawn against each other in Group B alongside Morocco and Iran, and it is difficult to see any other outcome than this pair advancing through to the knockout stages once the opening three matches have concluded.
“It’s a very deceptive and treacherous group,” admitted Portugal Coach Fernando Santos after the draw was made. “We have to accept that we are one of the favorites but if you look in a bit more detail, you can see it’s very difficult. Spain are naturally favorites, as I’ve always said.”
Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates will be bidding to become the fourth of only three nations who have won back-to-back European Championship and World Cup tournaments, with only Germany, France and Spain having done so in the past. At 25/1 with 888sport, this is looking like a big ask for the Portuguese, with Spain the more fancied team of this pair to lift the trophy offered as 23/4 by the same site.
These two sides both have excellent defensive records, with only England and Spain (three) having conceded less than Portugal (four) in ten qualifying matches. Santos will understand what it takes to advance to the next round as this will be his fourth major tournament as a manager, the second in charge of this side after their 2016 triumph.
However, in light of recent news seeing Spain boss Julian Lopetegui sacked on the eve of the world cup, it's difficult to tell whether a draw in the match against Portugal will now be enough for what will surely be a shaken Spanish side.
With their previous defensive displays in mind, Karamba offer 13/2 on a 0-0 draw, however if you fancy the quality of these sides to shine through, you can get odds of 7/2 on a stalemate adding in the prospect of goals.
Football supporters have seen Cristiano Ronaldo shine in big matches time and time again, the Real Madrid man triumphant in the Champions League notching up a stunning tally 15 goals in 13 appearances in the elite competition this term.
Ronaldo would also fire in an equally incredible 15 of Portugal’s 32 total strikes in 10 World Cup qualifying matches, continuing his record of propelling his nation towards success. There is no doubt that the forward will want to announce his arrival in this summer’s competition in Russia with at least one goal in the opening match, especially versus his side’s close rivals.
Not only has Ronaldo never scored versus Spain, but he will face a whole host of his club team-mates and members of rival side Barcelona in Friday’s encounter. Bet365 offer 13/1 on Cristiano Ronaldo to score anytime and the match to finish 1-1, a bet well worth considering having taken into account the aforementioned factors and the determination of the 33-year-old in what will be the last World Cup in his peak years.
Should this match end with a draw, it seems as though it will come down to which side can score most goals versus Iran and Morocco in order to determine who will advance as group winners. Spain scored 36 goals in qualifying, while Portugal went through with 32, indicating that La Roja may have a slight advantage in this regard.
You can indicate your choice via GentingBet, who offer Spain at 4/9 to win Group B or if Portugal takes your fancy, you can back them at 2/1 instead. Barring a complete shock, both teams really should advance to the next round, meaning that a two-way bet in this category is extremely likely to pay out.
With seven bookings and one yellow card in all competitions this term, striker Diego Costa is viewed as a fiery character and always gets stuck in to win back the ball in the final third. Karamba offer odds of 10/17 on the Atletico Madrid man to make over 1.5 fouls in this match, a fun bet that could very well pay off on this occasion.