Portugal’s participation in the World Cup finals in Qatar will be only their eighth appearance in a World Cup. However, the Portuguese have qualified every time since 2002 in South Korea and Japan. Their best performance dates back to 1966, when they finished third with legendary striker Eusebio in the side. Forty years later, Portugal finished fourth at the World Cup in Germany. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Portugal were eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16. Currently, Portugal is ranked 8th in the FIFA world rankings.
The qualification route
In World Cup qualifying, Portugal faced Serbia, Ireland, Luxembourg and Azerbaijan in Group A. After a surprising home defeat against Serbia, Portugal ended up in second place and thus qualified for the World Cup play-offs. There they beat Turkey 3-1 and then defeated North Macedonia, who had previously knocked out Italy, 2-0 in the deciding match.
The desire for success is great in Portugal and every few years a new, so-called golden generation is proclaimed. In 2022, the number of stars in the Portuguese team is greater than ever before. At the top of the list, however, despite his age, is still the team leader Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United. His successors, however, have long been ready: whether Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United, Bernardo Silva of Manchester City, Joao Felix of Atletico Madrid or Diogo Jota of Liverpool FC.
Portugal’s coach is 67-year-old Fernando Santos, who has been in charge since 2014 and led the team to their first European Championship title in 2016. However, the team only reached the round of 16 at the other tournaments, the 2018 World Cup and the 2021 European Championship. In his 98 international appearances with Portugal so far, he has averaged 2.08 points and his preferred system of play is a 4-1-4-1.
Diogo Costa (FC Porto) – Joao Cancelo (Real Madrid), Ruben Diás (Manchester City), Pépe (FC Porto), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund) – Joao Motinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers) – Otavio (FC Porto), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Rodrigo Leao (AC Milan) – Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
WORLD CUP 2022
At the 2022 World Cup, Portugal have been drawn into Group H. There, Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. will face Ghana, South Korea and Uruguay – the team that caused Portugal’s early exit in 2018.
None of these teams can normally match Portugal’s class. The Portuguese squad is overflowing with stars and individual class and qualification for the main round seems a sure thing.
But then the question is how many of the stars like Joao Felix, Diogo Joto or Leipzig’s goal-scorer Andre Silva will cope with their supposed bench-press role and whether Fernando Santos’ idea of an oldie axis in the form of Pepe, Joao Motinho and Cristiano Ronaldo can provide peace of mind given the enormous potential of his players.
The Portuguese have often tripped themselves up with their attitude bordering on arrogance – just think of Pepe’s early red card in the 2014 World Cup opener against Germany. Even the generation around Luis Figo and Rui Costa could not manage more than a third place in the end.
However, should Santos succeed in creating good team chemistry, Portugal is a contender for the World Cup title in terms of potential. The odds on this are currently 13.00.
Other teams in Group H: