The European Champions commence their 7th World Cup (and their 5th consecutive appearance) against Iberian neighbours Spain in the standout Group Stage fixture of the 2018 World Cup. Both sides will want to put the memories of 2014 behind them after disappointing showings, particularly Portugal, whose group was competitive, but certainly not out of reach.

Soccer World Cup Portugal vs Spain Prediction

The European Champions commence their 7th World Cup (and their 5th consecutive appearance) against Iberian neighbours Spain in the standout Group Stage fixture of the 2018 World Cup. Both sides will want to put the memories of 2014 behind them after disappointing showings, particularly Portugal, whose group was competitive, but certainly not out of reach.

Spain enter the fixture under a cloud; on the pitch, they’re in reasonably good form and their squad is one of the best balanced at the tournament, featuring a healthy blend of experienced veterans (Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, David Silva), and emerged stars (Sergio Busquets, David De Gea, Isco, Thiago). Their record against Portugal is considerably favourable too. But off the pitch, they’re in turmoil, with coach Julen Lopetegui unceremoniously sacked mere days ahead of this opening fixture, due to his successful flirtation in succeeding Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.

Portugal’s final squad is equally well balanced, though the expectation is that coach Fernando Santos may ultimately place too much favour on the aged veterans in his backline. The team has several young emerging starlets (Andre Silva, Goncalo Guedes, Gelson Martins, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias) of interest who could make great use of the world stage to make a profound impact.

Tactical Considerations:

It’s unclear how much replacement coach Fernando Hierro will retain of former coach Julen Lopetegui’s tactical ideas, but even those tended to be a moving target in certain positions, even in their fluid 433 system. Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno’s tactical flexibility and solid season for Valencia seems could give him the start over the more experienced Diego Costa, but the form of veteran David Silva and current stars Isco and Thiago has ebbed and flowed to the point that makes the options of Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Koke likely. Iago Aspas has been a relative supersub for La Roja, and offers genuine impact off the bench to change this up. The rest of the team is relatively predictable, with the only question mark being at right back where Lopetegui has switched between Carvajal, Nacho and youngster Odriozola.

Portugal’s swift counter attacking style suits the obvious weakness in Spain’s setup, but the longer the game goes on being dictated at Spain’s pace, the more likely the aged centre backs of the European champions will find themselves exposed. Midfield protection is available through the experienced Carvalho and Moutinho, but that was the case in 2014 as well. In attack, Portugal are spoilt for riches; their captain Cristiano Ronaldo has made a healthy transition to a more classic centre forward role in recent months, and whichever attacking midfielders are alongside him, almost all of them are capable of dangerous through balls, incisive crosses and mazy dribbles to open defences. Add the robust young forward Goncalo Guedes or the more classically configured Andre Silva and Portugal’s frontline are a scary prospect – as long as they can get enough of the ball.

Intriguing Bets:

  • First Goalscorer outside bet? Goncalo Guedes has 3 goals in 5 starts for Portugal.
  • Anytime Goalscorer supersub? Iago Aspas has scored 5 and assisted 5 in his 10 appearances for Spain, all in the second half.
  • No Goals from Portugal? In 2018, Portugal haven’t scored in the 1st 15 minutes and between 60-75 minutes.
  • No goals for Ronaldo? Ronaldo has scored just 3 goals in 13 World Cup appearances, never against a highly ranked World Cup team, one in each tournament he’s played in (vs Iran in 2006, North Korea in 2010 and Ghana in 2014). He’s failed to score in two competitive appearances vs Spain (Euro 2004, Euro 2012).

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Match Facts & Summary

  Portugal   Spain
World Cup Base Moscow Krasnodar
Odds – Result Win – 3.47 Draw – 2.29 Win – 0.92
2018 Form (most recent first) WDDLW WDWD
2014 World Cup Finish Group Stage (3rd) Group Stage (3rd)
Total Head to Head Record (includes friendlies) 6 Wins 12 Draws 18 Wins
Head to Head (Competitive Matches Only) 1 Win 2 Draws 5 Wins
Odds – First Goalscorer Ronaldo (3.92) Diego Costa (3.40)
Odds – Anytime Scorer Ronaldo (1.64) Diego Costa (1.41)

 

Our Prediction:

Even with the headache that has hit them off the pitch, it’s hard to see past Spain winning this crucial opener; their history against Portugal is in their favour, they face a far shorter trip to Sochi from Krasnodar than Portugal do from the capital, and in the case of squad talent and depth, their side is still packed with experienced veterans at big clubs and international level, including 5 of the players who lifted the trophy 8 years ago in South Africa. Portugal will see the off-field interference as a massive opportunity but may nonetheless require a blitzkrieg to put Spain under immediate pressure, reminiscent of how the Netherlands produced a dramatic 5-1 win over Spain in 2014. The longer that pressure takes to set in, the more likely the possession dominant Spanish will dictate terms to win the game.

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Read More: Portugal vs Morocco Prediction

* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.

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