While supporters from the likes of Russia, Egypt and Uruguay may beg to differ, Portugal vs Spain is the first big match of 2018 World Cup betting, and is one of the most mouth-watering matches of all 48 in the group stage. It takes place at 19.00 on Friday 15 June, and is undoubtedly the key fixture in looking at how Group B will unfold.
Spain are third favourites to win the tournament, at 11/2 with k8.com, so it’s no surprise they are priced to win all three matches and the group too. Portugal may be the reigning champions of Europe, but their build up to the World Cup has not been impressive. They lost 3-0 to the Netherlands, who have failed to qualify, and let a two goal lead slip against Tunisia.
They don’t have a good record against Spain either, with just six wins from 36 Iberian derbies, and only one from eight competitive fixtures. The Spanish may not be the all-conquering side they were around the turn of the decade, but they breezed through qualifying with nine wins plus a draw in Italy from their 10 matches.
Julen Lopetegui’s side can be backed at just 20/21 to beat Portugal with sportnation.bet, but those odds are generous compared to the prices available for their other two group games. The same firm has Spain at 2/11 to beat Iran, and 4/11 to win against Morocco. Depending on the results from other games, they may rest players for the final match, but their squad should have the depth to beat the African side either way.
I therefore like the look of the 6/5 bet365 are offering for Spain to top the group and Portugal to finish as runners up. That’s better odds than you’ll get on Spain to beat Portugal when they meet as we’ve seen, and that outcome will surely lead to those sides finishing first and second in Group B.
By the same logic, MintBet’s odds of 2/1 for Spain to win all three matches look inviting too. If you want to hedge your bets for allowing for a draw against Portugal, William Hill have set Spain’s points bar at 6.5, with over available at 4/7.
As for Morocco and Iran, they will both be appearing at their fifth World Cup finals, but the best they can realistically hope for is not finishing bottom of the group. 888sport have Iran as the 8/13 favourites to take the wooden spoon in Group B, with Morocco available at 7/4.
As both will likely be defeated by Portugal and Spain, their match on the second day of the tournament will be pivotal in this market. BetBright have Morocco as the 13/10 favourites for the match, but I like the look of the draw at 15/8, as the teams are only six places apart in the FIFA rankings so are closely matched.
Perhaps more pertinently, both teams proved incredibly difficult to beat during qualification. Hervé Renard’s team came through a final group which included Ivory Coast, and in total conceded just one goal in their eight qualification matches.
Meanwhile Iran’s final qualification group saw them go unbeaten in their 10 matches while only conceding two goals. They also only scored 10 themselves, and as they and Morocco will be looking to avoid defeat in their first match, a low scoring draw looks likely. Under 2.5 goals is priced at a skinny 2/5 with NetBet, but it’s very hard to see any other outcome.
In terms of player bets, Cristiano Ronaldo is the shortest priced player from Group B in the Golden Boot market, and he’s available at 10/1 with Ladbrokes. However, he only scored three goals at the 2016 Euros despite Portugal going all the way, and they don’t look capable of advancing as far this time.
Of course, it wouldn’t be absurd for him to rattle in hat tricks against Morocco and Iran, but I’d be tempted to look elsewhere for a scorer bet.
Diego Costa hasn’t had a great season, having only played for half of it following his move from Chelsea to Atletico Madrid, and he hasn’t scored in either of his two previous tournament matches for Spain.
However, he will be relatively well rested compared to the majority of the top strikers on show, and he has scored six goals in his last seven appearances for the national side. Spain look well set to reach the semi-finals and so would play seven matches, which makes his odds of 25/1 with Ladbrokes to win the Golden Boot look very inviting.