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Spain meet Portugal in one of the most-eagerly awaited encounters of the opening phase.

A draw for Spain will be good enough to secure them a place in the last eight while Portugal must win if they are not to become only the second host nation after Belgium in 2000 to fail to make it into the second phase.

There is a slim possibility that both countries could progress to the knock out stage. Should Spain lose and Russia beat Greece both Portugal and Spain could advance.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is unperturbed by his team’s poor track record against rivals Spain ahead of their vital ecisive Group A game.

In five competitive meetings Potugal have not beaten Spain, losing on three occasions and drawing the other two.

“There’s always a first time,” said Scolari.
Scolari has raised the stakes ahead of the showdown by refusing to speak to Spanish journalists.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not talking to the Spanish press,” said Scolari. “It’s a war and in wars it’s better to kill than to be killed.

“You are Spanish and I am with Portugal. Let’s keep it that way. Anything I say to you could be turned into something different.

“It’s best that we do not talk at all.”

Scolari has no injury concerns ahead of the Euro 2004 hosts’ clash with Spain on Sunday and is expected to start with team which overcame Russia in the previous game. That means no starting place for Rui Costa, who came on as a substitute to score a rare goal in the 2-0 victory.

Meanwhile, Spain’s leading striker Raul, was in confident mood ahead of the game.

“We’re optimistic,” Raul said.

“Personally, I feel confident that everything is going to work out. It will be an open game this time, with plenty of chances, and if we can take the ones that come our way we’ll go through.”

Spanish coach Inaki Saez, has pledged to go for the win tonight.

“Spain doesn’t know how to go for a draw. We will go all out for a win. we will seek to keep the ball in our possession and impose our rhythm on the match,” said Saez.

“We are in the stronger position as we have yet to lose and a draw will do for us.

“If I were Scolari I would not be feeling too calm about things. I would not like to be in his shoes,” Saez crowed.

“Portugal will have to go all out for goals. One side has to win and the other just needs a draw.”

Spain coach Inaki Saez has made several changes, bringing in promising striker Fernando Torres up front in place of Morientes, while Joaquin, an impressive second half substitute against Greece replaces Etxeberria on the wing, and Juanito Gutierrez comes in for the suspended Marchena in defence. There is also a starting place for Real Sociedad midfielder Xabi Alonso, who comes in for Ruben Baraja.

Probable teams:

Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel, Jorge Andrade, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Maniche, Costinha, Luis Figo, Deco, Simao Sabrosa, Pauleta.

Spain:Casillas, Puyol, Gutierrez, Helguera, Bravo, Albelda, Alonso, Sanchez, Raul, Rodriguez, Torres.

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden)

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