Portugal hoping Irish luck runs out
The Republic of Ireland are a thorn in Portugal’s side, having won one and drawn two of their previous three encounters with the Iberian team. Despite this, the Navigators still hold the historical head-to-head record, with six victories compared to the Republic’s four.
Paulo Bento’s side, 5/2 to draw for a third time against the Republic, face fitness questions over captain Cristiano Ronaldo and centre back Pepe, but it appears likely that the Real Madrid pair will feature at some point.
The former Sporting Lisbon boss will have to weigh up whether to risk the duo, who have missed the last two World Cup warm-ups, ahead of their opening game in Brazil against Germany, where they are 9/4 to win Group G outright.
This final warm-up fixture against Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green would provide an excellent chance to test out a full strength side before the tournament begins.
Bento’s boys could benefit from a brief reminder of Ronaldo’s brilliance, after lacklustre displays in his absence. In their past two outings, the Navigators drew a blank in a stalemate with Greece, and only managed to eke out a 1-0 victory against Mexico in the third minute of stoppage time, when Bruno Alves headed home a winner.
With or without Ronaldo, who has scored six of the Navigators last 10 goals, Portugal are 4/7 to steal a memorable victory against a stubborn side, and head off to Brazil on a high.
Finding himself the sole Premier League representative in Portugal’s squad, Manchester United winger Nani is 15/8 to score anytime, and place himself in the shop window amid long-standing rumours of interest from several Serie A clubs.
He endured a disappointing season at the Red Devils, only netting twice in 18 appearances, in a campaign yet again riddled with injury.
Compatriot Fabio Coentrao almost joined the wideman at Old Trafford last term, narrowly missing out on a deadline day switch to United as the transfer window slammed shut, before eventually staying put at Real Madrid.
It proved to be a stroke of Irish luck, as the flying full back brought home a Champions League winners medal, whilst United languished in seventh in the Premier League.
O’Neill’s troops are hoping all the Navigators star men are fit to start, as they prepare to test themselves ahead of summer spent on the sidelines, with their fans left watching the World Cup from the Emerald Isle.
The Republic’s Boys in Green have much to prove following their failure to qualify, and face Ronaldo and co in uninspiring form, having drawn three and lost two of their previous five fixtures.
Stoke forward Jon Walters will be available for selection, a mere week after being hospitalised with a virus, which will be a welcome boost for O’Neill.
He will join former Liverpool and Tottenham striker Robbie Keane in vying for a striking spot. The LA Galaxy attacker is 7/1 to be first, or last, scorer in this potentially feisty friendly.
The Republic are 6/1 to shock Bento’s boys and continue their recent run of luck against Portugal. However, the side are still missing impressive Everton teammates James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman, in addition to the experience of Sunderland skipper man John O’Shea.