New Zealand vs. Portugal
Date and Time: Saturday, June 24, 2017, 11 a.m. ET
Location: Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Soccer Odds: Portugal -1100, O/U 3.5
New Zealand vs. Portugal TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
The Portuguese have to be on Cloud Nine right now. They were able to see off a tough match with the Russians to snare three crucial points, and that now puts them in a position where even just a draw against the Kiwis will guarantee advancement. If all else fails, a Mexico win over Russia would accomplish the same goal.
The Portugal team that beat Russia on Tuesday night in Moscow wasn't great. Cristiano Ronaldo looked like the CR7 we're used to seeing, and the rest of the team was merely pretty good. Pretty good was good enough to draw against the Mexicans and take three points from the Russians though, and that would surely be good enough to get all three points from this affair as well.
New Zealand has already been eliminated from the Confederations Cup, but it surely can't be accused of playing without any spirit. The team took a 1-0 lead over Mexico on Tuesday night in stunning fashion, though Chris Wood's 42nd minute strike was canceled out just a dozen minutes later by Raul Jimenez.
Still, the Kiwis aren't going to lay down and die against the European champs even though this is their last match before leaving Russia. They have fought their butts off and have come awfully close time and again to finding the back of the net. They just don't quite have the skill in the final third to hit the target on difficult services, and that has proven to be the ultimate problem.
Matchup To Watch
It really is the back four (or if you will, the back six) against Ronaldo. We know what CR7 is capable of when his mind is right. It didn't show against Mexico, but he was a different man against Russia, creating opportunities and making it look incredibly easy even with every defender's eyes fixated on him.
Michael Boxall, Tommy Smith and Andrew Durante are really fighting hard and are sticking up for each other as well as they can, but in the end, they've been overmatched by top strikers, leaving Stefan Marinovic relatively open in net.
The bottom line is if Ronaldo wants to bag a brace, he'd probably do it in this one even with the whole New Zealand team watching his every move. But if the Kiwis show that same fighting spirit they did against Mexico, they could find a way to at least somewhat neutralize his abilities and keep this match interesting.
New Zealand vs. Portugal Free Picks
We aren't doubting the fact that Portugal is going to win this match. We suspect we're going to see another relatively early goal, most likely from Ronaldo. That said, we aren't sure what Portugal's motivation is going to be at that point. The team should be a lot more focused on playing against most likely either Chile or Germany in the semifinals of this event than finishing off the Kiwis, especially since they'd have a goal of support on their side knowing that the draw is an escape route as well.
Given the options, we'd take the 2.5-goals on the Asian Handicap. You just never know if the All Whites are going to figure out how to get one through, and if they do, we just can't see the motivation for Portugal to even try to bag four.
New Zealand vs. Portugal Soccer Pick: New Zealand +2.5 at BookMaker.eu
New Zealand vs. Portugal Score Prediction: Portugal 2, New Zealand 1