Portugal resume their World Cup qualifying campaign tomorrow with a home match against the Faroe Islands at Boavista’s Bessa Stadium in Porto, followed by a trip to Budapest to play Hungary on Sunday.

Nothing less than six points will do, with Switzerland continuing to boast a 100% record in Group B. Any slipup from Portugal will make top spot and automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia practically impossible.

It is difficult to argue with Fernando Santos’s frequently repeated opinion that “I do not believe Switzerland will drop any points until they play us in the final match.” To put it bluntly, Portugal must win all their remaining matches to avoid a play-off.

Therefore, if the Seleção overhaul Switzerland it will be thanks to reeling off nine straight WCQ victories, since the opening round defeat at St. Jacob Park in Basel. Normally this would be considered quite a feat, but truth be told, given the level of opposition in Portugal’s section, the European Champions will be disappointed with anything less.

With Hungary having visibly regressed since Euro 2016, the Swiss are the only quality adversaries for Portugal in Group B. Who will make it to Russia? Go to NetBet Sport to put your money where your mouth is.

 

Group B standings after six matches. Top team qualifies automatically for Russia 2018

 

Portugal’s strike-force of Cristiano Ronaldo and André Silva have made the most of the less than fearsome defences, scoring an incredible 17 goals between them in just six WCQ games. Even accounting for his astonishing goal-scoring record, captain Ronaldo has filled his boots and then some, netting 11 goals in just 5 matches during the campaign (he missed the Switzerland match).

The Real Madrid forward has barely played this season having been suspended for five matches after getting sent off and subsequently pushing the referee in the Spanish Super Cup win over Barcelona. Yesterday, Silva leapt to the defence of his strike partner and is convinced Ronaldo will be firing on all cylinders for the double-header, and will silence the naysayers.

Silva backs Ronaldo to silence critics

“Football is no bed of roses; there are many injustices,” said the AC Milan centre-forward referring to Ronaldo’s suspension. “But I’m sure Cristiano is feeling fine, he’s match fit and will shut up a lot of people who speak ill of him. We’re all sure he’ll do a good job.”  

Silva and Ronaldo will likely be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the two upcoming matches. The duo scored seven times against the two opponents in the reverse fixtures. While the front two are set in stone, the rest of the Portugal XI is more difficult to predict.

In terms of team news, Santos has to make do without starting left-back Raphael Guerreiro, while squad players Nelson Semedo (suspended), Pizzi and João Cancelo (injured) are also unavailable. The latter two were released from the original squad announced last week and have been replaced by Bruno Fernandes and Ricardo Pereira respectively.

João Moutinho and João Mário have begun the season in fine form, which may be enough to earn them a starting berth, although André Gomes – who continues to flatter to deceive at Barcelona – is an option Santos has shown much faith in. As for the defensive midfielder, William has hardly played this season and could be replaced by Danilo, who has been as excellent as ever for Porto.

Predicted Portugal XI vs. Faroe Islands:

Rui Patrício, Cédric Soares, Pepe, José Fonte, Eliseu, Danilo, João Mário, João Moutinho, Gelson Martins, André Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo

by Tom Kundert

 

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Ronaldo barely playing is a good thing for us, keeps him healthy. He is not going to forget how to score all of sudden.

    Ronaldo critics are no different from the Santos haters that always show up during every bump and blip to shout from the mountains t heir usual vitriol. I have decided to beat them at their own game;

    SANTOS IS JUST LIKE BENTO-BOX!
    ELISEU, FABIO C, FONTE, MAKAKULA SHOULDN’T PLAY!
    WHY DON’T THEY LET BERNARDO PLAY!
    I PREFER BATATAS FRITAS OVER ARROZ WITH MY GALINHA!!

    They shout this then then disappear like a North Korean assassin or that damn skunk that keeps digging up my front yard at 4 in the morning! Go away skunk! To return every Selecao game to torment the very happy post Euro Portuguese fans.

    Team looks good. The depth is such a relief. When you can replace William with Danilo and Rafael with Fabio, that is impressive.

    Go get em boys! Forca Portugal! FORCA GALINHA NA BRAZA!! :)

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Judao

    Could please someone explain me, if both portugal and switzerland end up on same point what factor will be considered that which team will qualify automatically. Is it (a) goal difference, or (b) head to head away goals rule.

    from Qatar
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  • Hey Judao, it's goal difference. Given that Portugal's GD is vastly superior to Switzerland's, Portugal "only" have to make sure they finish level on points with the Swiss. Almost certainly means having to win the next four games against Faroes (h), Hungary (a), Andorra (a), Switzerland (h). All points to a showdown in that last match.

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  • Guest - Nelson

    @Val I completely agree with you. those that compare Santos to Bento or think Portugal are a better team without Ronaldo need to give their head a shake!

    Bento was a Stubborn mule who had no flexibility in his tactics or his team selection. While Santos may have a lot of faith in his players he's not blind and calls up fresh blood all the time. If a formation or a lineup isn't working during a tournament he makes changes. His footballing IQ is significantly above that of Bento IMHO.

    And those that think Portugal play better when one of the best players in history is missing just haven't watched enough Portugal games. Sure Ronaldo takes more shots than the rest of the team combined but I'm fine with one of the best pure goal scorers in he history of the world taking as many shots as he likes. People also often negate or ignore how many assists and opportunities he creates for others. If Portugal had better finishers on the team during Ronaldo's tenure it's scary to think how many more assists he would have.

    from Oakville, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Mmaaxx

    I'd be happy with that team but would like to see Bernardo Silva in the starting team.

    Perhaps Ronaldo moves more central with BS replacing AS in the front line. AS could be an impact player off the wood. BS is just too special a player to leave out of the team. The sooner Santos figures out a system including BS the better and this match is so easy to experiment in.

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  • Guest - Brandon

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Ronaldo---andre silva
    ----bernardo Silva-----
    Gomes--------Joao Mario
    --------Danilo---------
    Ricardo--Pepe--Fonte--Cedric
    --------Patricio-------

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  • Guest - Garrison Moratto

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Really good article. I'm really surprised by Fernando Santos abandoning Eder, I was shocked when he was left out of the confederations cup squad and I am surprised he will still be left out this coming set of qualifiers, for the man who scored the most historic shot in Portugal history I just think this is ill-treatment

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  • This is a very important statement Garrison. I wish everything was black and white as the world would make sense but it is often all greyish.

    Eder barely played at Lille, especially in the 2nd half and he was not in the new coaches plans for this season. I believe he has been loaned to Lokomotiv Moscow.

    With Portugal having to qualify, I don’t think you can take an out of form player who hasn’t performed at club level. That doesn’t send a good message. Nani isn’t playing either and wasn’t selected as well.

    Eder was playing regularly when he scored that goal at the Euro’s. He seemed to be back to normal. It is not all his fault but this stuff happens in football. Look at Renato Sanches and the way Bayern had him sitting on the bench. Unfair? Yes but that is football. Players should choose their clubs more carefully and not just chase the highest bidder. Rafael Guerreiro is someone who used his head when he went to Dortmund and he has excelled.

    Also Portugal are much deeper this time around. We didn’t have Andre Silva or Bernardo Silva at the Euro’s. Both ahead of Eder in the pecking order. Nelson O was chosen on his recent form, which despite me not liking him at all, still makes sense.

    Anyhow we all love Eder and hope he gets back to his normal form but for now, he needs to straighten out his club career.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Ashley

    Hello,

    We are in Budapest this weekend, anyone know where the selecao will be having their training sessions? Or in what hotel they will be staying? Thnx a lot!

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  • Guest - Steven Raposeiro

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Ronaldo--A Silva
    J Mario--Adrien Silva--Bernardo Silva
    --Danilo--
    Coentrão--Pepe--Fonte--Cedric
    --Patrício--


    Would love to see Gelson or Quaresma as second half subs. Not a game to experiment even though it's the Faroe Islands. There's been times Portugal has lowered their intensity against weaker opponents or failed to score despite taking tons of shots. If the game is in hand and we have a comfortable lead, then hopefully we'll get to see Bruma. This game as well as the rest are must wins if we want first place over Switzerland. Força Portugal! ??

    from Charlotte, NC, USA
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QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Singing the national anthem at the end was so beautiful - it was brutal. This communion is brutal. We will try to give more joy to the Portuguese people because they deserve it."

Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach in post-match press conference after win Switzerland)

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