Portugal announced their 26-man squad list traveling to Qatar for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Aside from injury troubles, Fernando Santos has named an extremely talented squad with the possibility of having a better arch than the 2018 edition. Cristiano Ronaldo will play the last World Cup of his career and the one he would like to make the biggest. He is not in his best of forms at the club level and could use the stage to resurrect his career again.
Portugal’s history is more recent although a legacy was created in the 1966 World Cup when the side containing the country’s legend, Eusebio finished third behind Germany and champions England. That was the first edition of the tournament they managed to qualify after missing out on seven successive competitions between 1934-1962. The only other participation before this century came in 1980. Portugal have not failed to qualify for the tournament since the 2002 World Cup but have not reached the quarterfinal stages yet. Eusebio remains the top goal scorer for his nation having competed in a single tournament with nine goals, winning the bronze ball. Cristiano Ronaldo has made the most appearances in the finals playing 17 matches and on course to compete in his fifth. Ricardo Carvalho, Luis Figo, Pauleta, Simao, Petit etc. are some of the nation’s legends who contributed a lot on this stage.
The 2018 World Cup was intense yet disappointing from Portugal’s perspective. Euro winners at that moment, the Selecao was one of the favorites to reach the last four of the competition if not win it. However, their journey ended after the group stages defeated by Uruguay in the last 16.
Edinson Cavani scored twice to put the South American nation in the quarterfinals despite Pepe equalizing in the 55th minute of the game. Portugal also stammered in the group stages finishing behind Iberian rivals Spain. They were equalled on points and goal difference after three matches but La Roja finished top courtesy of scoring a goal more. The Selecao drew a 3-3 thriller with the eventual group leaders in the first game before narrowly evading Morocco’s challenge by a 1-0 win. The last game against Iran ended 1-1.
Portugal’s qualification campaign went to the wire with Serbia with two games between the sides the decisive factor of each other’s faith. The first game ended in a draw with Cristiano Ronaldo’s late winner controversially not given. The Selecao then dropped points further in one game aside from their five wins need only a draw over the Eagles to guarantee an automatic spot. In a packed stadium in Lisbon, Renato Sanches made the outcome look better by giving the home side the lead inside 2nd minute bringing the roof down but that was that as the tide changed and Serbia equalized through Dusan Tadic past the hour mark. Alexander Mitrovic then struck a 90th-minute winner to relegate the Selecao to the playoff spot. There were no hiccups after that with Portugal registering a 3-1 victory against Turkey and then a 2-0 win over North Macedonia to book their place in Qatar.
Preparation for the 2022 World Cup
Portugal’s preparation for the 2022 World Cup have been mixed with the Nations League campaign earlier this year the only chance they got to test themselves. Starting with a 1-1 draw against Spain in the Iberian derby, Portugal followed with 4-0 and 2-0 wins over Switzerland and the Czech Republic coming close to a place in the finals. However, disaster struck again as they lost to the Swiss in the reverse fixture and the 4-0 win over the Czechs next put them in a do-or-die battle with Spain in the last group stage game. The Selecao lost that battle against their rivals to miss out on the semi-finals of the competition next year. Portugal have a friendly lined up against Nigeria on Friday to test themselves before the real business unfolds next week.
Portugal World Cup Squad 2022
Goalkeepers: Diogo Costa (Porto), Rui Patrício (Roma), Jose Sa (Wolves)
Defenders: Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Diogo Dalot (Manchester United), Nuno Mendes (PSG), Ruben Dias (Manchester City), Antonio Silva (Benfica), Pepe (Porto), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Danilo Pereira (PSG)
Midfielders: Joao Palhinha (Fulham), Matheus Nunes (Wolves), William Carvalho (Real Betis), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Joao Mario (Benfica), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Vitinha (PSG), Otavio (Porto)
Forwards: Joao Felix (Atlético Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Goncalo Ramos (Benfica), Rafael Leao (AC Milan), Ricardo Horta (Braga), Andre Silva (RB Leipzig)
Coach: Fernando Santos
Portugal are unlucky not to have attacker Diogo Jota in the ranks after he pulled out of contention due to a calf injury. It was the latest setback the Liverpool forward faced this season at his club. However, the Selecao have enough talent in their frontline to cope with his absence with Goncalo Ramos of Benfica, Ricardo Horta of Braga and especially Rafael Leao of AC Milan taking up the responsibility to hassle down the opposition. 19-year Antonio Silva of Benfica has received his first call-up for the national side and it will be the World Cup that he is going to play, a massive achievement. Defender Pepe is included in the sixth major competition of his career for Portugal while it is a fourth for Rui Patricio and the third World Cup for both. With another goal, Cristiano Ronaldo will become the first player ever to score in five World Cups. He is also two shy of Eusebio’s goal tally having scored seven goals in the competition.
The strength of Portugal will be utilizing its talent to the fullest. The squad hold some phenomenon names of the footballing world and future stars looking to make their first mega event a memorable one. If a certain position could be key to Portugal’s long run in the competition, then it is surely the midfield. Bruno Fernandes has reclaimed his form at Manchester United and did pretty well in the qualification rounds for Portugal staying as one of the best creative midfielders around. Bernardo Silva’s class and work ethic in doing everything as a midfielder or sometimes as a forward is the versatility only few could dream of. Joao Mario, Joao Palhinha, Ruben Neves and the rest are having strong seasons at their club and will wish to resonate that on the international stage like the World Cup. Goalkeeper Diogo Costa has exceeded all limits of excellence this season making him one of the best in his role already in another strong department for Portugal.
As always like other competitions, manager Fernando Santos’s less tactical steam in his style of play has cost the talented generation of players in major competitions be it Euro 2020 or the World Cup before. His Euro 2016 success squad was palpable to his way of football but this current crop of players thrives in a system that brings the best out of them. Something largely missing and halting some of the individual’s progress in the national shirt. Also, the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo just unilaterally circles everything around him making the players look directionless otherwise. Bruno Fernandes the best example of it facing the dilemma at his club too.
Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Now 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be banging goals for fun as he used to be in the best days of his football career. His form with Manchester United has faltered and he has been engaged in all kinds of on and off-field fiascos with the club, particularly its manager. If he can set that aside and be an example to his Portugal team whom he will generate more, then the World Cup will be meaningful to set his career back on track. The side still depends on him to deliver. However, it is also right that Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Rafael Leao etc. have to take responsibility to drive Portugal forward. The Selecao have to behave as a cohesive unit rather than a one-man show.
How will Portugal Lineup at FIFA World Cup 2022?
Fernando Santos will most likely field a 4-2-3-1 formation with Cristiano Ronaldo leading the line and three attacking forwards Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Rafael Leao supporting him. Without Jota, the AC Milan star is set to enjoy more minutes on the left but will face competition because of the depth. The two sitting midfielders could be Ruben Neves with the Wolves marksman getting upfield more often while Carvalho screens the back four. Joao Palhinha and Joao Mario could also play those roles with Vitinha giving a different sphere in midfield. 39-year-old Pepe is an ever-present figure at the back four partnering Ruben Dias and the two productive full-backs in Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro. Diogo Dalot and Nuno Mendes are also sparkling form with their club and can come in when needed. FC Porto’s Diogo Costa keeps his place in between the sticks in the hope of a great World Cup campaign that will escalate his value for a move elsewhere soon.
Opponents and Fixtures
Portugal vs Ghana - 24 November 2022, Stadium 974 (9:30 PM)
Portugal vs Uruguay - 29 November 2022, Lusail Stadium (12:30 AM)
South Korea vs Portugal - 2 December 2022, Education City Stadium (8;30 PM)
Portugal group is not challenging but could be tricky if they don’t give their hundred per cent on the pitch. They and Uruguay are favorites to advance from Group H but before they meet, the Selecao will open their campaign against the lowest-ranked nation in the World Cup this term in Ghana on 24th November. The African nation will field a talented squad with the potential to cause trouble but not an excuse for the side not to take full points off. The potential group-winner clash happens on 29th November which is a repeat of the round of 16 match between the pair in the last edition. Uruguay eliminated the Selecao then so revenge will be on the cards. Six points will guarantee a place in the knockouts but anything else from the first two games will make the game against South Korea crucial. In short, Portugal should not make this group difficult for them.
Even if Fernando Santos works his way well in the group stages, the knockout will throw a different challenge altogether. In the last two editions, Portugal have failed to please fans at this stage with their defensive tactics seized well by a better attacking threat. If Santos allows for freedom for the talents to display their true game and reduce the dependency of the 37-year-old, the Selecao could be better. It will be the perfect send-off from a major competition for Cristiano Ronaldo then. Otherwise, the doldrums of the knockout stages will continue for Portugal eventually costing Santos’s job.