With only a few months to go for the World Cup 2023, football fans can hardly wait. The global football event is set to begin on 21 November in Qatar.
With numerous players performing well in the English Premier League, Portugal have a strong team. They attract bookmakers’ odds of 12/1. However, most bookies rate Brazil, France and Germany higher on the odds table. Can Portugal prove the bookmakers wrong?
Certainties in the Squad
The numerous footballing nations involved in the competition usually announce their final squads about a month before the kickoff. Football fans are keen to find out which players Portugal will field in their final squad.
Thirty-seven-year-old Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo who will be playing in his last world cup is surely the first name on the list. The legendary player would want to bid goodbye on a high note.
Bruno Fernandes, Ronaldo’s teammate at Manchester United in the English Premier League, is also another certainty. We can add a few more players involved in the EPL. These include Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva from Manchester City, and Diogo Jota who plays for Liverpool. Assuming they remain injury free, these players are certain to appear in Portugal’s opening game versus Ghana on 24 November.
I expect Pepe and Diogo Costa, a pair who feature in Portugal’s club side Porto, will also feature. To that list, I would add left backs Nuno Mendes and Raphaël Guerreiro as well as Rui Patricio (as a back-up goalie). Danilo and William Carvalho will police the midfield.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos can select 26 players for the world cup. He can choose the remaining 13 from among the following:
· Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa and Jose Sa
· Defenders: Dalot, David Carmo, Domingo Duarte
· Midfielders: João Palhinha, João Moutinho, Rúben Neves, Matheus Nunes, Vitinha, Otávio Monteiro, William Carvalho
· Forwards: João Felix, André Silva, Rafael Leão, Gonçalo Guedes, Ricardo Horta
Portugal’s Pathway to the Title
Portugal are placed alongside Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay in a competitive Group H. After their opening game with Ghana, the Seleção are due to play Uruguay (November 28) and South Korea (December 2).
Assuming that they top group H, they are likely to meet either Germany or Spain in the quarter-finals. If they finish second in group H, the team will probably face Brazil in the round of 16.
Critics of the team would point out that the Seleção lack a genuine striker. If Cristiano Ronaldo fans feel piqued, CR7 is in fact a midfielder playing as a striker. Portugal have not had a great striker since Paulo Futre whose last international appearance was in 1995. Before that, there was the legendary Eusebio who was compared with his contemporary known as Pele. Eusebio carried Portugal singlehandedly through World Cup 1966. Eusebio’s brilliance helped Portugal to beat defending champions Brazil on way to the semi-finals. They went on to lose to the eventual champions England.
Portugal usually do well against Spain or Brazil who play a similar style of football. However, against a physically stronger outfit such as Germany, the Portugal players’ lack of strength or size is stark.
However, regardless of what their critics say, I can see that their players are match fit and raring to go. Getting through a tough group H unscathed would be the perfect preparation for the knock out rounds to follow. This could become Portugal’s best ever World Cup campaign.
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