Not many people expected Portugal to win the 2016 Euro Cup ahead of the likes of Germany, Spain, Italy and France. They proved the world wrong in 2016 and Fernando Santos’ team has the potential to prove them wrong yet again and win the 2018 World Cup.

Portugal will be led by their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo who has had a phenomenal second half to the 17/18 season as he helped Real Madrid win their third successive Champions League title. Although Ronaldo will lead the side, Portugal is much more than a one man army as they boast of the likes of Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho, Andre Silva and Pepe.

Portugal is in Group B alongside 2010 winners Spain, Mehdi Benatia’s Morocco and Iran. Along with Spain, they are expected to easily qualify for the knockout stages but Iran can provide a tough challenge. If Portugal finish second in the group stage, they may end up facing a strong Uruguay side in the round of 16 but they are expected to overcome them. Portugal may end up bowing out of the tournament at the hands of solitary winner France in the quarter-finals.

Portugal may not be the favorites to win the cup, but only a fool will write them off. Ever since Fernando Santos’ appointment as the head coach in 2014, Portugal has become a tough side to beat. Although they lack a spark in their midfield but with Ronaldo up top and a solid defence, they could spring a surprise or two.

23-man final squad:  

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica)

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Mario (West Ham United), Joao Moutinho (AS 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 (PSG), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

Key Players:

Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

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Cristiano Ronaldo will be key to Portugal’s chances (PHOTO: AFP)

 

 

 

 

 

Who other than their captain and star Cristiano Ronaldo? Ronaldo was instrumental for Portugal during the 2016 Euro Cup with three goals and three assists.

He is expected to be the key man for Portugal once again as he has been in scintillating form in 2018 scoring 30 goals in 25 matches. Portugal will be hoping to reap the benefits of his red hot form.

Joao Moutinho, AS Monaco 

Portugal, FIFA, world cup, Russia
Joao Moutinho was instrumental for Portugal in 2016 (PHOTO: AFP)

Moutinho has 108 caps for Portugal and is their second-most experienced player. He also played an important role in the 2016 Euro victory with his versatile passes and box-to-box play.

With Renato Sanches and Andre Silva missing from the squad, the Monaco midfielder will have to play an important role with his proficient passes and calm presence in the middle.

Pepe, Besiktas

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Pepe will be the key man for Portugal in defence (PHOTO: AFP)

Pepe is the Vice-captain of the team and has 91 caps for Portugal. He was a rock at the heart of the defence in 2016 and will be hoping to repeat the same performance.

Pepe,35, may not be his former self but the ex-Real Madrid man is still a very powerful defender. 2018 World Cup will be his last international tournament and he will hope to go out as a world champion.

Surprise Package:  

Goncalo Guedes, PSG  

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Goncalo Guedes scored two goals for Portugal against Algeria (PHOTO: AFP)

The 21-year old PSG winger spent the last season on loan at Valencia scoring five goals. He scored two goals in the friendly against Algeria and can prove to be a surprise package with his speed and trickery on the wings.

Fixtures: 

Friday, June 15: Portugal vs Spain, 11:30 PM

Wednesday, June 20: Portugal vs Morocco, 5:30 PM

Monday, June 25: Portugal vs Iran, 11:30 PM

Prediction:

Finish second in the group stage and bow out in the Quarter-finals against a strong French side.