World Cup Preview – Portugal
Best WC Performance: Third Place – 1966
Current World Ranking – 4
After a Golden generation of Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Ricardo Carvalho and others had come and gone, many predicted Portugal would return to mediocrity on the world stage. We were wrong.
A Selecao das Quinas shocked the world by ruining France’s party at Euro 2016, securing their first major trophy in the process.
Aside from a debut third place finish in 1966, Portugal’s success lies almost entirely in the last 30 years. They have only qualified for 6 world cups since, and only for consecutive tournaments since 2002.
They’ve developed a knack for overperforming at tournaments, reaching the quarter finals in seven of the last ten World and European Championships, despite being a relatively small nation.
This includes the home Euro 2004, where they were stunned by minnows Greece in the final. Having done the exact same to France two years ago, Ronaldo and co. will be hungry for more silverware.
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon).
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Roma), Nelson Semedo Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica).
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Mario (Inter Milan), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon).
Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia) Paulinho Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas).
Vs Spain 19:00 15.06.18 Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
Vs Morocco 13:00 20.06.18 Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
Vs Iran 19:00 25.06.17 Mordovia Arena, Saransk
Manager – Fernando Santos
Few in Portugal regard Fernando Santos as anything other than a God. After several semi-finals and near misses, the 63-year-old guided an ageing squad to glory at Euro 2016.
Santos was hired immediately after the 2014 world cup, following a disappointing group stage exit. At that same tournament, he led Greece to the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
Before moving into international football, Santos had trophy-laden spells at clubs across Europe as a manager, having also played as a defender in Portugal during the 70s and 80s.
Drawn alongside Andorra, the Faroe Islands, Latvia, Hungary and Switzerland, from the off it was clear that it would be the Swiss who provided the only opposition to Portugal.
Both teams won every fixture they played against the others and ultimately, it came down to the final game of the group; between the two.
A win for Portugal would send them through, while any other result would leave them in second. Portugal won the tense affair 2-0, sparking jubilant scenes in Lisbon and condemning Switzerland to the play-offs.
The Euro 2016 champions conceded only four goals throughout their 10 fixtures, and managed an impressive tally of 32 goals scored. Between them, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andre Silva scored 24 of them (15 and 9), with Ronaldo second only to Robert Lewandowski in UEFA qualifying.
Captain – Cristiano Ronaldo
The GOAT? Cristiano Ronaldo will move past 150 caps this summer, having been national team captain since 2008.
The Real Madrid man holds countless records at club and international level, and is third in the list of all time international goals, with 81.
After a slow start to 2017/18, Ronaldo hit back with a trademark purple patch after Christmas, driving a misfiring Madrid outfit to a third consecutive Champions League final.
The World Cup is a glaring hole in his trophy cabinet and at 33, it is very possible that this will be his final shot.
Danger man – Andre Silva
The obvious choice is Ronaldo, but having written about him above, this nod will go Andre Silva.
Having secured a big money move to AC Milan last summer, Andre Silva has found Serie A hard to adjust to. The same cannot be said of international football.
Despite bagging only two league goals this season, 22-year-old Silva has 11 goals in 20 appearances for Portugal, and will lead the attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
It may be early in his career, but there is a lot of media hype in Portugal, describing Silva as the future of the national side.
Premier League Players
The Premier League is well represented in the Portugal squad this summer. Cedric Soares, Bernardo Silva and Adrien Silva are joined by West Ham loanee Joao Mario.
Elsewhere, Jose Fonte, Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma all have Premier League experience under their belts.
Jose Fonte is the only player currently playing outside Europe, while Bruno Alves plies his trade north of the English border, with Rangers.
Soon to be Premier League Ruben Neves, can count himself unlucky to be cut from the final 23, but will surely feature in Portugal’s midfield in future tournaments.
On the face of things, this group should be a simple affair. No one will realistically expect anyone other than Spain or Portugal to progress, but the order in which they do remains far more challenging to predict.
The two Mediterranean nations face off in their tournament opener on June 15th, knowing a victory will almost certainly mean they will top the group.
Iran and Morocco could spring a surprise, but over the course of the three games the quality of the European sides will surely shine through.
In the round of 16, both Portugal and Spain will be licking their lips at the prospect of facing the survivors from Group A, knowing form and rankings are on their side.
Written by Sam Hanys.