Yesterday Portugal laboured to a 1-0 win against Morroco thanks to their perennial matchwinner, Cristiano Ronaldo. But who are their other main men?
Portugal’s poster boy and record goalscorer Ronaldo has rightly taken the plaudits for his team in the World Cup so far, as he leads the race for the Golden Boot with 4 goals from 2 matches.
He is the one player in their squad capable of deciding games and ensures that they can never be ruled out of a contest, no matter how good the opposition in front of them might be.
However, Portugal is not the one-man team they appear to be, with a collective steel and inner strength throughout the squad that makes them so tough to break down – The 2016 European championships being the prime example, as they bested France in the final without their star striker.
Let’s take a look at the other men that make this Portugal side tick:
RUI PATRICIO –
The former Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper will be playing in the Premier League with Wolves next season and it is no exaggeration to say that the west midlands side has acquired one of the best in business.
Patricio was fantastic against Iran on Wednesday in Russia, making 2 crucial saves to deny Morroco an equaliser, including pushing a powerful downward header by Younes Belhanda brilliantly over the bar.
He provides an assured and commanding presence in his box at all times which radiates onto his defence, combined with superb distribution skills that always manage to push his team up the pitch and kickstart their quick breakaways.
This man needs no introduction as he has been a fixture in the Portugal side since his debut back in 2007 and been one of their most consistent players over the last 11 years.
The former Real Madrid man is in the twilight of his career at 35 and playing for Besiktas in Turkey, but he has lost none of his gritty tenacity and strength on the pitch.
Always up for a physical battle, what Pepe now lacks in pace he more than makes up for with his defensive acumen and no-nonsense style, not to mention his unrivalled passion for the game.
Pepe brilliantly blocked a goalbound last-minute effort as Morroco desperately pushed for a goal, which he celebrated as if he had just won the whole competition.
He divides opinion at times with his occasional theatrics, but with 97 caps for Portugal, he is a staple of their team and vital to their chances of success in Russia.
JOAO MOUTINHO –
Portugal’s midfield maestro, Joao Moutinho has 177 appearances under his belt for the national side and his versatility makes him adept being deployed in both defensive and attacking roles.
Currently playing for AS Monaco in France, the 31 years old is a seasoned veteran on the international stage and his experience helps drive Portugal to victory game in game out.
A relentless ball winner in midfield and an expert in breaking up play, Moutinho also brings vision and composure to the side as he orchestrates their build-up play in the fashion of a true playmaker.
Without him, Ronaldo would see far less of the ball and Portugal would struggle severely in the transition from defence to attack. Every great team needs a consistent quarterback and Joao Moutinho is most definitely theirs.
Portugal’s final group game is against Iran next Monday, a game they need to win comfortably to boost their chances of winning Group B.
An unthinkable defeat could see them exit the competition and so a draw is the bare minimum they can afford, meaning their best players will need to be on top form to make sure they secure a spot in the knockout phase.