How will Portugal play at the World Cup?

How will Portugal play at the World Cup?
(Image credit: Future)

Portugal are among the favourites to win the World Cup in Qatar this winter. 

The Iberians have never previously been crowned world champions, but did win Euro 2016 and the 2019 UEFA Nations League. They boast several world-class players and the greatest international goalscorer of all time. 

But how will Portugal play in Qatar, what is their best formation and where do their strengths and weaknesses lie? FFT brings you the lowdown… 

What formation will Portugal play in Qatar?

How will Portugal play at the World Cup?

(Image credit: Future)

Under Fernando Santos, Portugal tend to play a 4-2-3-1 formation, which can occasionally be switched to a 4-3-3 against weaker opposition.

In the former set-up, Diogo Costa has recently been preferred in goal to Rui Patricio, and will likely start behind centre-backs Ruben Dias and Danilo Pereira. At full-back, Joao Cancelo typically performs on the right (as opposed to the left-sided role he plays for club side Manchester City), with Borussia Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro on the left.

Midfield is screened by Wolves playmaker Ruben Neves and William Carvalho. Ahead of them, a trio of Joao Felix (who should replace the injured Diogo Jota), Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva create behind Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. 

What is Portugal's style of play?

Bruno Fernandes

(Image credit: Getty)

Portugal play a variable pressing game, with opposition teams usually allowed to move the ball further up the pitch before the press is initiated. This is scrapped when Cristiano Ronaldo is missing from the lineup, however, with Portugal pressing much higher in his absence. The Manchester United striker isn’t famed for his workrate, and allowances must be made when he starts.

In possession, Portugal are one of the most technically-gifted sides in world football. The two full-backs are blessed with pace, dribbling ability and end product, and will be given licence to race forward to join attacking moves.

The diligent William Carvalho drops back into a three-man defence to facilitate this, while his midfield partner, Neves, is tasked with setting the tempo in midfield. Bruno Fernandes is the side’s chief creator, while Felix and Silva add skill and tenacity in the wide positions. 

This is a well-balanced and feared unit, who have the quality to challenge in Qatar. 

Strengths and weaknesses 

Cristiano Ronaldo

(Image credit: Getty)

Portugal’s biggest strength can also be their weakness: Cristiano Ronaldo. The record-scorer in men’s international football (117 and counting) remains the best finisher on the planet, and can score any type of goal at any moment. He remains a liability out of possession however, and Silva and Felix in particular will be tasked with carrying the can from a pressing standpoint. 

Portugal are strong all over the pitch but are particularly blessed in the full-back and attacking-midfield positions. Cancelo and Guerreiro are a modern and highly-attacking duo that will look to overlap Jota and Silva whenever possible. 

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1