Manager Fernando Santos, like his colleague in the opposing dugout, has his fair share of injury issues to contend with. But his roster’s extraordinary depth and talent make life easier for him. Danilo Pereira did not play against Switzerland and will most likely miss this match due to injury, while Nuno Mendes has been ruled out of the World Cup due to a thigh injury.
Santos also faces a personnel quandary in deciding whether to use the same starting lineup that defeated Switzerland or to start senior players Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Cancelo.
Tactically, Portugal can be a very dangerous team in transition. That was evident in their performances against Switzerland last time out when they found joy in bypassing the middle and attacking aggressively and vertically. They defend from the mid-block, so don’t expect relentless high-pressing or forced turnovers.
Instead, they try to find pockets of space in between defensive lines and exploit them via their technically brilliant attackers in Bernardo Silva, Otavio, and Joao Felix, while their full-backs Diogo Dalot and Raphael Guerreiro have the license to maraud forwards high up the pitch to provide additional width and create overloads, with the latter even scoring a peach of a goal last time out.
Goncalo Ramos, the 21-year-old Benfica striker, may retain his starting spot following his stunning hat trick. With penalty-box merchants like Ronaldo and Andre Silva on the bench, as well as an outstanding dribbler-cum-chance-creator like Rafael Leao, they have an embarrassment of riches in offensive talent.
Carvalho, on the other hand, will be the outright defensive enforcer tasked with safeguarding the backline. Pepe, the “Grand Daddy of All,” who became the oldest player in FIFA World Cup finals history to score in the knockout rounds at 39, will organize the central defense alongside Ruben Dias, with Diogo Costa lined up in goal once more for his country.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Costa; Dalot, Pepe, Dias, Guerreiro; B. Silva, Carvalho, Otavio; Fernandes, Ramos, Felix