The opening match in Group B of the FIFA World Cup 2018 is between the reigning European Champions Portugal and the 2010 World Cup Champions and one of the favorites to lift the cup this time, Spain. The match is scheduled on June 15, 2018. The Fisht Olympic Stadium is expected to be sold out and filled to the brim with excitement for this heavyweight clash.
This group consists of Iran and Morroco as well, easier opponents on paper but tougher to break down on the pitch. Both the teams would like to start out on a positive note owing to their poor starts in the previous edition, Portugal losing to the eventual winners Germany and Spain being humbled at the hands of a resilient Netherlands squad.
Both the squads have a plethora of star players who play their trade on the highest levels at Club Level, and on whom all the eyes would be set. Portugal can turn to their ever trustworthy talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo, fresh off winning his third consecutive Champions League with Real Madrid and would certainly like to add to his already impressive collection of trophies. They also boast of one of the most experienced backlines consisting of goalkeeper Rui Patricio of Sporting Lisbon and the triumvirate of Pepe, Bruno Alves, and Jose Fonte who have a combined international tally of 215 caps between them.
They will be ably supported by their Midfield consisting of Manchester City ace Bernardo Silva, Sporting’s defensive tank William Carvalho and ex-Porto and Monaco man Joao Moutinho who brings the much-needed clinical passing that is required to succeed at the highest stages. Andre Silva, who has had a torrid time since his much-publicized move to AC Milan has certainly been a shock inclusion but will hope that his fortunes will turn this time around.
Spain on the other hand has one of the most balanced sides going into this World Cup with the right mix of experience, youth, and a squad depth that only other teams can dream off with two able players for every position on the field. They have a current Premier League Golden Glove winner, Manchester United’s David De Gea as their number one who certainly would like to add to the legendary status that belies his young age.
In defense, they boast of one of the best center back pairings in Sergio Ramos of Real Madrid and Gerrard Pique of Barcelona who are rivals at the club level but magically learn to settle their differences when International duty beckons. La Roja can turn to Jordi Alba and Dani Carvajal to add the much-needed impetus from the wings.
Spanish stalwarts like Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta both from Barcelona will be entrusted with linking the play and transitioning from Defense to Attack. Real Madrid starlets Marco Asensio and Isco have also been added to the midfield and will bring the youthful energy. Diego Costa, who infamously switched allegiance from Brazil to Spain is expected to lead the line and Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas owing to his fine form in the club level gets a much needed call up as well.
Both the teams look great on paper and have players that can easily make the starting lineup of any team, but the real test is how they perform on the field, right from the word go. This might drive their star players to the core, and they might exhibit excellent game play.