Portugal World Cup team guide – fixtures, key player, probable line-up

first_imgPortugal will take part in their seventh World Cup this summer. talkSPORT.com takes an in-depth look at the Group B nation.MANAGERFernando Santos has been in charge of Portugal since 2014, when the 63-year-old replaced Paulo Bento at the beginning of the Euro 2016 qualification campaign. His previous spell in management was with Greece – leading them to the World Cup knockout stage for the first ever time in 2014 – while he has also managed each of Portugal’s big three of Porto, Sporting and Benfica.A cautions manager, Santos guided Portugal to victory at Euro 2016 as the only undefeated nation at the entire tournament. However, they also only won one game in normal time – a 1-0 defeat of Wales – and finished third in their group behind Iceland and Hungary. Santos’ approach with Portugal led to comparisons with Greece’s European Champions of 2004.Success in Europe led to Portugal participating at the 2017 Confederations Cup, where they finished third by beating Mexico in a play-off.CAPTAINOne of the all-time greats of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo will wear the armband for Portugal in Russia. Ronaldo was the team’s joint top scorer at Euro 2016 with three goals, the same total as Nani, though he was substituted after just 25 minutes of the final and had to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates overcame France to win the championship.Ronaldo captained Portugal for the first time one day after his 22nd birthday in 2007, and he was made permanent skipper by Carlos Queiroz in the summer of 2008. In Russia, it will be the eighth major international tournament at which Ronaldo has represented Selecao, having played at four European Championships and three World Cups. KEY PLAYERNo one but Ronaldo could be named Portugal’s key player, even though the nation’s greatest ever international success – winning the Euro 2016 final – occured with him on the pitch for just 25 minutes.Santos’ cautious approach means Ronaldo must take on a majority of Selecao’s attacking play, and goals will be hard to come by if he is not playing. He netted 15 times in qualifying, almost 50 per cent of Portugal’s entire goal haul, but he does spread them around; he found the net in seven of the nine games in which he played.At 33 years of age, this is likely the last World Cup for Ronaldo and the last chance for him to guide Portugal to the greatest honour in the game.ONE TO WATCHGoncalo Guedes has been tipped as a future Ballon d’Or winner ever since he broke onto the scene with Benifca, before earning a move to Paris Saint-Germain in January 2017. He joined Valencia on loan last summer to ensure more consistent game time, and the 21-year-old has been one of LaLiga’s best performers this season with four goals and nine assists to his name. A brilliant winger, Guedes is exceptionally comfortable on the ball and is one of the best dribblers in Europe.Guedes has won just seven caps for Portugal, and only made one appearance in World Cup qualifying, but his recent form for Valencia makes him a shoo-in for selection at the finals.FIXTURESFriday, June 15: Portugal v SPAIN (Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi) – kick-off 19:00Wednesday, June 20: Portugal v MOROCCO (Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow) – kick-off 13:00Monday, June 25: IRAN v Portugal (Mordovia Arena, Saransk) – kick-off 19:00KITS 3 3 RECORD IN QUALIFYINGPortugal were not confirmed of their place at this summer’s finals until the last matchday of UEFA qualifying. Selecao and Switzerland were the strongest teams in the rather weak Group B, and heading in the final day the Swiss were three points ahead of Portugal in first but with a less goal difference.The top two faced off on the final day, and Portugal’s 2-0 home win moved them level on points with Switzerland but ahead of them on goal difference, meaning they secured the single automatic qualifying place.Selecao’s only defeat in qualifying came at the hands of Switzerland, in Basel on the opening matchday back in September 2016.TOURNAMENT PREPARATIONSSelecao had three matches planned ahead of their big kick-off on June 15. They drew 2-2 with Tunisia, beat Algeria 3-0 and played out a goalless draw with Belgium.BASE CAMPSaturn Training Base, Moscow regiontalkSPORT will be with listeners all day and all night at this year’s 2018 FIFA World Cup™ with over 800 hours of World Cup content and all 64 games live across the talkSPORT network.last_img

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