Although Portugal refers to their Geração de Ouro (Golden Age) as their teams from 1995-2006, recent history shows another could be emerging. Yes, 2014 was a summer to forget. However, since 2008, Portugal has not only appeared in every major tournament, but reached the knockout stage all but once. With a trophy under their belt, eyes turn to another at FIFA Confederations Cup 2017. Not to mention, the big one next summer as well.
FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 Preview: Portugal
Introduction to the Article
The crew from Soccer 2 the MAX, Rachael McKriger, Erik Watkins and Sean Garmer divided the eight teams among themselves and have done previews for each squad ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 tournament. They give a little about of information on their history in the tournament. Their recent form, the manager and the squad. After that, they give a Player to Watch, a X-Factor, and discuss what could happen. Finally, they give their prediction on the team’s final place in the tournament. Hopefully, you enjoy our team preview articles.
FIFA Confederations Cup History
The Portugese come in as debutantes thanks to winning their first ever continental title at EURO 2016. Previously the the Seleçao did come very close a couple of times, a semifinal loss in EURO 2000. Upset loss to Greece in the EURO 2004 final. Semifinal loss in the 2006 World Cup as well.
Portugal are 7-2 since their 1-0 win over France in EURO 2016. This includes friendly wins against Gibraltar and Cyprus. While losing to rival Sweden in a friendly as well. Their only other loss came to Switzerland in World Cup qualifying, a team they are currently battling with for top spot in that group. However, aside from that, they’ve been perfect in WCQ with all five wins coming by at least three goals or more. While only allowing three goals defensively in those games. Of course teams like: Andorra, Faroe Islands, Hungary, and Latvia twice, are also teams they should beat easily considering their high position in world soccer.
The Manager: Fernando Santos
Fernando Santos replaced Paulo Bento in 2014. With Portugal, he’s won 63.64% of his games, tallying a record of 21W-8L-4D. Santos won his first seven matches, all EURO 2016 qualifiers, en route to the title. Right now, Portugal sit second in their World Cup qualifying group at 5-1. They’re just three points behind Switzerland, who is 6-0. From playing in Portugal to managing in both Portugal and Greece, he uses a defensive style from his playing days to extend matches and wear down opponents. While pushing for a quick counter attack and getting the ball up to the striker. However, without top class up front, aside from Ronaldo, the Seleçao can be vulnerable if the defense can’t hold in the final third.
Confederations Cup 2017 Team Roster
Goalkeepers – 1 Rui Patricio, 22 Beto, 12 José Sá
Defenders– 2 Bruno Alves, 3 Pepe, 6 José Fonte, 5 Raphael Guerreiro, 4 Luis Neto, 21 Cédric, 19 Eliseu, 11 Nelson Semedo
Midfielders – 8 João Moutinho, 13 Danilo, 14 William Carvalho, 15 André Gomes, 16 Pizzi, 23 Adrien Silva
Forwards – 7 Cristiano Ronaldo (captain), 17 Nani, 18 Gelson Martins, 20 Ricardo Quaresma, 9 Andre Silva, 10 Bernardo Silva
Player to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo finally took the mantle after ascending to stardom in 2004, and wearing the armband for the first time in 2008. Last year, he separated himself from Lionel Messi by collecting a major trophy for his country, and he could be set to do it again. While qualifying form has been somewhat impressive against mediocre competition (10 goals in his last 5 matches).
He’ll want to get a second chance at playing in a major final, after leaving the match against France after 25 minutes due to injury. After winning another league and UEFA Champions League double. While also breaking the record for most goals ever scored in the UCL, Ronaldo is coming into this on fire.
X-Factor: Portugal’s Defense
Will it be age or youth in defense? Of the seven defenders, four are age 33 or older and two are 25 or younger. While this is an issue throughout the squad (only seven players with more than 35 caps), the defense is a hallmark. With scoring a bonus. What will Coach Santos do? Expect a good mix with some extremely tactical substitutions as matches progress.
What Could Happen
If Portugal uses a 4-5-1, that could cause problems, especially with a force like Nani who has shown strength not just as an attacking midfielder, but as a striker. It’s up to Santos to figure out who is the best strike partner to take the pressure off Ronaldo. Once that’s settled, it’s up to the rest of the field to determine how to crack their defense, slow down their quick feet, and not be lulled into a draw. Remember, in seven matches at EURO 2016, Portugal just won once in 90 minutes. Three draws won’t be sufficient to advance this time around, but don’t be surprised if they play that way.
It’s a balanced tournament, so there’s neither a Group of Life nor a Group of Death. They are drawn into Group A. They face Mexico first on June 18. Then, hosts Russia on June 21. Finally, Portugal finishes the group stage against New Zealand on June 24. There’s certainly an opportunity to get out of the group stage. From there, it’s potentially matches against Chile and Germany in no particular order for a title. Tough, but doable. The attack behind Ronaldo, has been a bit sketchy. However, if the supplementary attack can hold up, a second trophy in a year is entirely possible. I have them achieving the ultimate goal and winning the tournament.
Erik’s Prediction: First in Group A, Winner of FIFA Confederations Cup 2017
Sean’s prediction: First in Group A, Lose in Semi-Final. Rachael’s prediction: Second in Group A, Lose in Final.
Be sure to check out all of our Group A previews, by selecting the name of that national team in the Final Thoughts section of each post.