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Portugal World Cup 2018 profile: Ones to watch, best bets and more

All you need to know about Portugal ahead of the World Cup in Russia
All you need to know about Portugal ahead of the World Cup in Russia

Can Cristiano Ronaldo lead his Portugal side to World Cup glory on the back of Euro 2016 success in France?

Portugal Factfile

Coach - Fernando Santos: Already Portugal's greatest-ever coach after just three years in charge, thanks to steering them to their maiden tournament victory at Euro 2016. He led Greece to Euro 2012's last eight, as well as qualification for the 2014 World Cup, and proved his international pedigree by masterminding Portugal's success in France.

Legend - Eusebio: Right up there with the best players of all time, Eusebio scored an incredible 733 goals in 745 matches during his career, mainly with Benfica. He won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup, scoring nine goals as he lit up the tournament in England, but could not prevent the hosts from winning in their semi-final meeting.

Star man - Cristiano Ronaldo: He's going on the right track to rival Eusebio thanks to his exploits for club and country. A five-time Ballon d'Or winner and four-time Champions League winner, Ronaldo secured international glory at Euro 2016 to ensure that his glorious club career is matched at international level. At 33, this could well be his last World Cup and leading Portugal to victory in Russia would cement his legacy as one of the true all-time greats.

Did you know? If Portugal can win in Russia they would become just the fourth team to hold both the World Cup and European Championship titles after West Germany (1972, 1974), France (1998, 2000), and the all-powerful Spanish team (2008, 2010, 2012).

Fun fact: Portugal only won one game in 90 minutes during their victorious Euro 2016 campaign - that being a 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. They drew all their group games then won via extra-time or penalties.

Qualifying: Just about managed to finish top of Group B in European qualifying, beating Switzerland 2-0 in their last game to top the standings on goal difference.

Group B fixtures: Spain (7pm, June 15, Sochi), Morocco (1pm, June 20, Moscow), Iran (7pm, June 25, Saransk)

Portugal Squad

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric Soares (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Mario Rui (Napoli), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ruben Dias (Benfica)

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Joao Mario (West Ham), Joao Moutinho (AS Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

Portugal Profile

Given the talent Portugal always seem to produce, it's odd that it took them 40 years to equal their best ever performance as they returned to the semi-finals in Germany after first making the last four in England in 1966.

Eusebio won plenty of plaudits when leading Portugal to the 1966 semis, while Ronaldo was at the centre of controversy as his wink after Wayne Rooney's sending off came before a penalty shootout victory over England in 2006.

Portugal: Euro 2016 winners
Portugal lifted the Euro 2016 trophy in France

A loss to France followed in the semis, and that is as good as it's been in the Ronaldo era, as they went out in the second round in South Africa to eventual winners Spain, while Brazil was a massive dud as Portugal failed to make it through the group stages.

They suffered an embarrasing 4-0 defeat against winners Germany in their opening match in Brazil and never recovered from there. They'll look for better this time with Ronaldo still in tremendous form and a talented supporting cast surrounding him.

They'll be rough and tough and hard to beat, just as in Euro 2016, so could make another deep run if Ronaldo can get the goals at the other end.

Who to watch out for

While all eyes will be on Ronaldo, young striker Andre Silva will be one to watch in the goalscoring stakes having notched nine goals in qualifying and made a big-money move from Porto to AC Milan last summer.

Silva - this year linked with a move to Wolves - became the youngest player to ever score a hat-trick for Portugal with his treble against the Faroe Islands, and World Cup defences will need to keep an eye on him and not be too obsessed with keeping Ronaldo quiet.

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva has spent too much time on the bench for his liking this season, but has shown quality when on the pitch, while the old guard of Pepe, Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho are probably playing in their last World Cup.

How did they qualify?

In short - they left it late. They perhaps still had a Euro 2016 hangover when losing 2-0 to Switzerland in their opener, and had to scratch and claw away just to stay in contention - most notably when edging an ill-tempered win over Hungary to set up a group decider against the Swiss.

The final game proved to be quite a comfortable exercise, however, with a facile 2-0 victory in Lisbon seeing them edge out the Swiss for top spot in the group on goal difference.

What will I hear when they play?

Unsurprisingly, Portugal fans are very proud of their star man Ronaldo, so naturally they have a few songs in homage to the great man, mainly..

Via Ronaldo, via Ronaldo - great player of all support Ronaldo, via Ronaldo.

On a slightly more patriotic note, there's a much simpler chant for the national team, albeit with a French flavour.

Any interesting facts about Portugal?

They surprised most people when winning Euro 2016 despite their defensive approach, but they're now on the verge of becoming just the fourth team to ever hold the World Cup and European Championship titles if they can win in Russia - joining West Germany (1972, 1974), France (1998, 2000), and the all-powerful Spanish team (2008, 2010, 2012).

Any famous football moments?

Eusebio hitting nine goals in 1966, including scoring four against North Korea, is right up there, but there was precious little to shout about for Portugal fans until the 2000s. They took a big step forward at Euro 2004 when they hosted the tournament and made it all the way to the final.

It ultimately ended in disaster as Greece upset the odds by winning the trophy, but that started a much more successful era with the team driven on by the increasing influence of Ronaldo. In 2006 they finished fourth behind hosts Germany - when they beat England on penalties for the second major tournament running.

Ronaldo was perhaps not the most popular figure back in England after he played his part in getting Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney sent off during the game.

Either side of bitterly disappointing World Cup exits, they went close at the Euros again in 2012 as they lost in the semi-finals on penalties to Spain after a 0-0 draw.

The crowing glory then came in France in 2016 - it was hardly a swashbuckling display throughout the tournament as they kept it tight at the back and looked to pinch the odd goal here or there, but it worked a treat and nobody in Portugal cared one bit when they lifted the trophy.

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