#WorldCup2018 Preview: Ronaldo set to crash a troubled Spanish camp

Today, the Iberian rivalry will be restored in the World Cup Group B clash between Portugal and Spain by 7:00pm. Real Madrid legend Cristiano Ronaldo will look to take advantage of the frailties in the Spanish national team after their manager Julen Lopotegui was dismissed unceremoniously on Wednesday for bridge of contract after he negotiated a job offer with Real Madrid.

Fernando Hierro is the new man in charge of the Spanish National team and he will look to steady the ship and hopefully lead the team to World Cup glory. Portugal on the other hand had a very low-key World Cup preparation under Fernando Santos and they look a very steady ship.

Although Portugal is not blessed with the quality of players that Spain have, they have proved they are very difficult to beat. Ronaldo is their most dangerous player but they have other potential match winners with Bernardo Silva, Adrien Silva and Goncalo Guedes potentially able to worry opponents.

The Spanish players will not be too unbothered by the managerial loss – their players are too professional for that kind of nonsense. Outside of the 6 – 1 victory over Argentina earlier this year, I feel Spain struggle to break down opponents and the defensive solidity of Portugal will be too hard for them to crack – with or without Lopotegui.

I believe it will be a very tight game but Portugal will edge it 1 – 0 (my predictions are always wrong).

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • Spain and Portugal have met on 35 occasions. Spain have 16 wins to Portugal’s six, with 13 draws.
  • The only World Cup meeting was in 2010, when Spain triumphed 1-0 in the last 16.
  • The squads have 43 Champions League winners’ medals between them (Spain, 34, Portugal, 9).

Portugal

  • Portugal will attempt to become only the fourth nation to win back-to-back European Championship and World Cup tournaments. The others are West Germany (Euro 1972, World Cup 1974), France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) and Spain (Euro 2008, World Cup 2010).
  • Cristiano Ronaldo was directly involved in a competition-high 18 goals in European qualifying, scoring 15 and assisting three. However, he is yet to score in 340 minutes of action against Spain.
  • Portugal have lost only one of their last nine World Cup group games, a 4-0 loss to Germany in 2014.
  • Fernando Santos has reached the knockout stage in all three of his major tournaments as a coach. He led Greece to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 and the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup, before guiding Portugal to victory at Euro 2016.
  • Only one of Portugal’s 43 goals at the World Cup has been scored from outside the penalty box.

Spain

  • Spain have finished top of their group in three of their last four World Cups. However, they have won only two of their last 12 opening games (D3, L7).
  • They have qualified for their 11th straight World Cup – their longest streak of participations.
  • Spain have not lost a World Cup qualifier since 1993, but have lost three of their last six group games at the tournament.
  • None of Spain’s last 14 games at the World Cup have ended in a draw (W10, L4).
  • Spain were one of four teams to remain unbeaten in European qualifying – along with Belgium, England and Germany – winning nine of their 10 games.
  • Six members of Spain’s squad won the 2010 World Cup – David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, Pepe Reina, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique.

Source: BBC Sports

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