Portugal and the 2018 World Cup

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The Portuguese players celebrate scoring during the FIFA World Cup 2018 Qualifying Round match between Hungary and Portugal at Groupama Arena in Budapest, Hungary on September 3, 2017 (Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Portugal have been playing inspired football ever since Euro 2016, and now the nation is wondering if Cristiano Ronaldo and the Selecção have it in them to win the World Cup next summer. The squad contains top players from clubs all over the world in every position, and its depth is quite impressive. Led by arguably the greatest goalscorer on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo, the team is ready to show that they have what it takes.

Portugal have risen up to number third in the FIFA World Rankings, behind Germany and Brazil, and they need two wins from their final two qualifying fixtures to ensure that they will be at the World Cup finals in Russia. An away match at Andorra should not present a problem, but their final match is against a tough Switzerland side, who beat them 2-0 in the reverse fixture, in Lisbon. Home advantage, however, means that they should have too much for their opponents.

Can Portugal win the World Cup?

The Squad

Portugal are well-catered for in terms of goalkeepers.Rui Patrício has served reliably for years now, and is still in his prime. The 29-year-old shot-stopper has been the first-choice for Sporting Lisbon since 2007 and has 66 international appearances, making him one of the country’s veterans. Other options to back him up include Anthony Lopes from Lyon and Bruno Varela from Benfica.

They have several solid centre-backs in their ranks, but their age may present a problem. By the start of the World Cup, Jose Fonté will be 34, Pepe will be 35, and Bruno Alves will be 36. Matching up against speedy, younger strikers will perhaps be a tough task. Experience, however, always proves to be important and this group has plenty of it.

Injuries aside, Portugal are stacked at full-back. Some of the talented players out of many include João Cancelo from Inter Milan, Raphaël Guerriero from Borussia Dortmund, Nélson Semedo from Barcelona, and Cédric Soares from Southampton. Cancelo and Guerriero are currently recovering from lengthy injuries, but they should be back in plenty of time to be match fit for the summer’s tournament. The full-backs should even out the athletic limitations of the central defenders.

Midfield

Manager Fernando Santos will have a difficult time deciding who gets the majority of the playing time in the midfield. There’s plenty of talent in the team’s midfield, so competition to start between the players will be intense. Some of the names at Portugal’s disposal include William Carvalho and Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon, André Gomes from Barcelona, João Mario from Inter Milan, João Moutinho from Monaco, Renato Sanches from Swansea City, and Adrien Silva from Leicester City.

These are just a few names, as there are plenty more worthy of the squad. Carvalho is likely to start as the defensive midfielder as he’s done nothing but impress there with the team, but the other positions are currently wide open.

Attack

Portugal’s forwards are the team’s biggest strength. Ronaldo is the captain and an obvious guaranteed starter, but his supporting position players can also wreak havoc on defences. For starters, striker Milan’s André Silva has been clinical for the national team so far, scoring nine goals in 15 appearances, and that tally will  continue to grow. Bernardo Silva also has the creativity and skill to allow the strikers to flourish.

Another emerging talent is Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins. He too has plenty of skill and speed to make him a threat any time the ball’s at his feet. What’s more, there are also veterans hungry for more success such as Nani and Ricardo Quaresma. Any defence in the world will be tested by Portugal’s attack.

Already, the Portuguese side is looking very strong. Once qualification is ensured, fans will have every right to dream of going one better than their European Championship triumph.

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