Portugal arrive in Russia aiming to lift their first World Cup. From the outset, this would appear to be a complicated task, but so too was the winning of Euro 2016 after Portugal, to the surprise of many defeated hosts France in Saint-Denis. The presence of the talismanic Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the reasons Portuguese supporters believe that they can win the tournament as the Real Madrid striker will participate in what most likely will be his last World Cup, at least at a high level with the striker from Madeira undoubtedly one of the star players of the Russia World Cup. If the forward is on form, then its feasible to see Portugal progress and go far despite the headache the side had to endure in qualifying from their qualifying group presented by the Swiss national team.
Fernando Santos has been able to get then best from his squad, that despite not being then most talented generation of players, is certainly a competitive group of individuals. The team’s change of style during the past European Championship was surprising but it paid dividends with the coach adopting a more practical style of managing each game. Instead of taking the initiative in each match they opted to sit deeper and invited pressure before launching explosive counters. On occasion they adopted a 4-3-3 formation using two strikers. The tactics employed by Santos have worked and Portugal are now a more solid unit with the big question mark for their fans being the level of Ronaldo’s form when June comes around. Every side needs its best players to perform and this is extremely true in the case of the Portugal national side.
|DOB: 10/10/1954||Preferred system: 4-4-2 con doble pivote|
|Matches: 46||W/D/L: 32/5/9|
Santos had an excellent 2014 World Cup in Brazil as head coach of the Greek national team and was cited as a defensive minded manager which had echoes of the 2004 European Championship winning side. He took the reins as Portugal coach late 2014 attempting to introduce more solidity into a side that posed more questions than offered answers. It wasn’t long before his style of play was visible with the Portuguese side competing with more defensive solidity. Cristiano Ronaldo flourished under the coach and the result of the coaches impact was the extra-time win over France in Paris to win the European Championship for the first time in the nation’s history. Santos has been accused of being dull and failing to get his side to play with flair but the steadiness he has brought to the team was exactly what the previously erratic Portugal side needed at the time of his appointment.
|DOB: 05/02/1985||Position: Forward||Age: 32||Club: Real Madrid|
|Height: 185 cm||Weight: 80 kg||Caps: 147||Goals: 79|
Although the Madeira born player may have lost some of his explosiveness with the passing of the years, his goal scoring record at Real Madrid makes the striker of of the most lethal marksmen of all-time and is rightly regarded as one of the finest players ever to emerge from Portugal along with the likes of greats such as Eusebio. His shift in position now offers Ronaldo to display his killer instincts with more goals coming from inside the penalty box. Top scorer with his Real Madrid club side, top scorer with the Portuguese national side and five times winner of the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, the World Cup being one of the few outstanding competitions where the striker has yet to realise his full potential .