Set to take centre stage in Cape Town on 29 June is a glittering Round of 16 clash between two neighbours and contenders for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ crown: Spain and Portugal. Standing second and third respectively in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the eagerly anticipated encounter between the Iberian duo at the Green Point Stadium is the sides’ first meeting at world football’s top table.
Spain-Portugal, Round of 16, Cape Town, Tuesday 29 June 2010, 20.30 (local time)
Expectations are extremely high ahead of the last-16 meeting between two teams considered among the pre-tournament contenders for the coveted Trophy. And with La Roja and A Selecção das Quinas both having had to come through a gruelling group phase, one of the fancied pair will be heading home much earlier than expected.
European champions Spain arrived at South Africa 2010 as firm favourites for the world title along with Brazil, though Vicente del Bosque’s team were given a harsh wake-up call in an opening 1-0 defeat against Switzerland. Showing their mettle, La Selección gritted their teeth and won their next two Group H games against Honduras and Chile to qualify in top spot in their section and avoid a last-16 meeting with Dunga’s charges.
Portugal, for their part, safely negotiated a fiercely competitive Group G also containing Côte d’Ivoire, Korea DPR and Brazil. Carlos Queiroz’s solid side played out a goalless opening draw with Didier Drogba and Co before cutting loose in a 7-0 success over the North Koreans. Following that goalfest, another scoreless draw in their final game against the five-time world champions was enough to secure second spot and a place in the knockout stages.
Both coaches have near-to-full-strength squads from which to choose, though former Real Madrid boss Del Bosque will be without key midfielder Xabi Alonso and defender Raul Albiol. Opposite number Queiroz, who also once held the reins at Los Merengues, welcomes back midfield schemer Deco though cannot call upon the versatile Ruben Amorim.
Players to watch
David Villa v Cristiano Ronaldo
The Spanish striker’s three-goal haul so far at South Africa 2010 has taken his tally at FIFA World Cups to six in total, making Barcelona’s new signing his country’s highest ever scorer in the competition. The flying Portuguese winger, for his part, has struck just once to date in South Africa despite claiming the Budweiser Man of the Match award in each of his side’s three matches. The Real Madrid forward needed a total of 17 shots to score his solitary goal, which came in the demolition of Korea DPR, though Ronaldo can count himself unfortunate to have been denied by the woodwork on two occasions already.