Portugal National Team

Portugal national team

A Selecao

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 9-0-1
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 4th
World Cup 2014 Finish – 1st round exit
Russia 2018 Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran)
Formation – 4-4-2
Strengths – Ronaldo power, experience
Weaknesses – lack of width, slow central defense
Major Threats – Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva

In 2004, Portugal lost the final of the European Championship, at home, to a cynical defend-and-counter Greece side. A young, shirtless Cristiano Ronaldo bawled his eyes out and was consoled by Figo. Twelve years later, though, Ronaldo was all smiles as Portugal’s cynical, strikerless 4-6-0 ambled to European glory in the least memorable of fashions.

Nani. Ricardo Quaresma. Wingers discarded by bigger clubs played key roles in that run, but, in qualifying for Russia 2018, a new nucleus has emerged. Ronaldo is of course the key player at the front, but their lopsided 4-4-2 can both keep possession and counterattack with a ruthless streak.

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Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

The FPF will expect to get to the semis at least. Portugal’s midfield has the class and right age to go far, but lacks width. The defensive unit is cohesive and experience, but the centerbacks are a step slow. The strikers are dangerous, but mercurial. The team’s European Championship was an anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated, especially with Ronaldo on the decline. The semifinals are the goal, but the quarterfinals is much more likely.


Rui Patricio has played his entire professional career for Sporting: over 300 appearances since 2006. Yet, after 12 years, he is still relatively young for a goaltender: thirty years old. Porto had a miserable season, missing out on the Champions League, but fans will hope class trumps form: Patricio was a solid presence in both the 2012 and 2016 Euros.

Cedric Soares had a tough club campaign for Southampton, with their team narrowly avoiding relegation. However, the right back played great in the 2016 Euros, including solid starts against both Croatia and France. Jose Fonte also had a rough spell for West Ham, barely surviving in the EPL, and has changed pastures for China. Still, he has played well at this level for years, and should play some attacking soccer at leftback.

Eliseu and Pepe will form the center of the defense. Pepe’s move to Besiktas has resulted in consistent playing time, but some worry his level may have dropped – he was solid as a rock in Portugal’s 2016 Euro run. Eliseu had a respectable season at Benfica, and stalwart Bruno Alves can also play if needed.

Coach Fernando Santos has a side that will bunker down, soak pressure and strike back. This defense has lots of experience and will be the bedrock of their campaign.


Portugal will rely for creativity on Joao Moutinho of Monaco and Bernard Silva of Manchester City. Silva struggled to get minutes at Citeh, but had a few memorable appearances later in the season. Monaco finished a distant second in Ligue Un to PSG, but, given their fire sale this past summer, that was good enough. Also, Moutinho appeared in 44 games and should be fit and in form for the national team.

Defensively, expect to see 26 year old Danilo Pereira of Porto and box-to-box William Carvahlo of Sporting. Sadly, Carvahlo was one of the Sporting players attacked by fans at the training grounds after the team finished third place and missed out on the Champions League.

Portugal’s midfield is tough to describe tactically – at times, all four midfielders sit narrowly in front of the defense. On attack, late surging runs by Moutinho, Carvahlo, and Silva can come at any time. The closest comparison is the England team from 2006 with Hargreaves, Scholes, Lampard, and Gerrard – a bit unorthodox and lacking in width, but still dangerous.

The x factor will be Andre Gomes who struggled for games at Barcelona and nomadic winger Ricardo Quaresma, the “next big thing” who got lost in Ronaldo’s shadow but was a key attacking sub in the 2016 Euro run.

Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva


Cristiano Ronaldo won his third consecutive Champions League final with Real Madrid and enjoyed a bit of a goalscoring resurgence this Spring, but many fear his best days are behind him. Still strong in the air and ambitious in attack, he will at the least command the respect of opposing defenses even if he lacks the first step to get separation in the 18-yard-box.

The key goalscorer for Portugal in qualifying was Andre Silva, but, after only two goals in 24 games for AC Milan, can he recapture his form for the national team? If anything, he will be short on confidence in front of goal.

GAME by GAME (v Spain, v Morocco, v Iran)

*Keys to Spain game: Portugal should expect to win their other two group stage games but the first game is a proper barn burner and this game vs. Spain will decide their first opponent in the outrounds: if the stars align and an easier path presents itself, the team still has enough quality for a semifinal run as in 2006. Can Portugal’s slow central defense avoid imploding like they did v Germany in 2014? Can the defense cope with Spain’s movement? Is Ronaldo in peak physical shape after another grueling season? If Cristiano isn’t scoring, who will?
Prediction: Spain edge the battle of the Iberians.

*Keys to Morocco game: Will they keep Hakim Ziyech quiet? Can the central defense keep Morocco’s movement contained? Will Ronaldo take advantage of any Moroccan defensive slips? Will Bernardo Silva control this matchup?
Prediction: Portugal win a close one.

*Keys to Iran game: A Selecao will meet an Iran side with a Portuguese coach who has built his side in a similar defense-first philosophy as Fernando Santos. This game could be intriguing but with Portugal needing full points to secure qualification, expect them to be the aggressors. Can they rip up the Iranian defensive structure early before it settles in? Can Ronaldo give a sparkling performance to take into the next round? Will the Portugal midfield close out Ezatolahi?
Prediction: Portugal win yet another close one.



Here’s the Portuguese Roster for Russia 2018

GOALKEEPERS (3): Anthony Lopes, Rui Patricio, Beto

DEFENDERS (8): Bruno Alves, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Ruben Dias, Ricardo Pereira, Cedric, Mario Rui

MIDFIELDERS (7): Manuel Fernandes, Adrien Silva, Bruno Fernades, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva

FORWARDS (5): Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Goncalo Guedes, Gelson Martins, Ricardo Quaresma

Piece by Elliott Turner aka Futfanatico aka Mr. Soccerman aka He Knows his shtuff, author, master of soccer tactics, frequent contributor across a host of newspapers and soccer sites across the interwebs. Engage with him at https://twitter.com/Futfanatico and be sure to check out his latest book, The Night of the Virgin!


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