Cristiano Ronaldo will get another chance to lead his team to glory, this time at the biggest stage of all, the World Cup.

Portugal are no strangers to the big stage and have been involved in plenty of drama over the years. Their recent best performance at a World Cup came in Germany back in 2006, when they made it to the semi-finals. But while not many were convinced on how they won the Euros, Portugal as a nation will be hoping similar luck shines on them in Russia.

Speaking of Portugal’s luck, it is indeed a thing of wonder in the way they qualified for Russia. They scored 32 goals, conceded only four and still only trained via goal difference. To top that, Portugal lost just once during their ten-games, but all thanks to Switzerland, they were always kept on their toes.

The game against the Swiss in Lisbon decided the fate of both the teams as they fought a thorough neck-to-neck battle during the qualifiers. But in the end, here they are on their way to face the best teams in the World, and Fernando Santos will take his chances with his team selection, led by the formidable Cristiano Ronaldo to bring home glory in its purest sense.

Group & Fixtures

On paper, Portugal will qualify for the next round in this group consisting of Spain, Morocco and Iran. But the World Cup is a different game altogether, where unexpected things can happen, and that is the norm of sports entertainment. But with a healthy squad such as this Portuguese team, they sure can qualify if they play consistently.

Portugal begins their tournament with a bumper clash against Spain, but the outcome of this game alone cannot be considered as the ultimate judgement on how they will fare in the next games. Games against Morocco and Iran follow and in the scenario that Portugal loses to Spain, they have to win their next two to qualify.

Squad

Portugal manager Fernando Santos has finalised his 23-man squad for Russia, and although there are some names on the standby list, they would only be needed in the case of an emergency or injury.

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes(Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica)

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), Joao Mario (Inter), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Bernardo Silva (Man City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

Portugal will be hoping that it would be Ronaldo who will lead them to a World Cup glory. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Portugal will be hoping that it would be Ronaldo who will lead them to a World Cup glory. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

As always, Cristiano Ronaldo will be at his passionate best and be leading his Portugal team in Russia. Ronaldo will be gunning for further glory after enormous success at club level in recent years. Only a week or so ago did he win his fifth Champions League title and Madrid’s third in a row, beating Liverpool in the process, while hoping that luck continues with him.

Fernando Santos did not raise any eyebrows when he dropped a number of his key players for the World Cup. Euro Final hero Eder and the best young player of the 2016 tournament, Renato Sanches were both left out so was Barcelona midfielder, Andre Gomes.

Santos has chosen to stick with his ageing backline as well as decided to take some of his most experienced forwards on the trip to Russia. Pepe, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte have all been veterans of this team and will help shore up the backline as they did at the Euros.

The Manager – Fernando Santos

Fernando Santos conquered Europe with Portugal at France in 2016. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Fernando Santos conquered Europe with Portugal at France in 2016. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Fernando Santos is a veteran coach with vast experience at both club football and international levels. Before Portugal, Santos was the coach of the Greece national team, a tenure that lasted until the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where he helped Greece reach the last-16 round for the first time in their history.

He continued his journey as an international team manager after being appointed as manager of Portugal, and in his first ever big tournament he led Portugal to a successful Euro campaign two years ago in France. Despite Portugal winning only one game under the stipulated 90-mins, luck was shining brightly on Santos and his team when they lifted the European Championships.

In Russia, it’s a different game altogether, and if Portugal has to travel the distance, Santos has to ensure they do not play the way they did in France two years ago. The World Cup could be ruthless, and teams could undoubtedly punish for even at the slightest slip-up

Potential Starting-XI (4-4-2): Patricio; Guerreiro, Pepe, Fonte, Cedric; Mario, Carvalho, Moutinho, B.Silva; Ronaldo, A.Silva

THT Verdict

Like we mentioned before, from outside Portugal will qualify for the next round. The problem with Portugal has been the lack of consistency against teams they are expected to win. Their showing at the Euro’s group stages was evident enough, and it will remain fresh in the minds of their fans.

Portugal’s biggest threat in Group B are in games against Spain and Morocco. A win in any one of those matches plus the expected win over Iran will see them qualify for the round-of-16 where they could potentially meet a team like Uruguay; if the South Americans finish as group winners and Portugal as the second-placed side in Group-B.

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