For neutrals who are thrilled to witness some of football’s biggest star names such as Iker Casillas, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol, and Cristiano Ronaldo all taking part in Africa’s first ever World Cup tournament, June 29 will present a moment of joy and sadness at the same time.
The fact that Spain and Portugal clash up in the knockout stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup means that one of these two teams will bitterly have to suffer the cruel fate of going home. Tragic!
The history between Spain and Portugal in terms of head to head is shocking. La Furia Roja crashed their Iberian Peninsula rivals 9-0 the first time both teams met. That was actually in a World Cup qualifier in 1934. The damage was far lesser in the return leg as the Portuguese only got defeated 2-1 at home.
Surely, lessons had been learnt and in the five other clashes that followed over the years, Portugal weren’t subject to defeat. The one and only time Portugal triumphed over Spain was back in the 2004 European Championship (which they hosted) where a 1-0 score line sealed a historic achievement.
Keeping a clean sheet and ultimately winning against the Spanish was something they had never done before. What gave more importance to this feat was the fact that, as they had been defeated by Greece on Match-day One of Euro 2004, a ‘routine’ loss to their murderers Spain would have thrown them out of the competition in the very first round. Just imagine how rude that would have been for the host nation! So, can Portugal hold on after terminating their winless record against Spain?
10/03/34: Spain 9-0 Portugal – World Cup Qualifier
17/03/34: Portugal 1-2 Spain – World Cup Qualifier
16/06/84: Portugal 1-1 Spain – European Championship
15/01/91: Spain 1-1 Portugal – Friendly Match
14/01/92: Portugal 0-0 Spain – Friendly Match
18/01/94: Spain 2-2 Portugal – Friendly Match
12/02/02: Spain 1-1 Portugal – Friendly Match
05/09/03: Portugal 0-3 Spain – Friendly Match
19/06/04: Spain 0-1 Portugal – European Championship
The manager hasn’t managed to get the best out of his players in South Africa. Spain’s performances in the group stages of the 2010 FIFA World Cup were statistically poor, and visibly more boring than exciting. In a way or another though, the Spanish did just enough to top Group H above Chile, Switzerland, and Honduras respectively.
Their reward, as we say, is a battle against Portugal – who finished second in Group G following an uneventful goalless draw against Brazil. However, Coach Vicente del Bosque believes that toping Group H doesn’t automatically come out as a privilege.
“I take no contentment from the fact that we are up against Portugal instead of [Group G winners] Brazil. Both sides are great national teams.”
Dismissing fears over Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential threat, Vicente Del Bosque declared:
“No [Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t concern me], Portugal do. We saw how they controlled the game against Brazil, how they hit them on the counter-attack. Portugal will be a very tough side.”
Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t face Real Madrid team mate and friend Kaka against Brazil since the star midfielder had to serve a controversial one-match ban. But the Portugal captain could be up against another Real Madrid team mate in the name of Xabi Alonso. The Spanish player suffered a blow against Chile but Spain’s team doctor Oscar Luis Celada has assured fans of Alonso’s fitness.
“The first x-ray confirmed that his right ankle had sprained as he was violently attacked. But, we are optimistic that Alonso will be fit for the second round match.”
Talking about fitness issues, Deco and Ruben Amorim are the two players that will remain on the sidelines for Portugal.
But Cristiano Ronaldo, who played 270 minutes of group stage football, has no injury concerns. Despite being the victim of multiple fouls, the 25-year-old winger is believed to be fit for Tuesday’s encounter against Spain at the Cape Town Stadium. For Cristiano Ronaldo, the time has come for Portuguese people to start dreaming.
“I’m confident that I can give more. We sorted things out [Group G qualification], and now we are dreaming. We will try to win against whoever comes our way. Now, we dream.”
A Selecção have overcome the demons that kept the gates of the ‘Group of Death’ shut. There are four more steps to climb for the world’s most expensive footballer (who was once the world’s best player) to be on top of the world with all his Portuguese team mates. First, can they reach the quarter-finals at the expense of 2008 European Champions Spain?