Spain easily brushed aside a disappointing France team to set up a most intriguing encounter against Iberian neighbor and rival, Portugal, on Wednesday in Donetsk. The clash is particularly attractive not only for featuring many of the world’s best players and two in-form, spectacular teams, but also for the realignment of the Real Madrid contingent. It will be interesting to see Cristiano Ronaldo in direct confrontation with his Madrid team mates Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos, or an aggressive Pepe challenge Xabi Alonso and Iker Casillas on set pieces. And Mourinho?
For the Barca group, going up against Portugal should be like any other match. Pique, maestro Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets and Iniesta will have a tremendous fight in the middle of the field with Raul Meireles, Joao Pereira and Moutinho, while Nani and Cristiano are expected to fly on the flanks all night. But expect Cristiano to challenge Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos repeatedly – some of those challenges are sure to be contentious. This is a rare occasion where Sergio Ramos has to set aside his hatred of Barca and work well with Pique and Busquets to contain Cristiano. Emotions will be revealed as the elimination game comes down to the end.
No matter what, ethnic, national and club allegiances are all in play on Wednesday. Both teams enter the game psychologically strong. If anything, Portugal is playing with great confidence, a balanced system and visible team unity. The reigning world and European champions cannot take anything for granted. As for Senor Mourinho, expected to be present at the match, country easily comes ahead of club. He will be an ardent supporter of the Lusitans. A great match, not to be missed. Prediction: Spain – Portugal 2-3 in extra time.