It’s the biggest game of the Group Stages, and it’s only the second day of the FIFA World Cup. Traditional and geographic rivals Spain and Portugal collide in a battle of behemoths.
Star players from both sides would have been the centre of discourse, but that has taken a backseat with developments in the past few days. Developments that include massive personnel changes in the Spanish contingent.
The Spanish FA’s decision to fire Julen Lopetegui two days before La Furia Roja’s opening game was bewildering, to say the least. The now Real Madrid manager was undefeated during his tenure as the national team’s boss and was instrumental in unearthing a new generation of Spanish talent.
Real Madrid legend and Lopetegui’s assistant, Fernando Hierro, has been appointed the interim manager. In terms of disaster mitigation, this is a good decision as Hierro will offer a semblance of continuity to Spain and the players.
Sporting Lisbon players William Carvalho, Rui Patricio, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes announced their intention to terminate their club contracts following an altercation with fans at the training ground. All of them are important members of the Portuguese squad and the intense media scrutiny around this is surely going to affect the team’s morale.
These off-the-field changes are surely going to play an intangible role in deciding this crucial fixture. But, the real theme of this game will be centered around Spain’s team play against the star power of who else, but Cristiano Ronaldo. The last time these sides met in the World Cup was in 2010, when Ronaldo’s star was dulled by a splendid Spanish side that went on to win the World Cup.