Euro Glory and World Cup Woe

Portugal won Euro 2016, the nation’s first major trophy. Yet only two years later at the 2018 World Cup the team scraped out of the group stage and exited at the first knockout round (losing to Uruguay).

With such an up-and-down performance at the two most recent European and World Cup tournaments, what chance do they have at the 2022 World Cup? 

The Betting View

Odds vary from one bookie to the next, but, according to the Betfair Exchange at the time of writing, Portugal is the seventh favourite for the Euro 2020 title. Their odds are longer than France, England, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands, but shorter than Italy and Croatia. That’s pretty long for the reigning champions.

It’s a similar picture for the World Cup odds, but with Brazil, Argentina, and (perhaps surprisingly) Italy ahead of them this time as well. It’s worth remembering that odds are not predictions of the future but an attempt by bookies and gamblers to analyse a market and assess the chances of something happening (so in 20 attempts a 5% chance should, all else being equal, happen once). Portugal’s World Cup odds at the time of writing are 19/1 on the Betfair Exchange, and a lengthy 33/1 on Ladbrokes. But should they be, at best, second tier outsiders?

Recent Performance

There are some defensive concerns about the Portuguese side ahead of Euro 2020. Qualification for the tournament itself is likely, but not quite certain. Portugal is currently second in qualifying group B, behind Ukraine and ahead of Serbia, Luxembourg, and Lithuania. This places the team in a qualification spot, with a much better goal difference than every team behind them, and with an easier remaining schedule.

In 2019 to date, the team started with a lacklustre pair of draws against Ukraine and Serbia, before going on to start a four match winning streak. During this quartet of wins they’ve racked up 13 goals and won the Nations League. Qualification isn’t 100% certain but it’s highly likely.

Last year the team only lost twice. Annoyingly, one of these was the first knockout stage of the last World Cup, but the other was just a friendly against the Netherlands. Both teams that beat Portugal can be considered stiff opposition. Perhaps more concerning is that other results saw six wins but seven draws. It’s possible to win World Cups by taking multiple penalty shootouts, but they’re fraught with risk (just ask any England fan).

Looking purely on recent results, it’s hard to say that Portugal should be favourites for the 2022 World Cup. One thing in the team’s favour is that it’s some years off, and there’s time for fresh talent to emerge and/or mature. But if the World Cup was to be played right now, they’re looking more like good competitors rather than title contenders.

How Portugal fare at the Euros will affect their perceived chances at the World Cup. But it’s important to remember that form can vary a lot. In two years the Seleção went from winning the Euros to a pretty early departure from the World Cup. Correspondingly, a great Euros campaign doesn’t necessarily mean the World Cup will go well, or vice versa.

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World Cup Timing and Format

Whenever predicting a sport result it’s important to bear in mind rule changes. Formula 1 changes every season, football tends to be rather more stable. The 2022 World Cup is set to be staged in Qatar, the first time an Arabic or Muslim-majority country has hosted the prestigious event. Due to summers where temperatures can hit 50 degrees Celsius, the tournament will be in November and December. Temperatures should be more moderate, but if the ‘winter’ is hotter than average then that could affect some teams more than others.

There had been plans for air-conditioned stadia to address the summer temperature, but a calendar shift was preferred. Because of this, if the temperatures do exceed the average, players will find themselves getting pretty hot. Acclimatisation and fitness could be significant factors when considering who might do well. Luckily for the Portuguese, the winter temperatures of Qatar are pretty similar to the summer months back home, so it should be less of a problem for them than for, say, northern European teams.

There was some discussion about altering the format of the World Cup so that 48 rather than 32 teams would be involved. The authorities decided to retain the 32 team format for 2022, but there are plans to increase that to 48 for the following World Cup, so bear that in mind if you’re looking even further ahead.

Players

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the giants of the game and a huge asset for the Portuguese team. Portugal recently hammered Lithuania 5-1, as part of their European Championship qualifying campaign. However, four of the Portuguese goals came from Ronaldo alone. Remove him from the team, and you’re left with a 1-1 draw (unless a theoretical replacement scored, of course).

Any team with a superstar stands a better chance of progression, and Ronaldo’s undoubtedly a key player for Portugal. But he’ll also be nearly 40 by the time the World Cup rolls around, and probably past his best. It certainly isn’t enough for fans to rely on him alone.

Bernardo Silva is another key player for Portugal and the Manchester City wizard is now coming into his own for the national team, provding 5 assists and scoring one goal in Portugal’s last four matches.

It’s perhaps in defence and especially at centre-back that the biggest question marks arise. Euro 2016 winners Pepe and José Fonte are reaching the end of their careers. There are younger options right now to partner Rúben Dias, such as his Benfica partner Ferro, or a player such as Rúben Vezo, Paulo Oliveira, Pedro Mendes or Domingos Duarte, but it can take time for good players to integrate into a great team. With the World Cup two years away there is plenty of time for experimentation, but, ideally, Portugal needs to have its preferred side in place and regularly playing together in 2021, the year before the tournament, to iron out kinks and ensure the whole team gels together nicely.

To answer the question in the title: yes. Portugal does have a shot at the 2022 World Cup. Personally, for the best indication I’d suggest focusing not on the Euro 2020 tournament (just look at England and Portugal, teams with totally different Euro and World Cup experiences last time around), but on 2021. For me, that’s the key year. If it’s not working by then, there’s probably not enough time to turn things around. 

 

Comments (6)

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We can’t win with this coaching staff and his tactics, all of the talk in the beginning about gambling and odds etc, that’s how we won the euros. If we played France 10 times in 2016, maybe we win 2 of those games and draw 1. There’s just too...

We can’t win with this coaching staff and his tactics, all of the talk in the beginning about gambling and odds etc, that’s how we won the euros. If we played France 10 times in 2016, maybe we win 2 of those games and draw 1. There’s just too much firepower out there and too many teams with dangerous attacking players that are going to hurt us. We still can’t score goals regularly and at times I think the over reliance on Ronaldo is the issue but you can’t take him away because of the threat he poses. If you hypothetically tell me that Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp becomes the coach than I’d say we have a chance, those guys have progressive minds and systems in place. Assuming Joao Felix and Bernardo continue to improve, the latter is already pretty much at his peak(world class) we still need to figure out a way to become more ruthless in front of goal. I’m hoping and praying that Renato and Raf Leão get better and better because those might be our best wildcard players at this point moving forward. I don’t know, there’s probably a lot more that I can say but in general I don’t believe in Santos with these players against great teams, I’d say that the number up there putting us at 7 is reasonably accurate actually. On paper that makes sense to me.

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It really all depends on the evolution of emerging talents...how will felix, florentino, leao, sanches, quina, neves, dias, ferro and so on develop...will they all become top players during their early prime and add to what then will be our...

It really all depends on the evolution of emerging talents...how will felix, florentino, leao, sanches, quina, neves, dias, ferro and so on develop...will they all become top players during their early prime and add to what then will be our senior players like bernardo, cancelo, etc....then we will be amongst the favourites....its impossible to say...

I will say that we have never had the level of depth (other than central defence - future top players in this position are still very young) that we have now where players who are quality get left home-moreover emerging stars are kept at u21 level-players in top leagues dont even get selected. This bodes well for the future.

I agree that despit his ability to be get results and make us competitive against anyone...the level of talent and more importantly...type of technically gifted talent especially in midfield with up an coming players means a more profressive top class coach would extract higher levels with the new generation of players. This is where the fpf needs to really evaluate post euro2020 about the direction of playing style with the squad available moving forward...depsite his record being so so a guy like marco silva amd the way he sets his team up to play woild be far more expansive than what Santos deploys....if santos wins the euros again dont expect change until after qatar.

We have to be more ambitious wih more ambitous coach to add to my above points....we have recently dominated at youth levels both club and country..typically for other countries that translates into senior success...i hope it does for us.

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Great article. One thing I would correct. Odds are not the chance that a team will win. They are specifically calculate to make sure they get as close to a 50/50 split in the wagering. Betting houses make their money on the vig.

That’s why...

Great article. One thing I would correct. Odds are not the chance that a team will win. They are specifically calculate to make sure they get as close to a 50/50 split in the wagering. Betting houses make their money on the vig.

That’s why England always has shorter odds. English love their football and they love gambling. The odds to win are reflective only of the whims of the gamblers (and, before any bets are placed, the assumption of the whims of the gamblers)

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We're not there yet. My best advice to all of you is to try and stay positive. Only a few of our burgeoning stars will eventually reach our expectations. Many will never reach level, and I'm not even quite sure whether to place Bernardo among the...

We're not there yet. My best advice to all of you is to try and stay positive. Only a few of our burgeoning stars will eventually reach our expectations. Many will never reach level, and I'm not even quite sure whether to place Bernardo among the "elite." He's limited in some ways, and only like the fourth or fifth best player on his team. Regardless of our talent, winning the world cup will require some luck too.

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Didn't he win City player of the year? Or at least the peoples choice and most MOTM games? I'd say that puts him pretty high up

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100% we have a chance. If Joao Felix develops the way he should then surely we will be among the favorites. But of course we need ronaldo. 2022 will be our best chance. With Ronaldo at 37, there is no reason to doubt that his form will diminish....

100% we have a chance. If Joao Felix develops the way he should then surely we will be among the favorites. But of course we need ronaldo. 2022 will be our best chance. With Ronaldo at 37, there is no reason to doubt that his form will diminish. Just look at zlatan. He is also 37 but playing better than he ever used to. Pepe will be 39 but an intimidating bull for us. It seems ruben semedo has all the features to become the next world class player for portugal after joao felix. gancalo pancienca also has immense potential and if his talent is nurtured well, we could be have ourselves a real no. 9 deal next world cup. jose sa, ruben semedo, pepe, ruben dias, ricardo perreira, fabio martins, florentino luís, bruno fernandes, felix, pacienca, ronaldo

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