It was from a place of immeasurable faith that Fernando Santos, a day away from Portugal’s potentially fateful clash against Hungary in the Euro 2016 group stage, declared to the world that he’d only return home on July 11th under jubilant circumstances, bidding to take Portugal all the way amongst the threat of an early dash home from the tournament.

In a moment of pure prophecy, Santos’ heralding speech took his 23-man squad from the jaws of elimination to the promised land, defeating hosts France to conquer European football for the first time in Portugal’s history. Nobody believed the veteran of management back then, maybe not even himself, but his words, replicated again ahead of yet another affair with Hungary, carry a different weight coming into this summer’s action.

The wealth in talent that Santos holds within his 26-man squad, coupled with an additional international honour in the UEFA Nations League in 2019, sees Portugal stand, even in a very challenging group next to World Cup-winning France & Germany, as one of the favourites for the European centrepiece.

But who will form part of the recipe in the Seleção’s attempts to defend their title as European champions? PortuGOAL reviews the options we’re likely to see out in the red and green of Portugal.

 

The road so far

It wasn’t exactly a clean sail for Portugal throughout the qualifiers, with early clashes against Ukraine and Serbia in Group B quickly slashing any hope of Cristiano Ronaldo and co. making it to 2020 with one of those immaculate 100% records that qualifiers like to throw up, drawing the opening two games instead.

A return fixture away to Serbia set the path for Portugal’s eventually successful campaign, despite Santos being forced to tinker with the backline that largely comprised of Rui Patrício, Pepe, João Cancelo and Raphaël Guerreiro throughout. To the tune of a 4-2 victory against the Balkan outfit, Santos’ men excelled against the likes of Lithuania and Luxembourg, with the middleman between Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva in attack largely undefined from game-to-game.

João Félix was the only option, in fact, to make back-to-back team sheets leading the line prior to a humbling defeat against Ukraine in Kiev, setting the Andriy Shevchenko-led squad onto an eventual first-place finish. 

Rotation increased towards the end as Portugal closed out their campaign against Lithuania and Luxembourg, taking six points en route to second place and qualification, but the fundamentals of Santos’ more pragmatic side seemed set.

 

The Certainties

Throughout the qualifiers, the pool of defenders the 66-year-old manager relied on rarely ever changed, with many of the names involved making the cut this summer, rather unsurprisingly. Rui Patrício has been the owner of the number one shirt for a long time and it seems unthinkable that that’ll change now, despite a minor dip in form at club level.

The ex-Sporting man looks set to be protected by the experienced Pepe and the recently-titled Premier League Player of the Season, Rúben Dias, with a small threat coming from Ligue 1 champion José Fonte.

Guerreiro has experience on his side against the youthful Nuno Mendes and, barring any reoccurring injuries, should hold enough trust to continue doing his thing out wide on the left, meanwhile the situation at right-back, perhaps helped out massively by Ricardo Pereira’s serious injury for Leicester City, makes it hard to look past the already oft-favoured Cancelo, also excelling in England for Manchester City.

The Mancunian connection is sure to persist throughout the right flank, with Bernardo Silva making himself a mainstay coming in off the left and mixing things up with Manchester United’s star man Bruno Fernandes and a certain number seven, that needs no introduction.

 

The battlegrounds

Portugal’s search for talent akin to Ronaldo’s is a dated one, particularly in the mould of a centre forward, and the current generation, part of what makes Portugal such an attractive quantity, is beginning to deliver on its promise.

In what all the great managers consider ‘a good headache’ to have, Santos will have to choose between Liverpool’s Diogo Jota, Ex-Benfica sensation Félix, Eintracht Frankfurt goal-getter André Silva, Pedro Gonçalves and Gonçalo Guedes to rub shoulders with Ronaldo and Bernardo in attack.

The latest outings against Spain and Israel and exemplary form for club and country suggest that Jota will be the man elected to lead the line, enabling fluidity in attack that allows both Ronaldo and Bernardo to roam inwards.

Atletico Madrid’s Félix offers the same kind of mobility and a creative eye unlike any other of his competitors, but whether he can package all of that with consistency on the day is what Portugal’s manager will be pondering.

André Silva’s 28-goal haul in the Bundesliga can’t be overlooked either and the out-and-out striker, historically, has offered a unique link-up with his national team captain when called upon. But there’s somehow a portion of convincing to be done by the former FC Porto man, whose physical capabilities, much like Guedes’ and Rafa Silva’s, sees them bunch as impact options.

Many questions also revolve around who Santos will back at the base of his midfield. The manager’s eye for a more regimented structure points towards a standard defensive midfielder making the cut on a regular basis, as opposed to a more constructive figure, like Rúben Neves, who should play slightly further forward.

The preferences at play point towards a straight shoot-out between Danilo Pereira and the previously-favoured William Carvalho, whose best form seems to have evaded him at Real Betis.

With France and Germany to come, however, there’s every chance Santos (not for the first time) pairs the two towering midfielders in a more cautious double pivot, with Renato Sanches, Sérgio Oliveira, João Moutinho and the aforementioned Neves, offering change off the bench.

The ingredients are there for Portugal to make that change and play the football the fans are desperate to see this golden generation play, but on one of the biggest stages around, with dates against France and Germany on the board, it’d stand as a surprise to see Santos reinvent his own wheel. 

Portugal commence their Euro 2020 journey on Tuesday evening, against Hungary, before taking on Germany and France.

Predicted starting XI for Portugal at Euro 2020

Rui Patrício, João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, Raphaël Guerreiro, Danilo, William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota, Cristiano Ronaldo

By Patrick Ribeiro

 

Comments (7)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Quite fitting - the Group of Death.

I'm unsure where my fellow Tuga fans are on what their expecting, but I have zero expectations. Germany and France are top dogs - no matter what tournament it is (especially with Mbappe on form). Maybe...

Quite fitting - the Group of Death.

I'm unsure where my fellow Tuga fans are on what their expecting, but I have zero expectations. Germany and France are top dogs - no matter what tournament it is (especially with Mbappe on form). Maybe Hungary will be the dark horse and cause a stir?

Looking forward to the tournament - but very worried!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

@John

I’m not arguing that France and Germany are ‘to dogs’. However, they aren’t anymore or any less ‘top dog’ than Portugal are at the moment. The only thing they have over us is number of silverware in their past.

However, looking at each...

@John

I’m not arguing that France and Germany are ‘to dogs’. However, they aren’t anymore or any less ‘top dog’ than Portugal are at the moment. The only thing they have over us is number of silverware in their past.

However, looking at each from the last decade, all three have the same major international trophies (Portugal have more if you include Nations league). On paper, Portugal have just as good or better than Germany and France.

Even though Portugal don’t tend to light the show on fire, I don’t think they are any less dangerous or capable than the other two squads.

So I do expect them to make it out of this group. With that in mind though, just as I think they can get out of this group, it’s also very possible they don’t. That last statement is equally as true for the other two as well.

Lastly, I don’t think Hungary will end this tournament with 0 points. I just hope the game(s) that they do gather them are not from Game 1

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Santos has some amazing talent here. What I would be happy with

1. 442...or 433 with Bernardo up
Cancelo Pepe Dias Mendes
Carvalho
Bernardo Bruno Renato
Cr7 Jota

2. 4231
Cancelo Pepe Dias Mendes
...

Santos has some amazing talent here. What I would be happy with

1. 442...or 433 with Bernardo up
Cancelo Pepe Dias Mendes
Carvalho
Bernardo Bruno Renato
Cr7 Jota

2. 4231
Cancelo Pepe Dias Mendes
Carvalho Danilo
Bernardo Bruno Jota
Cr7

I prefer 1. Most player selections should be obvious. I honestly can't comprehend Guerreiro over Mendes. Could care less he is 19. Mendes is bigger, stronger, faster and in my eyes better defensively.

As long as I don't see Moutinho or Neves starting I probably will be ok. Love Felix, but he shouldn't start.

Let's try to remain positive and not rip our players.

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I like the #1 scenario

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

My only fear is the lackadaisical play we've seen as of late. Slow passing that gets intercepted. In the Israel game they were a little better at 1-2ing with the mid-field but still no desire to keep doing it in the final third.

The talent is...

My only fear is the lackadaisical play we've seen as of late. Slow passing that gets intercepted. In the Israel game they were a little better at 1-2ing with the mid-field but still no desire to keep doing it in the final third.

The talent is there, but is the intensity? That will determine the winner.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

All written in this article is basically what most of fans and opponents expect from Santos.

Well, we won’t see a double pivot.

From the last friendly, a couple of things noticed:

Subbing Dias with Danilo means Pepe won’t be a starter, but a...

All written in this article is basically what most of fans and opponents expect from Santos.

Well, we won’t see a double pivot.

From the last friendly, a couple of things noticed:

Subbing Dias with Danilo means Pepe won’t be a starter, but a great sub in case of need.

Renato Sanches will play alongside William.

Bruno is untouchable.

As for the attack, with the fluid style of play, Felix will play alongside Ronaldo.

If anyone remembers the great game portugal played france away.

With all that pressure, Felix was the most comfortable holding the ball.

He is great at dribbling, good vision for assists and can score - although he’s been a bit unlucky on that part.

Guerreiro and Mendes will interchange during every game. With 5 substitutions sounds logical to do that to maintain the pressure and intensity.

Cancelo and Bernardo will keep making defenders spin.

All said, always and forever,

Forca ??!

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I can see Portugal drawing with France 1-1 or 0-0 in our last game and beating Germany. Hungary could give us a headache but no reason why we shouldn't progress from the group with at least 2 wins from three and a chance at first place. Fernando...

I can see Portugal drawing with France 1-1 or 0-0 in our last game and beating Germany. Hungary could give us a headache but no reason why we shouldn't progress from the group with at least 2 wins from three and a chance at first place. Fernando Santos has a lot of talent to choose from and not making the Semis at least would be a failure in my opinion. If Portugal fails to make the Semis, Fernando Santos should be sacked. Simple.

Also Ronaldo needs to stop taking free kicks and if he isn't playing well, take him off or bench him.

My preferred line up vs Hungary.

4-3-3

Rui Patricio
Joao Cancelo
Pepe
Ruben Dias
Raphael Guerreiro
Danilo
Renato Sanches
Bruno Fernandes
Bernardo Silva
Cristiano Ronaldo (c)
Jota

Its difficult when you have so much talent at your disposal especially with players like Andre Silva who is coming off a great season, I just hope his form continues into the tournament. You never know what to expect with Goncalo Guedes, one game he can be a great player and another he can be crap. Jose Fonte and Pepe shouldn't play together at all throughout this tournament unless Ruben Dias gets hurt *(knock on wood)* Fonte had a great season with Lille but lets be honest we can't expect him to be just as dependable as Pepe. I just don't trust him now as much as I did during Euro 2016. Joao Felix I feel has yet to show his quality for the national team... and from what I have seen and read, looks like he hasn't been playing to his potential with Atletico and Simeone. Nuno Mendes is too raw to start over Guerreiro imo, kid has alot of potential.

Anyways I could go all day about this team but I am just excited to see our team play at this years Euro with the players we have. Can't wait for our opener!

Lets go Portugal,

Vamos com TUDO!

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“The game against Germany served as a lesson.”

João Palhinha
(Portugal midfielder highlights the factor behind the huge improvement by Portugal in their final Euro 2020 Group F match against France) 

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