CAPE TOWN -- After centuries of animosity, the relationship between Spain and Portugal is these days collegial, and even fraternal. The Iberian nations now rather like each other, and harmoniously collaborate, among other things, on the extinguishing of forest fires. So the atmosphere outside Cape Town's Green Point Stadium before Tuesday night's World Cup Round of 16 clash between the countries was not so much reminiscent of Texas versus Oklahoma -- and certainly not England versus Germany -- as it was of an extended family's resumption of an annual Thanksgiving touch football game. Gentle and good-natured trash-talk prevailed, and fans from both sides seemed rather fond of screaming the word "Ole!".
"The 'toro' is going to die today!" said
"We've got a good relationship, because we're neighbors," Dos Reis added. "But today, there's going to be blood."
On the other side of things was
The biggest pre-game boasters, to be fair, might have been among the thousands who donned either side's red without having a clear attachment, at least as far as their own citizenship. (Tickets to the game were on Facebook being offered for nearly twice face value -- $260 for a seat that was initially sold for $140). "All that the Portuguese are good at is making peri-peri chicken and fish and chips," said one fan who has the word "ESPANA" painted in capital letters across his forehead. Of the Portugal star
A single goal proved to be enough for Spain and for Villa, the faux-hawked striker who this season played for Valencia. Spain gradually worked away at Portugal -- in the first half alone they controlled the ball 62 percent of the time (Alargos was right) -- until finally, in the 63rd minute, Villa produced another of his brilliant strikes, releasing first a leftfooted rocket, then gathering the carom off the body of Portugal keeper
Afterwards, Spanish fans were gracious in defeat -- "Ole!"-ing quite a bit, honking their vuvuzelas enthusiastically, but not exactly rubbing it in. "Portugal plays good football, but the level is simply different," said
That, to be sure, was a sentiment on which everyone at Green Point Stadium tonight -- Portuguese, Spanish and those who love them -- could agree.