Portugal sticks to winning formula from Euro 2016
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 23, 2018 01:10 PM
Portugal national team coach Fernando Santos and Brazilian coach Luis Felipe Scolari, right, arrive for the Portuguese soccer federation awards ceremony Monday, March 19, 2018, in Lisbon. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
By Tales Azzoni, Associated Press
Portugal has few unanswered questions going into the World Cup, with coach Fernando Santos sticking to most of the squad that won the European Championship two years ago.
Santos hasn't finalized his 23-player list, but he will be keeping the core of players who helped Portugal win its first major title in France.
Santos will make a few final tests in the friendlies against Egypt on Friday in Zurich and against the Netherlands on Monday in Geneva, but there won't be many changes to the final squad.
"We have 70 percent of the final list (playing in these friendlies)," Santos said. "And some players were not available, so if we consider the previous list as well, then we are very close (to that final list)."
More than 15 players from the Euro 2016 squad are practically guaranteed to make it to Russia, including Cristiano Ronaldo and most regular starters from that tournament.
From the team that started in the final against France two years ago, only Nani and Renato Sanches were not included in Santos' list for the upcoming friendlies.
Here's a closer look at Portugal three months before the World Cup:
Portugal's attack again will be carried by Ronaldo, who was key for the team's success in France and has been in top form with Real Madrid.
The forward had a slow start to his season but has scored 21 goals in his last 11 matches in all competitions. He has scored at least one goal in his last eight matches and is back in the race for top-scorer in the Spanish league with 22 goals, three behind Barcelona forward Lionel Messi.
He will likely have a different attacking partner from two years ago for the World Cup, though, with Gelson Martins and Goncalo Guedes gaining space up front.
During Euro 2016, the forwards included Ricardo Quaresma, Nani and Eder, whose extra time goal in the final against France helped Portugal clinch title. Quaresma is the only forward from that squad who is likely to make it to Russia.
Raphael Guerreiro and William Carvalho are expected to anchor Portugal's midfielder again, with Joao Mario, Andre Gomes, Adrien Silva and Joao Moutinho fighting for a spot to play closer to the attack along with Bernardo Silva, who was not in France two years ago.
Santos is likely to keep his starting central defenders from Euro 2016, with veterans Pepe and Bruno Alves in charge.
The right back will probably remain with Cedric Soares, but there could be a change in the left back position because Fabio Coentrao is set to make the squad for Russia.
Rui Patricio was in goal during the tournament in France and is set to start at the World Cup as well.
Portugal conceded five goals in its seven matches at Euro 2016, but none in the semifinals or the final.
The reserves will likely be Anthony Lopes and Beto, the only one who was not in the winning squad in France.