Spain v Portugal Preview: Odds & Betting Tips – Tuesday, 29th June
Spain v Portugal Betting Odds
The European Champions had more of a battle on their hands to reach the second round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup than expected. After picking themselves up after losing their opening match to Switzerland, Vicente Del Bosque led his squad to the top of the group. After creating a hatful of chances against Honduras and only finishing two of them, they needed a slice of luck in their final outing to beat strong South American challengers Chile to the top of the group. Spain have shown all of the qualities which had instilled them as pre tournament favourites, but there is something just lacking a little bit when you stand them up against the performances of Argentina and Brazil. Maybe they are simply feeling the weight of expectation upon them, and that choke factor is at the back of their minds. The defeat against Switzerland should have shaken them out of that mode, as that would have been something of a wake up call if they thought they were going to breeze through the World Cup. They have won their group as expected, as they have stroked the ball around the pitch as elegantly as Brazil. Have they done enough to show that they really are contenders to lift the title? Maybe not quite yet, but the undeniable talent is there. There are not many other sides left in the tournament who can take off a striker of Fernando Torres’s calibre (albeit he’s not sharp at the moment) and replace him with one of the most talented players in the world, Cesc Fabregas. What other nation would be able to sit Fabregas on the bench at the start of the match? Teams full of superstars often do not pull together as a nation, but Spain have been together for a long time now, and their impressive run of form speaks volumes.
They should be there in the semi finals, and the vital element of winning their group was secured, and everything else that transpired in the group is history. The loss won’t matter any more. The failure to convert scoring chances won’t matter any more. All that will matter is that they get the job done against Portugal. One of Spain’s enduring qualities, is that they are a patient side who will work and work to get the breakthroughs they need without compromising on their passing ethics. They didn’t break stride in upping the tempo against Switzerland, they just could not get the break through. Unbeaten runs are there to be broken. Portugal are on a great unbeaten run of their own under Carlos Queiros, and something will have to give in their second round fixture. The patience that Spain has, and the ability to swap things around with the array of talent they have, means that they are used to breaking down sides who set up defensively against them. When teams played the best sides, whether it is at International or domestic level, the underdogs usually go out with the mindset of trying to stop the better team playing, as opposed to going out and giving it a real go. More often than not, the underdog has to resort to giving it a real go when they find themselves behind anyway. But the passing qualities which Spain have, and the patience and being so comfortable in possession with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso around, means that they should be able to break down Portugal. These are the games the European champions are expecting, running out to face tough defensive challenges. Is there a better side in the tournament in having the qualities to break down those defences? If David Villa continues to fire, then it will be made all that much easier.
They really are all about one man, and that man is of course Cristiano Ronaldo. He is the engine room, the inspiration and goal getter, and despite his calls to his countrymen not to have to rely on him, they are, and they do. While Ronaldo can take on teams single handedly, having such as superstar in your side can often back fire, for when he is cancelled and marked out of the match, the rest of the team does not have much to fall back on. This is the problem for Portugal, who have turned into a very cautious and negative side. Many will remember the attacking football which the Portuguese showed in knocking England out of Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. That attacking side have long since departed, and as displayed in their battling qualification group to reach South Africa 2010, the priority was on defence. Somewhere along the line, attack got sacrificed, which is a bit of a crime when you have Cristiano Ronaldo in the side. Just as pre-World Cup 2010 Argentina were guilty of not using Lionel Messi properly, Portugal do not play to the strengths of Cristiano Ronaldo. Playing such as tight game, he does not have the space and freedom he enjoyed at Manchester United and enjoyed in the second half of his first season at Real Madrid.
Portugal have played out two very negative and dull 0-0 draws so far, coming against the Ivory Coast and Brazil. Against the Ivory Coast, they simply lost their way and lacked any kind of spark or imagination. Against Brazil they put out a five man midfield to try and cope with, and negate the threat of the South Americans. In what should have been a real show case of football, it instead petered out into dour midfield battle with no-one having any real space to play. That was what Portugal wanted and the kind of performance that you will probably see again against Spain. With their World Cup lifeline now at stake in the knockout, it is hard to see Portugal getting any more adventurous. Their defence holding out for as long as possible is the key to success, and the longer they can keep things at parity, without having to chase the game in terms of goals, the more they will grow in confidence of nicking that all important goal themselves.
Spain v Portugal betting tip: Cristiano Ronaldo anytime goal scorer 9/4 at Paddy Power
Current Spain V Portugal Odds: