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Monday, November 28, 2022

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Key players, injuries, tactics & tournament prediction

Portugal head to the World Cup in the hope of putting Cristiano Ronaldo in the headlines for the right reasons and lifting the famous golden trophy.

Ronaldo’s self-inflicted media circus has only ramped up the pressure on the Selecao, who are heading to their eighth World Cup in the hope of reaching the final for the first time and making history.

Here’s what to expect from Portugal at the World Cup.

Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), Jose Sa (Wolves), Rui Patricio (Roma)

Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Danilo Pereira (PSG), Pepe (Porto), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Nuno Mendes (PSG), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)

Midfielders: Joao Palhinha (Fulham), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Mario (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolves), Otavio Monteiro (Porto), Vitinha (PSG), William Carvalho (Real Betis)

Forwards: Andre Silva (RB Leipzig), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid), Rafael Leao (AC Milan), Ricardo Horta (Braga)

Portugal have endured a number of significant injuries over the past few months that have dashed the hopes of some high-profile players.

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota looked to have overcome a hamstring injury in time for the tournament, but he picked up a calf problem in October which forced him onto the sidelines alongside Pedro Neto (ankle) and Ricardo Pereira (Achilles).

Bernardo Silva

Silva will be key / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Bernardo Silva

Manchester City playmaker Bernardo Silva is among the best players on the planet and will undoubtedly have a key role to play if Portugal are to get anywhere this winter. He has 24 assists in 72 caps, including three in his last five games.

Rafael Leao

Serie A’s MVP and a big-money target for Chelsea, Leao has quickly emerged as an elite forward capable of causing havoc from the left wing. He’s still a relative newcomer on the international scene with just 11 caps to his name but he’ll likely get plenty of minutes due to Jota’s absence.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Whether Ronaldo is actually one of Portugal’s best players is up for debate these days, but there’s no denying that the 37-year-old has the ability to win any game on his own when he’s really up for it. He’s the record goalscorer for men’s international football and will hope to pull further away atop the standings.

Bruno Fernandes

Ronaldo’s Manchester United teammate, Fernandes arrives at the World Cup in good spirits following his club side’s resurgence. He has nine goals and eight assists for his country to his name and will expect to hit double-figures for both by the time the tournament is over.

Fernando Santos has favoured the 4-3-3 formation recently, showing more of an attacking push compared to his 4-1-4-1 side from 2021.

Portugal predicted XI (4-3-3): Costa; Cancelo, Dias, Danilo, Mendes; Palhinha, Neves, Fernandes; Silva, Ronaldo, Leao.

Harry Symeou hosts Toby Cudworth & Jack Gallagher to look back on Germany ’06 as part of the ‘Our World Cups’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download the episode in full!

Portugal have had an impressive 2022 but it hasn’t always been possible to predict what you’re going to get from them.

They drew 1-1 with Spain on enemy soil before losing the return fixture at home, while they also thumped Switzerland 4-0 before losing to the same team just one week later.

Santos’ side can clearly beat anybody on their day, but if they don’t get all the pieces together, they’re beatable.

Portugal’s last five results (all competitions)

Portugal 4-0 Switzerland
Portugal 2-0 Czech Republic
Switzerland 1-0 Portugal
Czech Republic 0-4 Portugal
Portugal 1-0 Spain

Portugal might be the biggest name in Group H but whether they’re the top team is unclear. They’ve been drawn alongside a very tough Uruguay side who will have absolutely no fear in their attempts to top the group.

If they qualify from their group as expected, they’re likely facing one of Brazil or Switzerland, who should finish in that order in Group G. To avoid Brazil, Portugal will probably have to win their group, which won’t be easy.

Even if Santos’ men do come top and draw Switzerland, their recent form proves they can come unstuck against the Swiss. It’s tough to back them going too far.

Prediction: Last 16

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