Portugal takes on Spain at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in what is the first big clash of Russia 2018. While Portugal has been serenely preparing for the World Cup, their opponents were rocked by the dismissal of their coach Julen Lopetegui two days before the game. A Spanish squad which came to the World Cup as absolute favorites were suddenly in doubt.
Spanish fans can take comfort in knowing that this crop of players have won 14 out of their last 20 games and are undefeated since the last European championship in 2016. Fernando Hierro commands the respect of the players enough for them to rally around him. There are sporting precedents to Spain’s plight. Gerard Pique pointed out the University of Michigan’s sacking of Bill Frieder in 1989, right before the NCAA tournament due to him announcing he would be leaving for another team at the end of the season.
If a football example is needed, then Spain should look to emulate Denmark at Euro 1992. One week before the tournament, the Danish were called in to replace a war-embroiled Yugoslavia. 1 week of preparation to face Europe’s elite and Denmark rose up to the occasion and won the trophy. This Spanish team is in a better position – the players have had a very good preparation.
Portugal is one the rare European champions to arrive at a World Cup and not be fancied to win the tournament. With only 1 win in regular time in Euro 2016 and having finished third in their group, it was shocking to see Portugal win Euro 2016 against France of all teams. Ronaldo and his team rode their luck and persevered and brought a first major international trophy back home. Will their luck finally run out?
Regardless of who wins, this will be a wonderful game of football. Enjoy!
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