Spain vs Portugal match report


Group stage clashes between two powerhouse teams expected to go far can often lead to dull affairs. Both sides content to play out a cagey encounter as they feel their way into the tournament and perhaps meet each other further down the road.

On this night however, it was left to Spain and Portugal to play out a six-goal thriller in Sochi.

You could be forgiven if you forgot that there was still a game of football to be played with all the hoopla surrounding 2010 World Cup winners was about their decision to sack Julen Lopetegui and replace him with Fernando Hierro on the eve of the tournament.

Regardless of who’s side you are on in the fight between club and country, the Spanish Football Federation made their stance clear; that they would be bullied by Spain’s two biggest clubs no longer.

On the field, Portugal rescued a deserved draw and helped bring the World Cup to life in a pulsating 3-3 stalemate inside the Fisht Olympic Stadium.

Cristiano Ronaldo, always one to leave his mark on any football match, was at his ruthless best, scoring a hattrick. Meanwhile, for Spain, Diego Costa was also at his optimum, bagging a brace, and Nacho added a thunderous third while Isco sprinkled the occasion with stardust.

Ronaldo began proceedings with a third minute penalty after he took a tumble following a Nacho challenge.

Diego Costa equalised with a remarkable show of strength and determination. Sergio Busquets sent a long ball into his path, Costa won an aerial battle with Pepe before bearing down on goal and shimmying past Jose Fonte and Raphael Guerreiro. He then let loose with a low drive into the bottom corner, beating Rui Patricio.

Isco was a wristband buzz away from giving his country the lead after sending a crashing drive off the crossbar and bouncing on the line. The Real Madrid midfielder protested only to be told by referee Gianluca Rocchi the ball did not cross the line, gesturing to his watch.

Spain’s playmaker was menacing in the first half effortlessly drifting between Portugal’s midfield and defence and playing smart passes to open opportunities for himself and his teammates.

On stroke of half time the Real Madrid forward nudged the European Champions ahead once more when his rather tame shot squirmed past David De Gea in the Spanish goal. For a goalkeeper in the conversation as being the best in the world the moment was one more befitting of his first season with Manchester United than the unstoppable force he has since become.

Shortly after half time the game jolted back into life and Costa brought Spain level once more. A goal that is not usually in the playbook of La Roja, David Silva and Isco wonderfully executed a free-kick and clipped a smart ball to the back post. Serigo Busquets headed the ball back across goal for the former Chelsea striker to bundle into the back of the net and even the game at two apiece.

Just before the hour Nacho made amends for his error which gave Portugal the penalty. Once more it was the intricate play of Isco and David Silva. The cross came to nothing and a seemingly innocuous clearance came bouncing towards the Real Madrid defender who send a right-footed rocket from 22 yards crashing into the post before nestling into the bottom corner.

In a clash featuring some of the best strikers of a ball in the world it was a hit that any of those would have been proud of.

While chances have been at a premium in the early games of the World Cup there were no such problems in this contest. Andreas Iniesta flashed an effort agonisingly wide, which was not befitting of the majestic build up play which led to the chance.

Costa could have had his hattrick with 20 minutes left but scuffed his shot wide of the target.

The night was drawing to an exhausting close but there was still time for Ronaldo to have the final say on the game, like he has done with so many before. Brought down 25 yards away from the goal the five-time Ballon d’Or winner pulled his shorts up to reveal the powerful legs tasked with the responsibility of earning a well-deserved point.

A vintage run up followed before he delicately curled the ball into De Gea’s net. The Spanish shot stopper did not even attempt to save the effort and the Portugal captain wheeled away knowing he had the final word yet again.


Five potential replacements for Mesut Ozil


Mesut Ozil’s future at Arsenal is just as unclear as fellow teammate Alexis Sanchez and manager Arsene Wenger. The German playmaker has been linked with moves to Turkey as well as a return to his homeland and even Manchester United have reportedly expressed and interest, which would bring with it a reunion with former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.


Should Ozil leave Arsenal in the summer here are five potential replacements for the classy creator:



Mario Gotze

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Cost: £30m – £40m

Currently out injured with a metabolism problem, the scorer of the goal which crowned Germany world champions has many hallmarks of Ozil. Gotze is classy with a deft touch and the ability to spot passes which slice open opposition defences. Another hallmark he shares with his fellow German is his consistency – or lack of as it may be. Gotze failed to impress during his spell at Bayern Munich which lead to a reunion with Dortmund.


However, the German would offer almost a like for like replacement for Ozil. With the 24-year-old also keen to play in the Premier League he may well be wooed by Arsenal should they express and interest in the playmaker.



Ivan Rakitic

Club: Barcelona

Cost: £35m – £50m

The Croatian wizard made Barcelona tick in his early days at the Catalan giants but has since been wildly inconsistent and has fallen out of favour with Barca boss Luis Enrique. Rakitic offered a replacement for long-time metronome Xavi in the heart of the Barcelona midfield along with Andreas Iniesta. That alone speaks to how highly the former Sevilla man is rated.


Rakitic has been deployed in a deeper role in Spain but could easily push up the field and influence attacking play more. Arsenal is a club with many similarities to the Spanish powerhouses in terms of their style of play which would suit the Croat perfectly. His elusiveness in between the lines and vision often leaves defenders scrambling and attacking players licking their chops at the service he provides.


Rakitic may prove costly but with his pedigree at the top level he would almost certainly be worth the large outlay and with Arsenal making noises that they are ready to throw the kitchen sink at the Premier League next season they may be able to tempt the Barcelona midfielder to London.



Bernardo Silva

Club: Monaco

Cost: £55m – £75m

This guy is going to cost an awful lot. Silva is being courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and a bidding war could soon ensue.


With Leonardo Jardim’s side in vogue with young, exciting players strutting their stuff in both domestic and continental competition, Silva is just one of a handful of sort after players.


A classic number ten Silva has been highly praised by former Portugal great Deco, who believes the former Benfica product can be one of the world’s best. With the ability carve open a defence with his combination of exception dribbling and passing the young superstar is a difference maker for his current employers. If Manchester United, Real Madrid and other have their way he will soon be a difference maker for them, too.


The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker has scored six goals to date as well as contributing seven assists this campaign as Monaco continue their charge towards the title.


Perhaps a wildcard for Arsenal with them no longer mentioned in the bracket of elite clubs when talking about Europe’s brightest youngsters going elsewhere. However, if they are willing to bid an extraordinary amount and pay the youngster extraordinary wages then they may just get their man.



Riyad Mahrez

Club: Leicester City

Cost: £35m – £48m

The Algerian made noises at the end of last season that he wanted to make the step up from The Foxes. However, then manager Claudio Ranieri convinced the playmaker to stay at least one more season to spur Leicester on their maiden Champions League campaign.


While the English champions have surprised many with their run to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite club competition, their form in the league has been dismal – costing Ranieri his job. Mahrez has often looked disinterested during Leicester’s faltering title defence which could be cause for concern for any club interested in the Algerian’s services. However, much like Ozil, his ability should see perspective buyers overlook some of his inconsistencies.


At the start of the season Arsenal expressed an interest in the Algerian playmaker, as well as Barcelona, and it seemed to have turned his head. Should Mahrez leave the champions this summer he could well be a replacement for Ozil.


Mahrez is already acclimatised to the Premier League way of playing, technically gifted and with an eye for goal – as displayed during Leicester’s title run he may offer a slight upgrade over Ozil, who is often criticised for his lack of goals for Arsenal.


The 26-year-old has certainly see his stock drop from where it was this time last year. Leicester may not be able to command the same fee for the playmaker as they perhaps could have 12 months ago but would still get a handsome amount for their star player. Arsenal would probably be willing to pay the £45m it would take to acquire the Algerian.




Club: Real Madrid

Cost: £25m – £35m


The Real Madrid misfit looks set to leave the Spanish capital this summer with a number of potential suitors trailing the former Malaga midfielder. Falling behind Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the pecking order for manager Zinadine Zidane the frustrated Isco is desperate for first team action.


Arsenal would offer the diminutive Spaniard a chance to start games with a void left by Ozil as well as experience the Premier League and – perhaps – be part of a rebuilding process at The Emirates should Arsene Wenger leave the Gunners in the summer, or even if he stays.


Isco was heavily linked to Manchester City in 2013 before being tempted to Madrid. Clearly the Spanish international is open to plying his trade in England.


Isco may have his inconsistencies but that could be put down to him not getting a run of games in the Madrid team. What is clear, is that when he is on his game he beautifully links defence to attack and can open pick the killer pass which results in a goal.


His style of play is very comparable of fellow Spaniard David Silva. If he could replicate anywhere near the standards Silva has set in England then he shall be very well received indeed by Arsenal fans.


Weight of pass in the modern game is often overlooked but Isco has the class and technique to perfectly pick out runners without them having the break stride before firing into the back of the net.


The price tag may start to rise with rumours circulating that even Barcelona are looking to prize Isco away from their bitter rivals. Arsenal are certainly in the mix, however. A tug-of-war for the 24-year-old’s signature is a likely outcome – in the past Arsenal have often fallen away when the bidding wars start. They did manage to outmuscle Liverpool for the signature of Alexis Sanchez however, so perhaps the Arsenal hierarchy are no longer afraid to go toe-to-toe with other clubs to get their man.