UEFA Nations League – Team in Focus: PORTUGAL

Credit: The Sun

The UEFA Nations League is commencing this week, making worthless friendlies and international breaks a bit more interesting. It’s a chance for the top teams to match themselves up against the other top teams.

European Champions, Portugal, have been drawn in Group A3 up against Italy and Poland.

Previous Tournament – World Cup 2018

After a CR7 storming World Cup, but a quick exit at the round of 16 to Uruguay, Portugal will be looking to reinstate themselves as an international powerhouse.

Portugal progressed through their group in Russia which began with a thrilling 3-3 draw against Spain courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo spirited hat-trick. Ronaldo was back at it again on matchday two with a bullet header against Morocco which secured a 1-0 victory. In the last round of group fixtures, two controversial, VAR influenced games saw Portugal go through second behind Spain.

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Credit: Daily Post

“A Selecao” met Uruguay in the next round and met an inspired Edinson Cavani who took advantage of Portugal’s aged defence that lacked pace and energy. The PSG striker netted twice which gave Uruguay a 2-1 victory over the European champions.

Going forward, Portugal are armed with a lot pace with the likes of Gelson Martins and Goncalo Guedes with a lot of technical ability backing them up in midfield with Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva.

With a powerful midfield including William Carvalho and Danilo Pereira, Portugal are somewhat lopsided in their squad when turning the attention to their defence.

The tired, ageing centre-back pairing of Jose Fonte and Pepe that were exposed in Russia will look to be rejuvenated by Ruben Dias who struggled for game time during the World Cup. Experience mixed with young, raw talent seems to be the perfect balance, so with Dias and Pepe at the back, Portugal become a bit more balanced.

Player Focus

Ruben Dias: Benfica’s 21-year-old centre-back had a breakthrough season last year in Lisbon and with early Champions League football in his career and a cemented spot in the Benfica’s back line, the young defender is looking to branch out further and strengthen his position at the heart of the Portuguese defender. Dias is quick and aggressive whilst still being systematic with his decisions and could get well-needed competitive international football at the UEFA Nations League.

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Credit: sapo.pt

Ruben Neves: A star born in Portugal but made in Wolverhampton. Neves washed away Championship competition last year in England, leading Wolves to the Premier League and has already demonstrated his immense technical ability and commanding midfield presence in the English top flight. The 21-year-old failed to make the final World Cup squad for Portugal but now has the chance to impress for Portugal in the Nations League.

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Credit: Wolves

Gedson Fernandes: Gedson has become a star for Benfica already this season, who has made his senior debut, Champions League debut, Liga NOS debut and started every match for Benfica. Earning his first call-up and looking to continue his storming season and impress on the international stage with his energetic box-to-box style of play.

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Credit: Zimbio

Manager – Fernando Santos

The wise head of Santos has already worked magic earning Portugal their first ever major trophy but his old-fashioned tactics seem to have affected Portugal’s progress at the World Cup. His loyalty to the more experienced players made the “Selecao” a lethargic team lacking pace and energy.

Santos has, however, picked a very different squad with a lot of new, young faces which, with an ageing squad looks to be the way forward. Santos may aim to utilise the young pace and develop his traditional style of play to a modern day pressing way of playing especially with Ronaldo nearing the end of his footballing peak.

Portugal are the current European kings and will be a tough team to face for anyone in the UEFA Nations League despite a disappointing World Cup. Without Ronaldo, the young stars coming through may give Portugal an edge and begin to build a platform for the future tournaments.

Can Portugal become back to back European Champions in 2020? Let us know by commenting below, or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ with the hashtag #AOF