The Best Group Stage Match Ever

Today’s momentous group-stage match between Portugal and Spain has been called the greatest group-stage match in World Cup history, and with good reason. This match pits two of Europe’s best and most storied teams against each other from the outset of the tournament. With that in mind, there are a ton of storylines that are floating around this game. The best part about that is that virtually all of these storylines can affect the match in some way.

First off, Portugal’s greatest player, Cristiano Ronaldo, will be facing 6 of his Real Madrid teammates, along with a number of other Spaniards who he knows well from La Liga. This familiarity will work in both directions as far as knowing each other’s tendencies goes, but this will likely give an advantage to Spain, since Ronaldo’s only one man while 6 of his teammates are on the other side of the pitch. ADVANTAGE: SPAIN

However, a big concern coming into the match is the upheaval that has characterized the Spanish managerial position over the past three days. On Wednesday, former manager Julen Lopetegui was fired after accepting the vacant Real Madrid managerial position. On Thursday, acting general manager Fernando Hierro was hired as Lopetegui’s replacement. This means that today is his first full day in charge of the Spanish national team, which promises to wreak havoc in terms of team organization, something that his Portuguese counterpart, longtime manager Fernando Santos, does not have to concern himself with. ADVANTAGE: PORTUGAL

So, the game will likely fall into one of two categories: either it will be a high-scoring affair with both teams scoring at least two goals or it will be a masterclass by both goalies and one or two goals will decide the match. I think it will be the former: PREDICTION: SPAIN 3-2 PORTUGAL

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