The World Cup is now officially underway, but Portugal’s tournament has already been unnecessarily noisy in the week before they’ve even kicked off.
A certain Cristiano Ronaldo has put all eyes on his camp. Not just because it’s his last World Cup with his nation, but because of his shocking sit-down interview with Piers Morgan that released a week before Portugal take to the field in Qatar.
But with that out of the way and Manchester United likely having changed all of the locks on the doors at Carrington while Ronaldo is gone, Portugal must get their heads down and focus on matchday one versus Ghana on 24 November.
Fernando Santos’ side boasts an obscene amount of talent, thus a winning start is vital. Here’s how they could line up.
GK: Diogo Costa – A changing of the guard is occurring between the sticks. Costa has been sublime for Porto this season and could oust Rui Patricio as the number one at the tournament. A good showing could even be key to securing a high-profile transfer.
RB: Joao Cancelo – It’s not been the most typically stylish season thus far for Cancelo who has struggled somewhat in a Manchester City shirt. But considering his freakish quality on the ball, he’ll likely get the nod at right-back. Seriously, what happened to full backs being full backs?
CB: Ruben Dias – Alongside Cancelo is his City colleague, and often captain, Dias, who himself hasn’t been quite as vital at club level this season. He’s tremendously important for his national team though, and has already established himself as a leader.
CB: Pepe – It’s not a major tournament without this man. Pepe continues to prove timeless and will no doubt leave his mark on the World Cup with a statement, age-defying, showing somewhere down the line.
LB: Nuno Mendes – Mendes has impressed at Paris Saint-Germain this season and gives Portugal balance and attacking thrust down the left flank, complimenting Cancelo well.
CM: Ruben Neves – Another player who is perhaps using the tournament as a means of securing a transfer, Neves will sit at the base of Portugal’s and play a vital role; pinging balls towards a certain 37-year-old up front.
CM: William Carvalho – When it’s not Neves occupying the deep role, it’s Carvalho, who is set to represent his nation at his third World Cup. His first ever international goal came in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.
CM: Bruno Fernandes – Completing the midfield trident is United’s talisman, who admittedly struggles somewhat when asked to play a deeper midfield role. Fernandes has found form again this season though, and is capable of winning games on his own when at his best.
RW: Andre Silva – Silva scored the 1000th goal in the national team’s history in preparation for the 2018 World Cup, but has struggled in front of goal this season. Santos likes to deploy his big guns however and could find space for him as a narrow right-winger.
ST: Cristiano Ronaldo – Enter said 37-year-old. The reality is that Portugal ought to use Ronaldo in a limited capacity – likely from the bench – and put their trust in more youthful players *cough* Joao Felix. That simply won’t happen, though. Get ready for some 2022 Ronaldo-ball; an agonising watch.
LW: Rafael Leao – Please, Ronaldo, whatever you do, stay out of Leao’s way. Please. Let Milan’s finest asset show the world exactly why he is so highly regarded. Leao is an absolute menace with a ball at his feet and space to run into – he could shine this tournament.
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