For the second world cup in a row, Spain has drawn themselves against Europe’s elite. 4 years it was Holland who destroyed Spain a 5-1 victory. This time, it’s neighbours Portugal.
This time around the parallel exist and with the fresh departure of Julen Lopetegui, it makes things all the more important that Spain start well. Portugal’s midfield sensation Joao Mario marked his team’s introductory engagement against Spain as a special occasion.
“Matches between Portugal and Spain are always special. We have to give our best and I am sure that the whole team will fight, and not just Cristiano,” the Inter Milan midfielder said at a press conference in Krastovo, their base camp.
Captaining the side in Euro 2016, Cristiano Ronaldo performed the task that was left unfinished by Eusebio and Luis Figo’s golden generation. Albeit from the sideline.
The Rivalry: Portugal vs Spain
Dating back nearly 100 years, the Iberian rivalry is considered one of the oldest and most prestigious rivalries in international football history. Over the years, with the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo, the game has had more focus than ever before. This game could quite possibly be the last appearance at a major tournament for Cristiano Ronaldo, so he needs to make it count.
Both sides have met each other twice in the past 8 years, with the Spaniards coming out on top both times.
Manchester City midfield sensation Bernando Silva is coming off a fantastically successful debut season in the Premier League up Pep Guardiola and is, therefore, bristling with confidence.
In a recent interview to a Spanish newspaper, Silva spoke about Spain’s top billing and high expectations. “But there is Ronaldo with us, the best player in the world and of course, irreplaceable.”
In what is only a matter of days away, Silva appears to be thrilled at the prospect of playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. “It is the ambition that sets him apart from the rest,” said the midfielder, primed to take up the mantle once CR7 relinquishes the throne.
Overlooked by his childhood favourite Benfica, Silva has finally found his calling at City. And the real possibility of sharing the stage with his captain, with the world’s eyes on them, excites him no end.
“He has five Ballon d’Ors and five Champions League titles and has spent 10 years scoring more than 40 goals a season…” Silva rallied. “That he’s managed to maintain that level gives you an idea of what he represents as a player. The majority of players with two or three Ballon d’Ors want to relax and enjoy the life but Cristiano keeps pushing himself. He’s our reference point, an example for everyone and we hope that he’s in his best form. Only if he’s good can Portugal hope to achieve big things.”
As talks of Ronaldo’s Portugal career gets annoyingly recurrent, Silva knows that when the time comes, he’s the favourite to replace Ronaldo and it’s hardly an easy task. But Silva would want to slowly slip into his shoes. if that is at all possible.
“When he wants to leave, there will be a group with a very high level and I think we can maintain that. I hope to be one of those players, I have ambition and obviously, I will give my best to help.”
Losing the “best in Portugal” is not in the forefront of Portugal’s worries right now. Challenging Andres Iniesta’s Spain, who the experts have already anointed as the team to beat, is the imminent responsibility. Both Mario and Silva, likely starters on Friday, in what will be a fanscinating first encounter of the giants.