“Não Somos 11, Somos 11 milhões!”
“We are not 11, We are 11 Million!”
That was the slogan of the Portuguese national team as they went into the Euro 2016 competition. They were considered nowhere near to appear in the quarter-final, let alone be the champions of Europe after their abysmal performance in the group stages. However, they went past all their opponents to make it into the finals, setting up a draw against the firm favourites France and the rest is history.
Glory reckons them once again as the Portuguese national team, led by their talismanic skipper Cristiano Ronaldo, will be looking to take on the world this time as they go into the mother of all tournaments, the FIFA Football World Cup 2018. The stage has been set in Russia this summer and it is expected that the Navigators will once again come out on the pitch to challenge the best in the business and hope to enter the knockout rounds.
However, Fernando Santos’ men, this time as well, are not being considered to go all the way to the end of the tournament. It is not that the team lacks good players who are able to change the complexion of the game with one good outing on the pitch but still, even the biggest of their supporters are not looking confident enough to bet on their side and see them stand on the winner’s podium on the 15th of July in Moscow.
Portugal have a decent side this time, having a mixture of both youth and experience. However, surprise exclusions, which includes the likes of Ruben Neves and Joao Cancelo, who have played an important role for their respective club sides, Wolves and Inter Milan, to achieve significant results in the last season, are sure to make this Portuguese side weaker.
Neves showed his true potential for the English Championship winners, Wolves, as he mastered the midfield for the Wanderers and also chipped in with a number of goals, including an incredible long ranger against Derby County, which won the Goal of The Season award. The player has been one of the best midfielders in English football last season and his presence of mind and tenacity has earned rave reviews from a number of experts. However, probably Santos had other plans in his mind while selecting the team for the World Cup but one can surely say that Neves’ inclusion could have given Portugal an added advantage over their opponents.
However, the Portuguese team have a number of players, both young and experienced, who can make the difference for their side on their days. Andre Silva, Gonçalo Guedes, Gelson Martins, Bernardo Silva and not to forget Cristiano Ronaldo himself, can be lethal enough to give even the best defenders a run for their money.
Fernando Santos, with the strength he has at his disposal, can use the 4-1-2-1-2 formation to good effect. Using Bernardo Silva from the start might be a matter of dilemma for the manager, with Ricardo Quaresma available to play at the same position as well. If he uses the aforementioned formation, he can accommodate both the players in the side at the same time with Silva playing in the attacking midfielder role right behind the two strikers.
Guedes should be the one to lead the line with Ronaldo as the youngster has shown his attacking pedigree throughout the last season as well as in the qualifiers and warm-up matches. Andre Silva could be a good option coming off the bench.
Rui Patricio, Raphaël Guerreiro, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Cedric Soares, William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes, Ricardo Quaresma, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Goncalo Guedes.
There is no doubt that the Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo will be the one on whom the fulcrum of success and failure will depend upon for Portugal. However, a number of other players in the form of Guedes, Bernardo and Andre Silva will also have a crucial role to play for the Navigators in the offence while a lot will depend on Pepe, Fonte and Carvalho in the defensive lineup.
The slogan at the start of this piece shows that how much the Portuguese team depends on their faithful for their success. But that support might not be everything this time around as the reigning European champions will have to prove their mettle at the highest level once again. Portugal has the potential to make it to the knockout stages and even into the quarterfinals, however, seeing them in the final will be the ultimate dream of every Portugal fan in the world.
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