Without challengers, Ronaldo still looms large in a Portugal squad short of depth

Think of Portugal and one name immediately comes to mind: Cristiano Ronaldo. Naming any other Portuguese players, though, is a bit harder.
And that lack of squad depth has long been Portugal's problem.

Ronaldo admitted after Portugal's disappointing group-stage exit at the 2014 World Cup that maybe the team was just average, despite its flatteringly high FIFA ranking. It is currently ranked fourth in the world.

The Real Madrid striker makes a competent but ordinary Portuguese team shine. Now 30 years old and less likely to charge flat-out at defenses, Ronaldo doesn't have an heir.

The two-time world player of the year leads a Portugal team that reached the semifinals at Euro 2012. It is the only team to lose a European Championship final on its own turf, falling to Greece at Euro 2004.

Portugal made a disastrous start to its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, losing 1-0 at home against Albania in a game that Ronaldo missed. That brought the departure of coach Paulo Bento and the arrival of Fernando Santos, who steered the Portuguese to automatic qualification as group winner and has nurtured a new generation that is beginning to blossom.

Santos was appointed despite his FIFA ban for verbally abusing match officials at the Brazil World Cup while coaching Greece.
Here is a look at Portugal's top three players and its coach:

CRISTIANO RONALDO

On the Ballon d'Or three-man shortlist once again this year, Ronaldo is already sure of going down as one of Portugal's all-time greats. The team captain is his country's all-time top scorer with 55 goals in 123 appearances — four shy of Luis Figo's record number of caps.

NANI

Nani followed the same path from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United as Ronaldo, but his career didn't take off like his Portugal teammate's. Still, the 29-year-old winger has been a mainstay for the national team, collecting 92 caps and 17 goals. His recent form at Fenerbahce, where he is back celebrating goals with backflips, shows he can still provide thrills.

ANDRE ANDRE

After making his international debut in March, the midfielder moved to FC Porto last summer. He made an immediate impact, scoring to help Porto beat Benfica in Portugal and Chelsea in the Champions League.  With one international goal in four appearances, Andre Andre is part of a new generation that is blossoming after coming through Portugal's youth teams. Other promising youngsters are William Carvalho, Joao Mario and Ruben Neves.

COACH: FERNANDO SANTOS

Your team needs a makeover? Call Fernando Santos. The coach has built a reputation for rescuing troubled teams, taking over a Greece that was in the doldrums after the 2012 World Cup and racking up an unbeaten run in his first 15 months on the job. He joined Portugal after its 2014 World Cup group-stage exit and following its 1-0 home defeat against Albania in its opening Euro 2016 qualifier. He then chalked up seven straight victories and, in exhibition games, also snared Portugal's first win in 39 years against Italy, as well as its first in 42 years against Argentina.
 

Print
  • Twitter
  • submit to reddit
comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular in Sports

Videos

Follow
Emirates 24|7

In Case You Missed It ...

Happiness Meter Icon