Before becoming a Sports Journalist for Free Super Tips, Aaron spent three years studying Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland while taking in the Black Cats' 'glory years' under Martin O'Neill. Now back in Northern Ireland he turns niche stats into predictions for FST, while he's one of the few people on this island who is equally comfortable at Windsor Park and the Aviva.
Portugal are in a commanding position in their World Cup group, with four points from their opening two matches. They’re quickly approaching their final group game of the tournament, which is against Iran in Saransk on Monday.
Just what do Portugal need from their final clash to secure a place in the last 16? They are a side who have experience at knuckling down and digging in for results, so they’re going to be expected to thrive under the pressure of their final clash, but just what can they get out of it? Ahead of Portugal’s clash with Iran, we’re looking at what the Selecao can do in the final round of games, and how they can secure final day success.
Portugal’s Results so Far
The European champions have put themselves on the brink of the last 16 after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain, and considerably less interesting win over Morocco. They owe all of that to Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored all four of their goals so far. He seems to be keeping his goatee, which he said he wouldn’t shave if he kept scoring. If that maintains his form, then Portugal need him to keep it, as few others have contributed to their strong start.
While the Real Madrid man chases the Golden Boot, Portugal are in contention for the next round. Monday’s final clash can see them edge in to the second round, while their potential route to the final will be decided by their finale. They’ll be looking to improve in their final match, after lacklustre start. They’ve stuttered in the opening 180 minutes in Russia, but there’s plenty worth playing for when they return to action on Monday.
Where Can Portugal Finish?
As things stand, Portugal and Spain have had identical results so far, with Morocco and Iran both proving difficult. That means the duo can’t be separated at the top, with four points to their name. Iran are narrowly behind on three points, while Morocco are out following their loss to Portugal. That leaves the top two spots open for Fernando Santos’s men, and making it out of this group would have been their bare minimum aim.
However, the European champions have finished third in their group at their previous two major tournaments, which is a concern. They were lucky to make it through in Euro 2016, while they were really lacking quality in Brazil four years ago. Those two finishes don’t exactly fill us with confidence ahead of the clash with Iran.
Will Portugal Qualify?
While Portugal’s recent group stage record is mixed, the bookies are expecting them to book a last 16 spot. It’s currently in their hands, with Iran needing to win in order to extend their stay in Russia. A point would guarantee second place for the European champions, which has to be their minimum aim. Given their style of play, we wouldn’t be hugely surprised if Portugal started out with a very defensive outlook, going in with a backs to the wall mentality yet again. That should at least take them out of the group, but it wouldn’t be pretty.
Portugal are at a slight disadvantage, given that they play an Iran side pushing to qualify, while Spain meet Morocco. There’s obviously a tougher edge to the side who are still in with a chance to qualify. That final day match up means that Spain are basically through. To go out at the group stage they’d need to lose to Morocco by two or more goals, and then see the other two sides draw. Even a 1-0 loss would put Spain through, so they’ve not too much to worry about. Meanwhile, Portugal have to hold off a side who are still competing.
Another issue for the Portuguese is that they’re facing former manager Carlos Queiroz. The Iran boss was in charge of his native country during their poor 2010 World Cup campaign, as they went out in the last 16 after failing to score in three of four matches. The former Real Madrid boss quickly moved on to Iran, and he took them to the World Cup in Brazil. Now he’s aiming to dump his native side out of the tournament, in what would be a major shock.
Will Portugal Top the Group?
This group was drawn with the expectation being that Spain would easily top it. However, ahead of the final game it’s all to play for. There’s a big difference between the two spots, as right now it seems like the Group B winners would face the likes of Croatia, Mexico and Denmark in their half of the draw. That’s much more straightforward when compared to a top-half which is set to include Brazil, Belgium and France.
While a point takes Portugal through, if they avoid defeat and better Spain’s result, even by a single goal, then they’ll be top of the pile. That does complicate matters for the European champions, as they can’t rely on a defence-first approach securing a first place finish.
This is where the fixtures hit Portugal again. Spain get a Morocco side who are packed up and ready to go, so they could run riot. Meanwhile, Iran will be out to keep it tight as they try and stay in contention. Portugal aren’t a side who can throw off the shackles and push for a big goal difference boost, so this complicates matters. Their best hope is that the Moroccans take the final clash seriously, and really push Spain. If they can’t do that, then Portugal’s hopes of finishing top are all but over.
How Are They Likely to Approach it?
Portugal needed to win their final group game at Euro 2016 to secure their progression, and that turned in to a 3-3 thriller. As they pushed forward, their defence was exposed, and Hungary took the chance to make an impression. Iran wouldn’t take that many risks here, and Portugal aren’t likely to either. We expect them to simply focus on qualifying, waiting to see if they can sneak in to first place.
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