Spain v Portugal – Tuesday, June 29
Kick off 19.30 BST, live on BBC One and bbc.co.uk in the UK. Check local listings elsewhere.
It was two years ago to the day that Spain won their second European Championship with a brand of football that was unmatched by anybody and saw them instantly installed as favourites to win their first ever World Cup in South Africa.
An opening defeat against Switzerland was a massive wake-up call for Vicente del Bosque and his side as they faced the realities of living with the tag of favourites, though they did still top their group after easing past Honduras and Chile in their next two matches.
Spain are available at evens with Blue Square to continue their winning run against their Iberian neighbours, with the draw 11/5 and Portugal 16/5 outsiders.
As comfortable as those wins were, particularly the Honduras match, this hasn’t been vintage Spain by any stretch of the imagination, and with Xabi Alonso struggling with a niggling injury and Fernando Torres completely out of form, they don’t quite look like the amazing side we saw two years ago. A price as big as 11/2 about Torres to score the first goal here tells you just how this tournament has gone for the Liverpool man so far.
They do however have David Villa in wonderful form in front of goal, Barcelona’s new striker hitting the net three times despite playing wide on the left for the most part, and he is bound to be heavily backed to score the first goal at a generous-looking 7/2. A bet that would have been a winner in the last two Spain matches, Villa to score and Spain to win will also be a popular bet at 11/5.
Portugal are the perennial underachievers having never won a major tournament, and having drawn 0-0 against both Ivory Coast and Brazil with a 7-0 battering of North Korea sandwiched in between, it’s been an impressive start for Carlos Querioz’s side.
The only side in this World Cup yet to concede a goal, Portugal will be extremely tough to break down, even for this Spanish side, and a half-time score of 0-0 looks like a wise bet at 5/4.
Cristiano Ronaldo operated up front alone against Brazil as Portugal played a conservative system in order to secure the point they needed to go through, and it looks certain that he will be partnered by either Leidson or Hugo Almeida this evening. Almeida scored against North Korea and was then subbed for Liedson, who also scored, and it’s likely that Almeida will again get the nod here.
Hugo Almeida is 12/5 to score at any time, with Leidson an 11/4 shot, but I think Porto’s attacking midfielder Raul Meireles, scorer of the opener against North Korea, offers far more value than either of those two fairly ordinary strikers at 4/1 for a goal at any time in the 90 mins or 14/1 for the first goal.
Deco has been declared fit and could feature here, and if he starts, the 16/1 about him scoring the first goal could be a really shrewd punt.
In the most fascinating match of the World Cup so far, it would be hard to argue with a bet on Under 2.5 Goals at 4/7 as we see two solid, well organised sides looking to keep it tight and hit the opposition on the break, and its easy to see them largely cancelling each other out.
For a correct score I’d opt for 1-0 either way – that’s 5/1 in Spain’s favour and 8/1 Portugal – or the 1-1 draw which is available at 11/2 with Blue Square.
For a long shot this match, I like the look of Ronaldo to get sent off at 28/1, and if things aren’t going well for the Portuguese, it’s easy to imagine Ronaldo’s petulant side rearing its ugly head and a red card could be a real possibility. The Argentinean ref in charge tonight dished out five yellow cards and a red in the Ghana v Serbia match, and he does have a rather harsh reputation.
My bet for a Scorecast would be Raul Meireles to score first and Portugal to win 1-0, which pays a very tasty 70/1.