EURO 2020 SQUAD CONUNDRUM: PORTUGAL- RONALDO AND CO. ARE PACKED WITH TALENT TO HELP THEM DEFEND THEIR CROWN
Going into Euro 2020, Portugal are well-endowed to defend their crown come June. Fernando Santos’ team clinched a dramatic extra-time winner in 2016 thanks to Eder, with Cristiano Ronaldo acting as motivator-in-chief. This time around the squad is even more packed to take on the might of Europe and thoughts are they will need every ounce of it.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) November 17, 2019
Portugal have been drawn into the proverbial ‘Group of Death.’ Their opponents include 2018 World Cup winners France, 2014 World Cup winners Germany and Hungary. But there is a case to be made that Selecao have the most in-form players in the continent right now. We take a look at how some of the top performers for the Portuguese have been getting on this season.
THE PREMIER LEAGUE GROUP
Portugal have a record 11 squad players playing in the English top flight. They all play varied positions and a team of these players will be able to challenge the best any day. But there’s clearly one man who has been performing head and shoulders above the rest since his arrival.
Bruno Fernandes has developed into one of the best playmakers of our time since joining the Red Devils. The ex-Sporting man has 38 goals in 75 appearances across all competitions over almost one-and-a-half season. He also has 18 assists in the same time in the league and has become something of a penalty specialist as well.
It is his fantastic range of crossing and eye for the killer pass that has earned him rave reviews. He can literally make something happen from nothing. All of which comes in handy when we look at his midfield cohorts.
— United Update (@UnitedsUpdate) January 7, 2021
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ midfield gurus Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho are renowned for their ability on the ball as well their striking ability. Moutinho has been a long-time fixture in this team and has been grooming his protegee well as they aim to provide stability and fear in the centre of the pitch. With these three together, expect Cristiano Ronaldo to be well-fed up top. Not to mention that Portuguese number one Rui Patricio is also from the Wolves.
All of the aforementioned finesse in play can be safely orchestrated in the knowledge that backline of this team is anchored by arguably the best defender in England right now. Ruben Dias has been an absolute behemoth in defence for runaway league leaders Manchester City.
The 23-year-old has helped the Cityzens keep 18 clean sheets in the league while his man-of-the-match performance against PSG in the Champions League semi-final second leg was one for the ages. A player with no fear and is able to time his blocks and tackles, Dias will be ably assisted by club teammate Joao Cancelo functioning as wing back.
Rúben Dias vs. PSG:
100% tackles won[ESPN]#mancity #mcfc #rubendias #ucl pic.twitter.com/HT7jFQ9ljj
90% pass accuracy
3 blocks#MOTM performance from the 23-year-old 👏
— MCFC_LADS (@MCFC_LADS) May 4, 2021
Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota are two players who will be tasked with shouldering the goal scoring responsibilities. The Liverpool attacker already has 12 goals in all competitions before injury seemed to have slowed him down a touch. Silva has been a constant threat on the flanks for City and will surely be looking to supply the crosses when chances arise.
REST OF EUROPE
There are standout performers across Europe as well for this squad, starting with captain Cristiano Ronaldo of course. Portugal’s all-time leading marksman has 33 goals already for Juventus across all competition and has been one of the most clutch players for his national team for almost two decades.
But there are other veterans around, 37-year-old defender Jose Fonte has been the rock who has captained Lille to the top of Ligue 1 this season. The French team have the best defensive record in France while their midfield has rising baller Renato Sanches, who has found new life in France as well.
Lille are challenging for the title this season, and it surely helps that their players are so strong in duels.
Their midfielder Benjamin André has won the most duels in the division, while their CB duo Sven Botman and José Fonte win the highest portion of duels they contest! 💪 pic.twitter.com/4JAowV9HYH
— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) March 29, 2021
Dortmund left back Raphael Guerreiro is another who has the ability to both attack and defend the flank while young attacking sensation Joao Felix is all set to pick up Ronaldo’s mantle this time. Even Barcelona man Trincao might get a look in while Santos also has the experienced Danilo Pereira (PSG) and 25 goal Bundesliga trailblazer Andre Silva (Frankfurt) waiting in the wings as well. Suffice to say that Portugal has an embarrassment of richness when it comes to who plays.
TOO MANY COOKS?
With so many high quality players comes the obvious question- how do you choose? The Portugal manager will definitely be having a hard time in deciding which team will be best suited to take on the European powerhouses in the tournament. As the turnaround time for each game is short, Santos knows he can ill afford errors during selection. One thing is for certain, Portugal has assembled a squad that are well equipped to repeat as champions again if they play their cards right.