Soccer

Spain beat Portugal to top Nations League Group as Cristiano Ronaldo’s struggles continue ahead of World Cup

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Spain beat Portugal 1-0 in Braga on Tuesday to finish top of UEFA Nations League A Group 2 with Alvaro Morata’s late goal the difference. Luis Enrique’s men left it late as Nico Williams teed up the Atletico Madrid man to secure the win which moves La Roja above Fernando Santos’ side and into the final phase. By no means a classic, it had looked as if the Portuguese had done enough to secure top spot with a goalless draw until the Spaniards nipped it at the death and now both will turn their attention to Qatar.

We look at how both are shaping up ahead of the FIFA World Cup.

Ronaldo worry

The main issue for Portugal remains Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of minutes at club level and his continued importance internationally. Put simply, the Portuguese will struggle to tap into their quality unless the Manchester United man can return to some semblance of form which appears unlikely at present. The veteran talisman contributed one assist this international period which is painfully little compared with his usual reliable rates, so Santos truly has a dilemma heading to Qatar with some fantastic talent waiting for their chance in his place.

Spanish youth movement excites

Enrique’s Spanish revolution continues apace with his young guns earning a berth in the latter stages after ultimately finding the killer instinct necessary to down Portugal. It might not be enough to get excited about their title chances yet and so much does still rely on Morata consistently finishing his chances, but this is tangible progress now ahead what promises to be a tricky Group E with Germany, Japan, and Costa Rica.

Two World Cup underdogs

Despite the result and considering Portugal’s reasonably favorable group, neither of these two will rank among the favorites for now. Defending champions France possess the talent to overlook their form issues while Brazil and Argentina look very strong from the non-European contenders. You can never rule out teams with the pedigree that Portugal and Spain boast but based on this evidence, neither are sure bets to advance much further than just after the group stage.



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