Portugal under the radar
They’re the reigning champions of Europe with arguably the best player in the world.
And yet there seems to be little talk about Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo heading into Friday’s much anticipated World Cup match against neighbouring Spain in Group B.
In a way it’s understood. Spain dominated the headlines this week with the chaos surrounding its coaching situation, to the point a large number of questions on Thursday at Portugal’s news conference were based around their opponent’s decision to replace coach Julen Lopetegui with Fernando Hierro just days before the game. Secondary was the fact this is the first match between the Iberian neighbours since 2012.
“We’re focused, we’re united and I don’t think we’re concerned with anything else,” Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho said. “We have to focus on the action of the team and what we can do to attain our goal in this World Cup. We’re not really looking at what is happening with other teams.”
Perhaps a bit more respect should be paid to Portugal based on its last major tournament. The team won the 2016 European Championship thanks to a magical run through the knockout stage led by Ronaldo.
Spain, Germany, Brazil and France are all talked about as potential winners of this tournament. Rarely is Portugal mentioned, yet the players seem to understand their place in the hierarchy of contenders.
“The favourites are the ones you have just listed,” Moutinho said. “Portugal is, I think, among the candidates to be able to take this cup home. It’s normal to have other favourites with all they’ve obtained, all they’ve achieved. Of course you have favourites. We are European champions, but that doesn’t give us the right to be favourites.”