Russia vs. Portugal
Date and Time: Wednesday, June 21, 2017, 11 a.m. ET
Location: Otkrytiye Arena, Moscow, Russia
Soccer Odds: Portugal +100, O/U 2.5
Russia vs. Portugal TV Coverage: FOX Sports 1
This is, without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest match in this tournament. All three teams figure to get all three points from New Zealand when push comes to shove, and both of these clubs know that three points in this fixture should be enough to advance into the knockout rounds.
Russia can mathematically finish the job if it can get three points, while Portugal can feel really good about itself needing just a point from its fixture against New Zealand in all likelihood to get into the semifinals.
That said, a draw is helpful for both as well. Portugal will surely feel like it can still get through with five points from this group playing against New Zealand in its last group stage match, while Russia will then be a single point away from almost certainly guaranteeing advancement against Mexico.
When Portugal won the Euros last year, it was a team that was stout in defense. Essentially, the team had no problems playing off the ball and trying to spring Cristiano Ronaldo whenever it could. It did so at times against Mexico, including spurring CR7 on for a goal that ended up being disallowed, and the end result was two goals.
There's no excuse for that not being enough to secure three points against Mexico.
Instead, Portugal's defense broke down far too often. The Mexicans managed 61 percent of the possession and cracked 11 shots, three of which got on target. That's just far too much play against a dangerous team, and if Russia is allowed anywhere near that type of possession in this one, the crowd is going to effectively become the 12th man on the field for the hosts.
Russia vs. Portugal Free Picks
Russia was bright in its opening match against New Zealand, but this is a far different match. The team will be forced to resort to more defensive tactics and try to spring some players on the counterattack, while Portugal will be forced to be more offense-minded than it has been in recent fixtures.
Still, this is dangerous for the Portuguese. They've got Nani and CR7, but they also don't have a glut of great players in the midfield, most of which were flat out abused by Mexico's midfielders over the course of the 90 minutes in the team's first match in the Confederations Cup.
Russia looks the brighter of the two teams to us right now. That brightness parlayed with the hometown crowd in Moscow on its side has us wanting to take the half ball on the Asian Handicap. The Russians have too many attacking options, including the man who looked the best on the pitch over the course of the first two days of this tournament, Fyodor Smolov, to end up being stymied for the full 90 minutes.
It's always dangerous going against Ronaldo, and we wouldn't be shocked if he puts his name on the stat sheet after failing to do so against Mexico, but we still think we'll take the half ball in a match that could end up providing a fruitful draw for both sides.
Russia vs. Portugal Soccer Pick: Russia +0.5 (-120) at BookMaker.eu
Russia vs. Portugal Score Prediction: Russia 1, Portugal 1