New Zealand v Portugal
Saturday June 24, 16:00
Live on ITV 4
New Zealand are set to miss out on a semi-final spot, after losing both of their opening fixtures. Although they were pretty abject against Russia in a 2-0 loss, they were much better in a 2-1 reverse against Mexico. Time and time again, the All Whites found space in the box against El Tri, but the profligate finishing of their central striker Chris Wood proved costly. At the other end, New Zealand really struggled to contain Mexican wingers Jurgen Damm and Javier Aquino, and ultimately they conceded two second-half goals which swung the match away from them.
Portugal have steadily improved. They carelessly conceded a late equaliser against Mexico in a 2-2 draw, but tightened up against Russia, and didn't make the same mistake in a 1-0 victory. Given that the European champions now only need a point to reach the semis, coach Fernando Santos is expected to shuffle his pack. Although captain and talisman Cristiano Ronaldo continues to play at a high level after a Herculean effort in this campaign, he seems likely to be rested ahead of the knockout phase.
Although I was burned last time I previewed a New Zealand match, I'm persisting with the same strategy. Portugal are priced at [1.9] to win both halves on the Sportsbook, and as game as New Zealand are, they should be outclassed by even a slightly weakened Portugal side. New AC Milan signing Andre Silva is likely to deputise for Ronaldo, and the likes of Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Bernardo Silva make for an excellent supporting cast.
Back Portugal to win both halves at [1.9] (Sportsbook)