Can Portugal repeat their Euro 2016 heroics at 2018 World Cup?

An Unexpected Victory
LVIV, UKRAINE - JUNE 9, 2012: Portugal national football team pose for a group photo before UEFA EURO 2012 game against Germany on June 9, 2012 in Lviv, Ukraine

Portugese National Team (c) @ katatonia82 Depositphotos

Portugal shocked Europe and the rest of the world with their Euro 2016 victory. Not many people expected this, not even your trusty Destination Soccer team. (We had expected Spain to retain against Germany or France in the Final!)

But triumph Portugal did. Iceland played a big role in their success. First with their shocking 1-1 draw against the eventual Champions and then their success against Austria enabled Portugal to avoid the heavyweights in their side of the draw. Iceland did get an easy draw against England though!

Portugal are now ranked the 6th best side in the world after their Euro 2016 triumph in the FIFA Coca-Cola World Rankings. They are up two places from their position before the tournament began.

How did they do it?

Fernando Santos is an experienced manager who had a similar team to work with – Greece. He did spectacularly at Euro 2012 just when it seemed like his team was imploding after 45 minutes. They went on to have a great tournament including almost beating the hosts and certainly beating the mighty Russia.

Fast forward to four years later and he built his team around Ronaldo but this time playing Ronaldo as an out and out striker. With a world class defender in Pepe and some excellent young players including the surprising performance and goal from Eder in the Final and Santos was able to get a lot out of little. What can he do with this team in Russia at World Cup 2018?

The New Portugese Team

Earlier this summer, Borussia Dortmund acquired Portugal left-back Raphael Guerreiro from French outfit Lorient for a reported fee of €12 million. The defender had been instrumental for Lorient during his three years in Ligue 1 and had gone on to feature in over a 100 league games, scoring ten times in the process. He is likely to be the preferred left-back under Thomas Tuchel’s management at Signal Iduna Park and start ahead of Marcel Schmelzer in the 2016/17 season.

Joao Mario is being eyed by Italian giants for a fee a reported fee to be in the range of €50 million. The midfielder, still only 23, has been a solid midfielder for his club outfit.

Renato Sanches has already sealed a big money move to Bayern Munich and if his inaugural top flight campaign is any indication he is set for big success in the future. He turned in a series of splendid displays at the Euros and went on to grab two Man of the Match awards. His performance against Poland belied his young years and he topped up his quarter-final performance with an exquisite goal that drew the scores level.

The Spine of the Team

Cristiano Ronaldo World Cup 2018

Ronaldo’s disastrous World Cup 2014 @ jenta Depositphotos

And of course, Portugal have the ever-dependable stalwarts in Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet, no one gave them a chance of winning the European Championship in France. However, they upset the applecart and won their first major international trophy after beating the hosts France 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France.

Considering the fact that Portugal have a core of young players and they are only going to get better in two years’ time, it is not too farfetched to think that they have the potential to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Ronaldo, who suffered a knee injury in the final that curtailed his participation to just about 20 minutes, is likely to be around in 2018. Pepe, who turned in a series of splendid displays throughout the tournament and should have been awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player at the Euros, is also likely to be in the Portuguese squad in Russia. And if his performances in France are anything to go by, as he showed a calmer head and brilliantly marshalled the team from the back, he should be even better in Russia.

Also as we saw in the brilliant Ronaldo DVD Movie, Ronaldo had a disastrous World Cup 2014 and he said later he shouldn’t have played at that tournament and in fact, risked injury to do so. This time out he will want to go for the victory he wasn’t able to achieve the last time.

Of course, the Portuguese squad also contain a very capable goalkeeper in Rui Patricio, two up and coming midfield talents in Ruben Neves and Andre Gomes who make the team even stronger.

Portugal at World Cup 2018

We have already looked at Portugal’s chances at the World Cup. Now with actually winning their first ever tournament – Euro 2016, this sets up a completely different mentality. Remember, they have consistently reached semi-finals before including at the World Cup. Now they surely have the belief, the mentality, the players and the track record to potentially even make it to the World Cup Final.

All this point to the fact that Portugal do have a very good side ahead of the World Cup in Russia. If they continue to play with the cohesiveness that they did in France and rally around each other for a unified cause then it is likely that they can challenge for a first ever World Cup triumph.

Ronaldo #7 Portugal Away Soccer Jersey UEFA Euro 2016 (M)

Manager Fernando Santos did well to recognise that the strength of his team was a tight defence and he packed up his men behind the ball suffocating their rivals of any real openings. He is yet to lose a match since his appointment at the helm during the middle of the European Championship qualifying campaign.

Under Santos, Portugal are in capable hands, and the world better watch out for them in Russia.