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 far from the standout side in Russia, finishing behind Spain in Group B. They’ve had a mixed time of things in their results, from Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick to a disappointing victory over Morocco. Fernando Santos – a man who has stuck by his favourites while in charge of the national team – seems to be struggling to settle on his best 11.
With the group stage over, we’re going over the players’ standout statistics from their three games. Who can the European champions rely on, and who do they need to drop ahead of a crunch encounter with Uruguay?
The Standouts so Far
Cristiano Ronaldo – 4 Goals
It’s hard to argue with the Portugal captain’s input, as Ronaldo has delivered where it matters. He’s hunting for the Golden Boot, with four goals to his name. While he missed a huge chance after fluffing a penalty against Iran, he’s still enjoying his most successful international tournament to date. We are finally seeing the Ronaldo who can inspire Real Madrid on his own, and he’s living up to the captain’s armband.
Ronaldo isn’t particularly creative for Portugal – he’s made 32 passes in the final third across his three games in Russia. However, he’s the ruthless finisher who can decide games. He has created half of his goals for himself so far, while he has produced seven of Portugal’s nine shots on target. Ronaldo has been brilliant for his side so far, and it’s hard to fault his overall displays.
Ricardo Quaresma – 13 Crosses
One man who is emerging as key for Portugal is Ricardo Quaresma. He didn’t start off in the side – but we’ll get to the man he’s primed to replace a little later on. The Besiktas winger has racked up 91 minutes in Russia, and 70 of those came in the final group meeting with Iran. He’s the only player outside of Ronaldo to score so far, while he’s one of just two who have hit a shot on target.
However, Quaresma has offered more than that. He’s supplied 13 crosses; putting in 11 crosses against Iran. The winger is emerging as a key man to back up Ronaldo, while he offers width in a side who looked far too narrow in their opening two games. Portugal have big issues at full-back and wide in midfield, but Quaresma’s is prepared to take people on. That’s going to be useful for a side who need another dimension going forward.
Jose Fonte – 17 Aerial Duels Won
We obviously have to reflect on the Portuguese defence. It was both a strength and a weakness ahead of the tournament. They had shown at the Euros how their centre-halves could help them to glory, but Pepe and Jose Fonte have a combined age of over 100. We’ve seen milk turn faster than the pair did against Spain, but overall Fonte has impressed.
The stats from the opening games show his strengths and weaknesses. The former West Ham man has won 70% of his aerial challenges so far. His tally of 17 successful aerial duels is among the highest of the sides left in Russia. He’s also led the way in clearances for Portugal, making 16. Basically, he’s mopping up the mess you get when you play with a hollow gap where a midfield should be. The issue for Fonte is that he struggles when he steps up, after winning one of five attempted tackles so far. Portugal need to keep him and Pepe deep, and flood the side with players who can screen in front of the defence.
Bruno Fernandes – Dispossessed 5 times per 90 minutes
Coming in to the World Cup, we marked out Bruno Fernandes as the player to watch. We suspected his could force his way in to the side, and he did that against Spain. However, the midfielder has struggled in his displays in Russia. He’s barely been able to hold on to the ball, while the goals from midfield that he’s known for simply haven’t arrived. He’s been off the mark with three attempts so far. While he does have the crisis at Sporting hanging over him, we still expected more. So far, the size of the occasion has got to the Primeira Liga’s standout performer from last season.
Bernardo Silva – 4 Crosses
Man City’s winger was once the heir to Ronaldo on the right. When in form, he struggled to make his way in to Santos’ plans. Now that he’s in the team, Quaresma is about to steal his place. That’s quite a fall from the former Monaco man.
Silva is there to add width, but in his first two games he supplied four crosses. He’s been poor with the ball, gifting away possession with a sloppy touch on seven occasions. He’s got the worst passing success rate of any outfield player in the team, while he didn’t even muster an effort on goal in 173 minutes. At this point, it would be a shock to see him feature against Uruguay.
Raphael Guerreiro – Tackle Success Rate: 65%
The Borussia Dortmund man could well be on this list because of his fitness woes. He had an injury-hit season in the Bundesliga, and that could explain why his solid start in the Spain game has gone downhill. He’s got a crucial job from the left side of the defence, as Portugal have Joao Mario tuck in from his left-midfield role. That leaves Guerreiro to dominate the whole flank, so his problems aren’t all his fault.
However, Guerreiro has the second highest number of misplaced short passes in the side. Tackling isn’t exactly his strong point. He’s not stood out in any way defensively, while he’s isolated on the left flank. Portugal tend to use the left the most, as 45% of their play comes down that flank. If Guerreiro can’t reach his usual standard, then that’s going to be a huge issue for Santos.
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