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2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Portugal

2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Portugal

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The Portugal national team reached their zenith at the 1966 World Cup, when led by the heroics of their superstar Eusebio, they finished third in England. Eusebio ended the historic campaign with an astonishing tally of nine goals from the competition; however, it didn’t prove sufficient for his team to reach the summit clash.

Portuguese football has since seen days of various hues and their worst period in terms of the World Cup came between 1970 and 1982 when they failed to qualify for the quadrennial extravaganza for four successive tournaments.

However, those struggles are a story of the past and they have qualified for every World Cup 2002 onwards.

At the first World Cup to be held in Asia, much was expected of the Portuguese as they had some exceptionally gifted players in Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Fernando Couto and Pauleta in their ranks. But they managed to win only once – against Denmark, and losses to the United States and the hosts South Korea ended their World Cup sojourn in the first round itself.

Four years later, they managed to make it to the semi-final of the competition for the first time since their historic run at the 1966 edition. However, they couldn’t get past France, for whom the inspirational Zinedine Zidane struck a 33rd minute spot kick to eliminate the Portuguese from the event.

In 2010, the Portuguese reached the last 16 before bowing out to the eventual champions Spain, who narrowly won with a second half strike from David Villa.

Last summer in Brazil much was expected of the Portuguese as they were led by the influential Cristiano Ronaldo in his pomp, but only one win from their three group stage games saw them bow out of the competition pretty early.

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Heading into the 2018 World Cup, due to be held in Russia, the Portuguese have a good squad and Ronaldo is expected to be the leader of the side in what will likely be his last World Cup. They have a lot of quality in their youth ranks as was demonstrated by their Under-21 side’s run to the final of the Under-21 European Championship held in the Czech Republic.

Sporting Portugal custodian Rui Patricio, 27, is likely to be the goalkeeper for the Portuguese in Russia. While it will be interesting to see if Real Madrid centre-back Pepe has the legs to last until the summer of 2018, if he does, then he should be the leader of defence in three years time unless someone rises unexpectedly to usurp the stalwart at the heart of the Portuguese rearguard. They have other good defenders in the form of Southampton duo Cedric Soares and Jose Fonte as well as Luis Neto. Valencia duo of Joao Cancelo, 21, and Ruben Vezo, also 21, appear to be the future of Portuguese defence.

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In midfield they have the likes of Andre Andre, Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva, Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho, Rafa Silva, Joao Mario, Bruno Fernandes and Goncalo Guedes to count upon. Many of them have been making waves for their club sides and are being eyed up by more illustrious European outfits. Carvalho, especially, has been reported to be a long-time transfer target of Chelsea as well as Manchester City.

http://www.footymatters.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/william-carvalho.jpg

Ronaldo, having stated his desire to continue playing for the next five to six years in a recent interview, and increasingly showing his prowess as an out and out striker, will be expected to be the leading frontman for the side with support from other players.

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