Portugal exceeded all expectations at the 2016 European Championships, embarking on an incredible run to the showpiece event at the Stade de France. On that famous Paris night, the Seleção sought redemption for the heart-breaking defeat they had suffered in a role-reversal as Euro 2004 hosts in the final against Greece
Facing the hosts, Portugal had an uphill task in the final, but a resolute and often desperate defensive unit gave Fernando Santos’ side an outside chance of securing a shock victory.
And that is exactly what happened. With the clock ticking and a penalty shootout looming large, Eder found space just outside the French box and unleashed an effort past the hapless Hugo Lloris. It was a goal that guaranteed Eder’s spot in Portuguese folklore. Whisper it quietly, but the European champions could be set for more major glory this summer.
In recent years, Portugal have frequently made hard work of qualifying for major tournaments – often needing a playoff round to book their spot in the biggest events. They had absolutely no trouble this time around though, cruising into the World Cup as group winners after picking up 27 points in 10 qualifying games. Switzerland were the only side to offer any sort of resistance throughout the group stages.
Vídeos - Éder recorda golo na final do Euro'2016: «Parecia um sonho» https://t.co/xVMcA4mZGX— Diário Record (@Record_Portugal) January 22, 2018
Based on those results, you wouldn’t bet against Portugal but you have to take their group stage record with a pinch of salt; Andorra, Latvia and Faroe Islands were never going to test the European champions. Santos will be confident in his ability to pick a winning squad – again – but Portugal must recognise that this summer is not going to be easy.
As a ‘reward’ for progressing as group winners, Portugal have been paired up with Morocco, Iran and Spain. This should be a straight-up battle for supremacy between the two European nations but Portugal cannot afford to take their opponents lightly. A draw against either Iran or Morocco could prove catastrophic as Santos’ men look to pip Spain to top spot.
Portugal aren’t a one-man team by any stretch of the imagination, but Cristiano Ronaldo will be central to their aspirations. The 2017 Ballon d’Or winner has been pivotal for the national side since breaking onto the big stage and fans will be expecting the Real Madrid star to step up and guide his country to the latter stages of the tournament.
As of February 2nd, Portugal are priced at 25/1 to win the World Cup in football betting markets with bet365 – a decent price considering their exploits in France just two years ago. Santos will have his side fired up and ready to go; if you were being critical you could claim that this Portuguese side is ageing but the counter-argument to that opinion is that they are very experienced.
Portugal will be there or thereabouts this summer, especially if they can pick up a positive result against Spain in the opener. Topping the group should give Santos’ side an easier fixture in the next round and a quarter-final berth beckons if the Seleção play to their full potential.
From there, it is all about bottle, something that judging by what this group of players demonstrated two years ago, won’t be found wanting. To emerge victorious in Russia, Portugal will need to replicate their efforts from the 2016 European Championship. Don’t bet against it.