One of the real big guns comes out to play on Day 3 of Euro2020 with England facing Croatia at Wembley Stadium.
Portugal are the defending champions but, surprisingly, are not one of the favourites according to the bookies to win again – more than likely because they are in the so-called ‘group of death’.
The betting companies obviously aren’t familiar enough with the players selected in this squad to realise this is the best squad of players Portugal has had in over 20 years and will be a force to be reckoned with. The winner of the tournament will have to get past Portugal.
There is one name that sticks out like a sore thumb when you run through this squad and that’s the Benjamin Button of world football; many a fan’s man crush – the phenomenal Cristiano Ronaldo.
At 36 years of age, the effervescent Ronaldo shows no signs of fading away. Physically, he is still an absolute specimen and he has just come off an amazing scoring season individually with Juventus – even though his club had an awful campaign.
This will be Ronaldo’s fifth straight European Championship and he will be looking to add yet another record to his name.
He is only six goals from tying the all-time scoring record. The record of 109 goals is held by former Iran striker Ali Daei, the only other player to pass the 100-goal milestone. If Portugal is to do well in this tournament, it needs Ronaldo’s firepower.
Rui Patricio should provide a safe pair of hands between the sticks, but if there is an area of weakness – like a lot of teams in this tournament – it could be in central defence.
They have arguably the best defender in European football, Manchester City’s Rueben Diaz, but his centre back partner could be either one of a couple of players in their late 30’s; Pepe or Jose Fonte.
Both players had great seasons at their respective clubs, Porto and Lille, but can still be found susceptible to pace and the odd brain fade.
Diaz will have to live up to his mantle as the best defender in the world by marshalling along either one of the elder statesmen he will partner.
Portugal has the best collection of talented, technical midfielders in this tournament with Joao Moutinho, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Danilo, William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Goncalo Guedes, Ruben Neves, Pote, Sergio Oliveira and Joao Palhinha all vying for starting positions.
The forward line has veterans as well as youth with Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Rafa Silva, Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and Pedro Gonçalves selected.
Goncalves could be their player of the tournament. At 22 years-old he has never played for the senior national team but had an amazing season helping Sporting Lisbon win its first Portuguese league title since 2002.
He has been heavily scouted this season and a mooted move to the Premier League appears likely with a solid tournament.
Goncalves is yet another tricky winger that Portugal seems to produce in abundance. He has all the tools in his locker to be a world beater and they could be on full display if he is given appropriate game time this tournament.
The group of death with France, Germany and Hungary should hold no fears for Portugal and I would fully expect them to climb out of this group and go very close to holding the trophy aloft.
Portuguese fans will be expecting the ever-green Ronaldo to hold the trophy aloft and who can blame them when you see how talent stacked this team is?
The bookies have made an error in not instilling Portugal as one of the favourites to with this tournament. If the egos in the dressing room can be kept in check, fans in Lisbon could experience an epic victory parade.