Fresh from lifting his fifth Champions League trophy, Cristiano Ronaldo is one major triumph short of completing the lot. A World Cup win to complete the set seems farfetched to say the least, but then again, so did their Euro 2016 victory.
Despite winning just one game in 90 minutes, Fernando Santos led Portugal to their first ever major tournament win after Ronaldo admitted “we are not at the best level” following their below-par World Cup 2014 showing.
As the 2018 tournament approaches, Portugal can begin to be described as a team now capable of competing with some of the top countries around the world. Since lifting the Euros, Portugal have played 22 games and lost just three times in 90 minutes, and finished third in the Confederations Cup last year.
Portugal have just one win over their neighbours Spain, who they play in their first game, in a major tournament having first played each other in 1921. Defeat to Spain in the group will likely lead to a second place finish, and a date with Uruguay in the next round.
Portugal vs Spain – 19:00, Friday 15 June
Portugal vs Morocco – 13:00, Wednesday 20 June
Iran vs Portugal – 19:00, Monday 25 June
Cristiano Ronaldo: After his fifth Champions League triumph Ronaldo joked that the trophy should be named after him. If he leads his country to World Cup glory Portugal may well become the People’s Republic of CR7, who play their home games at the Ronaldo stadium in the capital city, Cristiano.
There is no doubt he will be going into this tournament determined to have his hands on the famous trophy and his freakish hunger to win could mean he drags Portugal close.
Bernardo Silva: Of course, it’s not just the Ronaldo show. Portugal have some good young players emerging and Bernardo Silva is one of the latest talent players to make a name for himself.
Despite not being the biggest name at the club, the 23-year-old emerged as an important player in his inaugural season with Manchester City and played more games than any other player in the first half of the season.
While not being a prolific goal scorer he is beginning to become a key player Portugal, often dropping into a deeper midfield role to allow players like Ronaldo, Nani and Andre Silva to get forward.
Joao Moutinho: With 108 caps, Joao Mario is Portugal’s second most experienced player and one of the few players to commit their future to Monaco, with Fabino, James Rodriguez and Kylian Mbappe all moving on.
The central midfielder scored the vital goal in Portugal’s penalty shoot-out to qualify for Euro 2016 and starred in the tournament but did not play in the final. A proficient passer of the ball and hard worker, expect Moutinho to be a regular part of Portugal’s team, especially in the absence of former Swansea loanee Renato Sanches.
Ones to watch
Andre Silva: Portugal have struggled to identify a centre forward who can consistently lead the line and score goals. Ronaldo and Nani shared this role in the Euros but throughout qualifying, Andre Silva has emerged as a reliable striker.
Silva, 22, made his full professional debut for Porto aged 20 and moved to AC Milan in June 2017 where he has struggled to find form. For his country he betters an average of a goal every other game but has only scored twice for Milan in 24 appearances.
How did they get here?
Portugal’s 2-0 loss to Switzerland in the first game of their qualifying group was the only defeat Fernando Santos’ side suffered in their campaign. Switzerland and Portugal finished level on points but Portugal’s far superior goal difference meant they automatically qualified ahead of Switzerland.
How will they do?
Did anyone really expect them to win the Euros in 2016? Probably not, and the same level of expectation can be applied to the World Cup. Portugal did reasonably well in their group in the 2017 Confederations Cup but were beaten by Chile in the knockout round then secured a third-place finish by beating Mexico in extra-time. Add Ronaldo to that team, who was being rested, and you feel they do have a chance to do something this summer. When they qualify from their group - and it would be a disaster if they did not - they will face either Uruguay or Egypt, which they will see as a winnable game. From then it gets a little harder, but with Ronaldo and the experience of winning a major international tournament behind them, Portugal could spring a surprise or two.
Odds of winning: 25/1
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais/France), Beto (Goztepe SK/Turkey), Rui Patricio (Sporting CP)
Defenders: Antunes (Getafe/Spain), Bruno Alves (Rangers/Scotland), Cedric (Southampton/England), Joao Cancelo (Internazionale/Italy), Jose Fonte (Dalian Aerbin/China PR), Luis Neto (Fenerbahce/Turkey), Mario Rui (Napoli/Italy), Nelson Semedo (Barcelona/Spain), Pepe (Besiktas/Turkey), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/Germany), Ricardo (Porto), Rolando (Marseille/France), Ruben Dias (Benfica)
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester City/England), Andre Gomes (Barcelona/Spain), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City/England), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP), Joao Mario (West Ham United/England), Joao Moutinho (Monaco/France), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow/Russia), Rony Lopes (Monaco), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers/England), Sergio Oliveira (Porto), William (Sporting CP)
Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan/Italy), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid/Spain), Eder (Lokomotiv Moscow/Russia), Gelson Martins (Sporting CP), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia/Spain), Nani (Lazio/Italy), Paulinho (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas/Turkey)