Portugal vs. Spain: Group B's heavyweight showdown
SOCHI, June 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Group B has a massive clash early on as Spain take on Euro 2016 winners Portugal.
Can Cristiano Ronaldo get his side off to the perfect start? How will Spain recover from the chaos that has enveloped them already, with Julen Lopetegui sacked before a ball has been kicked?
In 11 matches between Spain and Portugal since 1981, neither side has had the upper hand as the two teams have played to identical 3-5-3 records against each other. These two national teams will meet for the first time since 2012 today in their first match of the 2018 World Cup.
Spain is a +105 betting favorite to win this match in Sochi at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Portugal is going off at +305 to pull off an outright upset and +225 to force a draw.
The Spanish national team is the third favorite on the odds to win the World Cup paying +650 to do so. Spain looked absolutely brilliant in qualifying for the tournament, dominating the UEFA Group G with an undefeated record of 9-1-0 while outscoring its opponents 36-3.
However, in a stunning turn of events just days before the World Cup, Spain sacked manager Julen Lopetegui for accepting the manager role at Real Madrid without keeping the national team in the loop. Fernando Hierro steps into the role and will try to keep the ship sailing without issue.
Portugal has never defeated Spain in World Cup play. Spain is 4-1-0 in five all-time meetings with Portugal in the World Cup tournament.
With a 9-0-1 record in the UEFA Group B FIFA World Cup qualifiers and a goal differential of 32 for to four against, Portugal looked almost just as dominant in the qualifying round as Spain did. Cristiano Ronaldo had 15 goals in those 10 matches, bringing his total with the national team to 81. Portugal’s offensive prowess with Ronaldo at the helm is noteworthy, but this team also has a defense that has produced five clean sheets in its last six matches.
Friday’s total is set at two goals. There have been two goals or less scored in each of Portugal’s last three World Cup qualifiers.
This was already going to be one of the most highly anticipated matches of the group stage, and the sacking of Julen Lopetegui only adds to the intrigue. Both of these teams are expected to advance into the knockout stage, but this game could be the one that determines which team does so in the top spot.