Euro 2020 Special

FIFA World Cup 2022: Analysing Portugal’s Chances of Winning the World Cup

With just a week left before the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, Portugal are gearing up for yet another global tournament where their fate is closely tied to that of their star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Despite boasting one of the finest teams in the world, the Selecao have always underperformed at the World Cup with their best result being a third-place finish in 1966.

But fortune might favour Fernando Santos and his men this year, as they are one of the favourites to win the tournament and take the trophy home.

Let’s take a look at Portugal’s squad for the World Cup, their tactical approach to the game, and their chances of taking home the title.

The Backdrop

After a humiliating exit from the group stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Fernando Santos took over the team’s management from Paulo Bento.

The Selecao transformed under his stewardship, winning the Euros in 2016 by defeating hosts France in the final. That victory capped a decade of international trophy drought for Cristiano Ronaldo – who despite being injured in the final, played a critical part in the team’s performance throughout the tournament.

Portugal followed it up by securing a third-place finish in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017. But Fernando Santos’ men had to once again suffer an early exit from the 2018 FIFA World Cup in France. After finishing as group runner-ups on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick against Spain, they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat against Uruguay.

Cristiano Ronaldo made his mark once again when he returned in the semifinals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League tournament, scoring a hat-trick to book his team a spot in the final. Portugal would go on to win the Nations League with a 1-0 victory over the Netherlands in the final.

Placed in the Group of Death for the Euros in 2020, Portugal had to be content with a 13th-place finish – their lowest-ever finish in the tournament’s history. The Selecao have since then failed to qualify for the semifinals of the 2021 UEFA Nations League as well.

Predicted Tactical Strategy

Fernando Santos has employed a 4-4-2 formation in almost all of Portugal’s games with Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva forming the core of the attack at the front.

Bruno Fernandes and Rafael Leao play crucial roles in the team as Portugal prefer to build up attacks from the back and finish the attack swiftly using Ronaldo’s extraordinary striking abilities.

Joao Felix, the 23-year-old Atletico Madrid star, will make his World Cup debut in Qatar for his national team. The young sensation has drawn comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo in his home country and it remains to be seen if he lives up to his potential on the big stage.

One big setback for the Selecao will be the absence of Liverpool’s Diogo Jota as the 26-year-old will miss the World Cup due to an injury he picked up last month in the game against Manchester City. Diogo Jota was the star of the show for Portugal during the qualifiers – boasting a better goals-per-minute ratio than his captain.

With Jota’s absence, Cristiano Ronaldo will have to do the bulk of the goal-scoring for the Selecao. But the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is yet to score a goal in a World Cup qualifier – a record he would be eager to break this time.

At the back, the veteran Pepe will lead the team’s defencive unit, which contains the likes of Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Danilo Pereira, and Nuno Mendes. Diogo Costa, after a terrific display of goalkeeping prowess in the qualifiers, is set to be the team’s primary goalkeeper.

Despite boasting talent in almost every role, Portugal have not been able to obtain the consistency that Argentina or England were able to achieve in the past few years.

Fernando Santos seems to be the main drawback for the team right now with his style of play considered very conservative and defencive-minded. The Selecao will need to shift their focus to utilising the talented attacking lineup they have to the maximum if they are to progress in the World Cup.

The Ronaldo Factor

At 37 years of age, Cristiano Ronaldo has now participated in four World Cups, scoring for his team in every one of them. This is likely to be the Manchester United star’s last World Cup and winning the elusive global trophy would make for a perfect finish to his international career.

Portugal would also be doing an injustice to Ronaldo if they don’t give their best on the field every single game. 

But Ronaldo also needs to perform well in the tournament for his own sake, as a slew of incidents at Old Trafford resulted in a falling out with his team.

Manchester United are set to let go of the Portuguese captain in the January transfer window and the World Cup provides the perfect platform for Ronaldo to prove that his talents have not diminished.

With just five goals from the last 10 games for the Selecao, Ronaldo’s contributions to the team are also being called into question by the fans. But it is unlikely that Fernando Santos would leave out Cristiano Ronaldo from any of Portugal’s games, and the team’s fortunes will be closely tied to Ronaldo’s form in the tournament.

Portugal’s Chances

Portugal breathed a sigh of relief when the World Cup draw was announced. They are placed in Group H along with Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea. As such, they are the top-ranked team in their group and are expected to breeze their way to the playoffs.

Uruguay will pose the biggest challenge for the Selecao, but Portugal will be eager to take revenge for their 2-1 defeat in the last World Cup.

If Portugal slip-up and finish as runner-up of the group, they might be forced to deal with Brazil in the Round of 16 – an outcome that no Selecao fan wishes for.

Then comes a potential challenge against England or France in the knockout rounds before the final. If Lionel Messi’s Argentina make it to the finals, it would set up a blockbuster encounter between two giants of the game for lasting glory.

Portugal’s chances of winning the FIFA World Cup 2022 are closely tied to Cristiano Ronaldo’s form and how the team supports him in this endeavour.




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