Sport Soccer

Sunday 19 November 2017

Spanish feeling let down by Portugal

Pete Jensen

FROM the three-quarters empty Estadio da Luz in Lisbon for the Portugal v Spain friendly two weeks ago, to the minimal airtime and column inches in yesterday's media, the Spanish remain fairly underwhelmed by their country's bid to co-host the 2018 World Cup finals.

The muted interest in today's vote, however, does not reflect pessimism over the Spain-Portugal bid's chances. Most Spaniards believe their country can host the tournament in eight years' time.

It is the proposal with the most stadiums (21) and the one that will have to spend the least amount of money to build or update its grounds.

The spectacular variety of the Iberian peninsula will be the biggest selling point of today's presentation in Zurich, coupled with the ease at which, courtesy of high-speed rail links, supporters would be able to travel.

However, there is a simmering sense that Portugal has let Spain down somewhat. First with that crowd of under 25,000 for the friendly between the two countries in Lisbon, and now with the absence in Switzerland today of its two biggest sporting celebrities, Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid coach -- who is listed as a bid ambassador but has played a low-key role in the campaign -- and Cristiano Ronaldo, who is receiving treatment for an ankle injury picked up in Real's 5-0 defeat to Barcelona on Monday.

Spain could have gone it alone, avoiding Fifa's reservations about joint bids, but Portugal are with them for two reasons.

It was their idea in 2008 to push for the tournament and once Spain recognised the potential handicap of having staged the tournament as recently as 1982, linking up with a country that has never hosted a finals seemed a good idea.

This afternoon they will find out whether it was. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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