When the draw was made for the group stage at the 2018 World Cup finals, there was a sharp intake of breath when the reigning European champions were drawn against their nearest rivals: Portugal will face Spain, not only in the group stage but in the opening match.
Morocco will be the most interested party outside of these combatants. They face Iran and will have the chance to watch both favourites in the group in action before they face them.
But this tie is mouth-watering match. Spain, previously dominant, are enjoying a resurgence in recent seasons. Undefeated in 2017, the wins in France and over Italy are their standout results but the ruthlessness with which they dealt with the ‘lesser’ names is as impressive as it was when the Furia Roja were imperious.
Portugal were equally strong overall, the results against Sweden and Chile aside. As European champions, they are there to be shot at. However, the Portuguese have played with a swagger but kept the solid defence which brought them success at Euro 2016, in place.
This is the fifth time the two nations have met at the World Cup. Spain leads the head-to-head with 3 wins and a draw.
Portugal vs Spain betting
The match will suffer being the opening game. The overriding feeling is that losing puts a team on the backfoot for the remaining two games. Morocco reached Russia without conceding a goal in qualifying, so the Portuguese may be thinking about that more.
In many ways that caution will suit Portugal more. A strong defence is more natural to them than Spain. The essence of tiki-taka still holds true; playing for a goalless draw isn’t natural to the Spanish.
Portugal know they face a tenacious attack. Spain scored 33 goals in 10 matches during 2017 and you have to go back to March 2016 to find a goalless draw involving the Spaniards. Since that Romania match, only Georgia and Italy prevented Spain scoring; Portugal will have their work cut out.
However, Portugal won Euro 2016 on tight defence, the 3 – 3 draw against Hungary. In the other games, none featured more than 2.5 goals with only two goals conceded in these six matches.
In their most recent meetings, only the 4 – 0 drubbing handed out by Portugal featured more than 2.5 goals with four featuring under 1.5 goals.
Being the first game of the group, a tight affair should be expected. That said the Spain mindset is primed to attack and under 2.5 goals seems more likely than under 1.5. The World Cup betting bookmakers agree; odds in Portugal vs Spain betting for under 2.5 goals is 8/11 at the time of writing.
Mention the lack of goals in this clash and the margin of victory becomes narrower. Spain and Portugal have a history of tight matches but not many draws: only two in the past six meetings.
That said, Spain’s 1 – 0 win in 2003 ended a run of five consecutive draws.
This almost runs contrary to the form Spain showed in 2017. Italy were comfortably defeated but the pre-Russia friendlies against Germany, Argentina and Tunisia may give us an insight on how Julen Lopetegui intends to approach the tougher matches in the finals tournament.
Even so, margin of victory is showing good value in the Portugal vs Spain betting with either side winning by 1 goal at 13/10 at the time of writing with Spain showing at 5/2 and Portugal as far out as 5/1.
The bigger the margin of victory, the better the odds. 16/5 for either side to win by two goals with Spain currently at 9/2 and Portugal 16/1!
The biggest name on the teamsheet is Cristiano Ronaldo. Whenever he is included you would bet on Portugal to take something from a match. Records tumbled to the Real Madrid striker during 2016-17 but this season has been less impressive.
Which fits with Real’s season generally. At 32, this is likely to be his last World Cup finals and he will want to go out in style. A player never short of self-belief, you wouldn’t rule out Ronaldo hauling Portugal into the last four. Missing out on most of the Euro 2016 is something he will want to put right. A successful World Cup might just do that.
Ronaldo is worth looking at in the goalscoring markets. If Selecao da Quinas do click, it’s worth looking at Ronaldo if you want a bet on Portugal top scorer.
Spain won’t forget about Nani. The Lazio winger has 24 goals in his 112 caps, who with Andre Silva is the only other member of Portugal’s squad to reach double figures in international goals. It’s a statistic which underlines the extent of the national team’s reliance upon Ronaldo.
If Spain stop Ronaldo…easier said than done!
There are half-a-dozen in Lopetegui’s squad who have double figure goal tallies for their country and the surprise recall of David Villa last year is an intriguing proposition for the World Cup.
Once a feared forward in European football, his instincts in front of goal haven’t been dimmed by his time in New York City. The intriguing recall will be Diego Costa. His move to Atletico halted his career for six months but with 3 goals in his 4 appearances to date, any lingering doubts about his sharpness are being dispelled.
The indiscipline is another matter. He received his first red card of his second spell in Spain already and maybe a bet on Spain collecting a red card is worth looking at if Costa returns to the international fold.
Bet on Portugal vs Spain – Match Prediction
On the face of it, Spain ought to win this match. In better form, they are much-fancied to do well in the tournament. Portugal can’t be easily dismissed and expect them to remain in contention throughout the match.
While Spain are easier on the eye and more ruthless in front of goal, Portugal’s doughty defence offers the prospect of a low-scoring affair. The outcome 1 – 0 to Spain is our recommendation for a bet on Portugal vs Spain.