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