International Football

Ronaldo and Fati in focus as Portugal-Spain hits 40

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates after scoring
© Getty Images
  • Portugal and Spain face off today in Lisbon
  • The Iberian rivals have enjoyed some memorable meetings in the past
  • Cristiano Ronaldo and Ansu Fati are among the players to watch

Portugal and Spain are preparing to face off for the 40th time in their history. A Seleçao das Quinas will host their Spanish opponents at Lisbon’s Estadio Jose Alvalade for the latest edition of a derby in which sparks frequently fly.

To date, Spain have enjoyed 17 wins to Portugal’s eight (scoring 78 goals to the latter’s 47) with another 14 fixtures ending all square. Of all these meetings, only two took place at the FIFA World Cup™: the first in 2010, when La Roja triumphed 3-0 in the Round of 16, and the second in 2018, where the pair played out an unforgettable 3-3 draw at the group stage.

David Villa of Spain scores his side's first goal past Eduardo of Portugal
© Getty Images

World Cup matches

Portugal 0-1 Spain

🗓 29 June 2010
📍 Cape Town, South Africa
💥 Round of 16

The Seleçao das Quinas came second in their group behind Brazil courtesy of a 7-0 rout of Korea DPR and 0-0 draws against Côte d’Ivoire and Brazil. For their part, La Roja started poorly with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland before bouncing back up with a 2-0 defeat of Honduras and a 2-1 triumph over Chile to top their section. In the Round of 16, it took Vincente del Bosque’s men until the 63rd minute to break the deadlock.

The importance of David Villa’s strike cannot be underestimated, as it not only sent La Roja through to the quarter-finals but put them on course for a maiden world title less than two weeks later.

Portugal 3-3 Spain

🗓 15 June 2018
📍 Sochi, Russia
💥 Group stage

Eight years after that confrontation, the pair crossed swords again at a FIFA World Cup in their opening group game in Russia. Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring from the spot after just four minutes before Diego Costa levelled things up with a fine individual effort on 24 minutes. Just before the break Ronaldo restored Portugal’s advantage when De Gea fumbled his low strike. Ten minutes after the restart, Costa levelled again, before team-mate Nacho fired them into the lead with a with a fizzing half-volley just three minutes later.

But Cristiano Ronaldo was not quite finished and completed his hat-trick with an exquisite free-kick in the 88th minute. After subsequent games against IR Iran and Morocco, the pair secured the top two places in Group B and berths in the last 16. However, that was as good as it got for both teams, with Portugal then eliminated by Uruguay (2-1) and Spain suffering a similar fate at the hands of Russia in a penalty shoot-out.

An icon and a rising star

Although the 40th edition of the Iberian derby is only a friendly, there is still plenty at stake for both sides.

After scoring his 100th and 101st goals for Portugal last month against Sweden, in the process becoming only the second player to reach the century mark in international men’s football, Cristiano Ronaldo will be hoping to continue his streak and get a little closer to the record held by Ali Daei. The former Iranian striker found the net 109 times with his national team, meaning the Portuguese megastar is now just eight shy of equalling this phenomenal achievement.

From 2013 until last month, goalkeeper Anthony Lopes had watched 40 Portuguese internationals from the bench and only made seven starts, all in friendlies. However, coach Fernando Santos finally seems ready to offer him a leading role. The Lyon shot-stopper started his country’s two UEFA Nations League fixtures in September and looks set to retain the No.1 jersey.

Ansu Fati

In scoring against Ukraine in the Nations League last month, Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in La Roja’s history. At just 17 years and 311 days, he broke the record of Juan Errazquin (18 years and 344 days), who grabbed a hat-trick on his Spain debut in June 1925. If given another opportunity, the Barcelona starlet will be keen to prove that he represents the future of the Spanish team.

Born to Malian parents in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat in Spain, Adama Traore came through Barcelona’s famed Masia academy while representing Spain at various youth levels. The 24-year-old was set to make his Roja debut in November 2019 but had to pull out because of injury. Then in August this year, he was again called up to the squad only to withdraw after contracting COVID-19. Ahead of this week’s friendlies, Traore was called up by both Spain and Mali. Having finally opted for Spain, the Wolverhampton Wanderers player will be anxious to show his fans that it was the correct decision.

Both teams have had players moving clubs in recent weeks. Among the Portuguese ranks, Ruben Dias has just joined Manchester City, Nelson Semedo has gone to Wolves, and Danilo Pereira has just signed for PSG. On the Spanish side, Diego Llorente and Rodrigo have joined Leeds United, Sergio Reguilon has left for Tottenham, and Ferran Torres has opted for Pep Guardiola’s Citizens. All seven will be out to remind their new clubs that they did the right thing in buying them.

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