Euro 2016 Fantasy Preview: Portugal
The presence of Cristiano Ronaldo always monopolises attention, but Portugal will be out to prove they are not a one-man team at this summer’s Euro 2016 tournament.
Portugal qualified with ease, winning seven seven straight matches in Group I, following the departure of coach Paulo Bento after the first game, to top the section comfortably, and they face Austria, Iceland and Hungary in what should be a relatively straightforward start to the Euros.
Fernando Santos has overseen a mixed bag of friendly results since qualification was secured and Portugal’s squad looks slightly unbalanced, with a clutch of exciting young players for whom the European Championship could come a couple of years too soon starting to break through.
Injury rules Danny and Fábio Coentrão out, with Atlético Madrid’s Tiago not included after recently returning from a broken leg and Monaco’s Bernardo Silva is another absentee – a blow for Santos.
What can fantasy football fans look forward to seeing from Portugal at this summer’s event?
Likely tactics and formation
Portugal play a form of 4-3-3, with a fluid front three spearheaded by the team’s star man Ronaldo, who will be given a free role to go and create havoc.
Playing a three-man midfield should create an opening in the team for the brilliant youngster Renato Sanches, who recently completed a big money move from Benfica to Bayern Munich.
Portugal’s tactics are not quite as simple as ‘pass it to Ronaldo’ but there is no doubt that Santos’ team will try to involve their key player and captain in attacking moves as much as possible.
Ronaldo and Pepe are two of Portugal’s most experienced players and the Real Madrid pair are certain starters, with the biggest question facing Santos over how many young starlets to include.
Another likely starter to keep an eye out for at the tournament is Sporting’s William Carvalho, a defensively-minded midfielder who is wanted by some of the top clubs in Europe. The tournament is his chance to put himself in the shop window and earn a big money move to an elite team.
The major fear for Santos and Portugal’s supporters is that Ronaldo will arrive at the championships totally exhausted, as he did at the World Cup two years ago.
The Champions League final comes worrying close to Portugal’s first fixture, against Iceland.
Rui Patrício of Sporting Lisbon is the Portugal number one, with 43 caps to his name so far.
The left-footed 28-year-old is a reliable presence between the posts, but he perhaps lacks the dominant presence of some of the top goalkeepers in Europe.
Lyon’s Anthony Lopes and Eduardo of Dinamo Zagreb are the other goalkeepers in the squad.
With first choice left-back Coentrão out of the squad due to injury, Benfica’s 32-year-old Eliseu is expected to deputise in the role.
Santos could select the Wolfsburg midfielder Vieirinha at right-back, with Southampton’s Cédric Soares another option for the position.
Pepe is a certainty to start at the back, with Bruno Alves his most likely partner in the heart of defence, although another Southampton defender, José Fonte, could be selected instead.
Former Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho adds experienced defensive cover at the age of 37.
João Moutinho provides the pivot in the Portugal midfield, but all eyes will be on the 18-year-old Sanches, a hugely confident ball-player who can add stardust to a fairly mediocre team.
With William Carvalho also highly likely to be selected in the midfield three, that could mean Danilo Pereira is the man to miss out – unless Sanches has to fight his way into the team from the bench.
Ronaldo is likely to be joined in attack by former Manchester United team-mate Nani and the final member of the front three might well be João Mário, who has had a stellar campaign in the Primeira Liga for Sporting Lisbon.
André Gomes and Rafa Silva are also options out wide for Santos, while Ricardo Quaresma has had a solid campaign for Besiktas and may also force his way into the picture.
Luis Figo’s record of 127 Portugal caps is in sight for Ronaldo, who is just two behind the icon.
Ronaldo also hit a handful of goals for the Selecção in their very comfortable qualifying campaign.
Should Sanches be left out of the team he would be a hugely exciting, game-changing option from the substitutes bench, while Lille striker Éder, his confidence recovering from a poor spell in the Premier League with Swansea City, is a powerful frontman and an alternative to Ronaldo.
Ricardo Carvalho is going to his fifth major international tournament with Portugal, but he has missed the last two championships and is unlikely to play a major part here either, unless injury strikes Pepe. Raphäel Guerreiro of Lorient provides competition and cover at left-back for Eliseu.
Ronaldo will take the vast majority of set pieces for Portugal, although his aerial power means he will certainly be needed in the penalty area when his side are attacking corners.
Nani, Moutinho and Gomes are likely to share corner duties, with Moutinho perhaps most likely to get the responsibility of finding Ronaldo and Pepe in the area from those set pieces.
There seems to be little chance in anyone persuading the skipper to let them have a go from penalties and free-kicks, making Ronaldo an even more important fantasy football selection in Euro 2016 games this summer. But Ronaldo has missed 15 penalties in his career, scoring 86.