The 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup is a year away but Portugal are not in any of the pools yet. They currently have one of the most talented squads in the World and yet struggle to be the better team on the pitch. Setting aside the fact that they were in the ‘Group of Death’ at the Euros, Fernando Santos could not get his tactic right.
With players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Diaz and Joao Felix in the mix, they have the potential to beat any team. However, poor management has already cost them and will continue to cost them if they do not make amends.
When Portugal won the European Championship in 2016, it was out of the blue. They did have star players like Ronaldo, Nani and Pepe but were not challengers compared to France and Germany. This year however, they were favorites with a host of buzzing talents. With their disappointing performances, they proved that teamwork is more important than talent.
Fernando Santos is not the man for the job
Prior to the influx of talent after the 2016 win, Fernando Santos had one tactic. Ronaldo. He cannot be blamed either. Most managers with unbalanced squads focus on a single player to win games. The less creative players play structured passes to finish the move with Ronaldo. Sure Nani could chip in a good ball or two but the team was nothing without Nani and Ronaldo.
Thus when Santos had players like Bruno, Felix and Bernardo in his squad, he was clueless. Let to themselves, the team would play much better than what they are doing at the moment. But a perfect coach can take them all the way to the World Cup. At the Euros, they were paper tigers, a team with tremendous potential and zero chemisty.
Even with creative midfielders in his squad, Fernando Santos believed that Cristiano Ronaldo had to finish up every move. Every team heavily marked Ronaldo and thus Portugal were never a threat in front of the net despite dominating the games.
Jose Mourinho will not be up for the job as he has stated that he will not be leaving Rome any time soon. The Special One would surely become an excellent manager if he changes his mind. Ruben Amorim is another option. He has already established his status in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon. His overflowing trophy cabinet consists of the Primera Liga title, the Portuguese Cup and the Super Cup. So long, Fernando.
Different Formantions, Different Tactics, Different Players
For context and better understanding let up focus on the poor Euro campaign Portugal had. In their first game against Hungary, they were the better team, in terms of possession. Hungary were the underdogs and defended for their lives. This meant that the ball was always in Portugal’s court as Hungary parked the bus in front of their thundering fans.
Portugal were toothless as they tried to break for 85 minutes. Hungary capitalized on a single chance and had the ball in the back of the net only for the offside flag to go up. None of the players on the field were close to their best as the team kept giving incomplete passes that did not serve any purpose.
As the games went on, the absence of Joao Felix and Renato Sanches puzzled many. The youngsters had impressed in their cameo appearances and surely deserved more game-time. However, Fernando Santos stuck Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva on the wing hoping for magical deliveries to Ronaldo.
Portugal should change
The Portuguese National Team are a talented buch but need the right guidance. With Santos at the wheel, it would be a long journey to the World Cup. A different manager however, can turn things around and get the best out of this lot.
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