Fernando Santos has announced the 26 players who will represent Portugal at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The main talking points were the inclusion of Benfica’s teenage centre-back António Silva, and the omission of PSG midfielder Renato Sanches.
Portugal’s World Cup 2022 squad
Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), José Sá (Wolves), Rui Patrício (Roma)
Defenders: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), João Cancelo (Manchester City), Danilo Pereira (PSG), Pepe (Porto), Rúben Dias (Manchester City), António Silva (Benfica), Nuno Mendes (PSG), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders: João Palhinha (Fulham), Rúben Neves (Wolves), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), João Mário (Benfica), Matheus Nunes (Wolves), Otávio Monteiro (Porto), Vitinha (PSG), William Carvalho (Real Betis)
Forwards: André Silva (Leipzig), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Gonçalo Ramos (Benfica), João Félix (Atlético Madrid), Rafael Leão (AC Milan), Ricardo Horta (Braga)
If you are interested, you can play around with BestBettingSites.com’s squad builder to pick your own starting players.
Silva’s meteoric rise
One of the criticisms levelled at Fernando Santos during the latter time of his 8-year tenure as Portugal coach has been his refusal to experiment young centre-backs.
It is therefore something of a surprise to see 19-year-old Benfica central defender António Silva make the cut. That said, the outstanding performances of the teenager, especially in high-profile matches against Porto, PSG and Juventus, means his inclusion is not controversial.
Sanches’ injuries catch up with him
More questionable to many will be the exclusion of Renato Sanches. The midfielder was outstanding for Portugal at Euro 2016 and arguably the Seleção’s best player at Euro 2020 (played in 2021).
The continuing injury concerns that have plagued Sanches throughout his career, and which have surfaced again since his move to Paris, perhaps influenced Fernando Santos’s decision.
Sanches has completed over an hour of a match only four times this season, and has not once played a full ninety minutes in 2022/23.
Santos was asked directly by Antenna 1 journalist Nuno Matos why Renato was left out and Matheus Nunes selected instead, but the coach refused to be drawn into detailed justifications.
“I’ve seen in the media a whole array of squad predictions and although they are very similar, I haven’t seen two that are exactly the same,” responded Santos. “If everybody in this room chose a 26-man squad, it would be a surprise if two were the same.
“It would not be elegant for me to say why one player was chosen over another – not for the player left out and not for the player included.”
One aspect that stands out from the squad is the lack of width in terms of attacking wide players. It is somewhat ironic that a country famed for its incredible production line of wingers (Futre, Figo, Ronaldo, Quaresma, Simão, Nani) will go to Qatar without a single recognised winger.
Part explained by the injury to Wolves winger Pedro Neto, and the recent retirement from international football of Rafa Silva, the omission of Gonçalo Guedes suggests that Santos will stick to the flat 4-4-2 formation that has rooted his tactics for most of his reign.
And with most of the midfield options playing centrally for their clubs, Portugal will be heavily reliant on their full-backs to provide width.
That said, quality in those positions is certainly not lacking. The contributions made by João Cancelo or Diogo Dalot on the right, and Nuno Mendes or Raphael Guerreiro on the left could be key to unlocking defences in tight matches.
“We’re one of the favourites” - Santos
Santos was asked by a Brazilian journalist who he considered were favourites to win the World Cup, answering as follows:
“This is like the national leagues. When a new season starts, who are the favourites? It’s the team that won last time. So France are the favourites.
“Then there are a set of teams who all have legitimate claims to be among the favourites to win it, and Portugal are among that group.”
The final clues we will get to Santos’s World Cup thinking will come next week when Portugal host Nigeria in a friendly match at the Alvalade stadium in Lisbon on 17 November, before embarking for the Middle East.
The Seleção kick off their World Cup campaign against Ghana on 24 November at the snappily named Stadium 974.
The second Group H match will be versus Uruguay on 28 November at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
In Portugal’s final group match the Seleção face South Korea at the Education City Stadium on 2 December.
By Tom Kundert