Portugal and Spain, who occupy most of the Iberian Peninsula, will add, in the form of a World Cup betting matchup, a new chapter in the storied history of their relations with one another, which commenced when King Alfonso VII of León and Castile recognized Afonso Henriques as King of Portugal on July 25th 1139, following the Battle of Ourique (which was, by the way, what fans betting on the World Cup would call an upset). Spain and Portugal are the two most recent European champions, and the former eliminated the latter in the round of 16 on the way to winning their first World Cup in 2010.
15 June 2018 21:00 MSK (UTC+3)
Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Portugal will, to the surprise of absolutely no one, live and die by Cristiano Ronaldo, who is actually going through a rough patch in the Spanish Liga. “You can only win the European championship and the World Cup by playing well. The concept of what is pretty or not is something else,” coach Fernando Santo said earlier this year. Portugal started their road to Russia with a 2-0 loss in Switzerland, but then went on a nine-game winning run to finish on top of their group on goal difference, turning the tables on the Neutral Ones by the same score in their last game. Ronaldo scored 15 of their goals on the way to his fourth World Cup which, at the ripe old age of 33, is, for all intents and purposes, his final chance to win the big one.
Even with the likes of Ricardo Quaresma, Bernardo Silva, Nani, Joao Moutinho, and Goncalo Guedes on the roster, Portugal’s World Cup betting odds are as good as their most capped player their record scorer with 79 goals, and Ronaldo is well aware of that, throwing a hissy fit every time he doesn’t get the ball in a free kick, penalty, and play, but, as they say, it isn’t bragging if you can back it up, and he backs it up with two European championship finals, one semi-final, one quarter-final and a World Cup semi-final.
Meanwhile, head coach Julian Lopetegui’s youth movement has been a shot in the arm of the Spanish national team, which is undefeated in 16 games under the former Real Madrid, Logroñés, Barcelona and Rayo Vallecano goalie. David de Gea, Koke, Isco, Thiago Alcantara and Alvaro Morata are among the new faces who have come to join the more established Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, David Silva (Spain’s fourth highest goal-scorer ever with 11 in 15 matches), Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
“I believe that the best thing a coach has to do is optimize and make the most of the virtues of his players” Lopetegui said. “I think that the best quality of Spanish players is their passing ability and individual technique. Logically, we have to take advantage of that.” The manager added that “Spain can’t play catenaccio [the Italian “door-bolt” defensive system] because that wouldn’t make the most of the quality of our players.” Instead, the Spaniards has gone back to the “tiki-taka” short-passing style that made them World Cup betting behemoths in 2010.