Image licensed from USA Today Sports
Coach: Fernando Santos
The reigning European champions will appear at the World Cup for the seventh time and this is their fifth consecutive participation in the biggest international event. Portugal’s biggest achievement to date is the third place in 1966 when they were led by the famous Eusebio, but after reaching the fourth place in Germany 2006, they disappointed in the following two World Cups. Portugal failed to make it to the Round of 16 in the previous tournament in Brazil 2014, and they are hoping to advance to the knockout stage this time around.
Portugal was drawn in the Group B together with the former champions Spain who are the biggest favorites to win the group, Morocco, and Iran, and they shouldn’t have problems making it to the next round. Portugal is currently positioned in the 4th place in the FIFA world rankings, Spain is in the 8th spot, Iran is the 36th, while Morocco is the worst ranked team in the group in the 44th position.
Aside from the superstar Cristiano Ronaldo who has most caps and is the all-time leading scorer, Portugal has one of the strongest midfields in the competition. While their defense is a bit ageing and relatively leaky, the midfield consisted of the players such as Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva, and Ruben Neves, among others, is quite talented and creative, which is crucial in feeding Ronaldo with inch-perfect passes that Real Madrid’s forward can convert into goals.
The experienced attack led by Ronaldo and with Ricardo Quaresma and Nani is playing together for more than a decade and they know each other so well, so the opposing defenses will have a lot to worry about when facing Portugal.
As I mentioned above, Portugal’s defense could create them issues as centre-backs Pepe, Bruno Alves, and Jose Fonte past their best and they have 115 years combined, so it will be hard to chase much younger strikers coming their way. Although they still have enough in the tank to compete at the highest level, I believe that Spain and even Morocco will seriously test the Portuguese, and knowing Pepe’s nasty temper, the 35-year-old could easily be provoked and receive a red card, so the discipline could be an issue for him.
To Reach Semi-Finals: +450
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +137
Group Qualifying Yes/No: -450/+333
Group Phase Matches:
Portugal’s player to watch
Cristiano Ronaldo will try to lift the World Cup trophy after winning EURO 2016 as this could be the 33-year-old last chance to do it, and there is no doubt he will be highly motivated to drive his team forward despite the critics from the start of the season. Namely, Ronaldo entered the campaign quite slowly and struggled in front of goal, so the critics labeled him as “finished”. However, CR7 responded with excellent displays in the second part of the season, and has 43 goals (15 in the Champions League) and eight assists in 42 appearances, proving that he must not be underestimated and that still has a lot to offer.
Portugal’s World Cup 2018 Prediction
I expect to see them in the Round of 16 where they should progress without issues, but it will be important for them to secure the top spot in the Group B ahead of Spain, in order to get the weaker opponents in the 1/8 finals. With France and Argentina as the most serious candidates to make it to the quarter-finals in the top half of the bracket, Portugal will have a chance to reach the semis, but in my opinion, they will not have luck as it was the case at EURO 2016, so the ¼ finals should be their maximum.