Portugal enter this summer’s European Championship as defending champions with every intention of defending their hard-won crown.
Their Euro 2016 triumph, their first in a major tournament, was something of a shock and very few neutrals fancied them back then – particularly when they squared up against France in the final.
Yet they excelled in their role as underdogs and eventually found a way to prosper, even if they were accused of winning ugly.
They will no longer be underestimated, however. There is little doubt that this side has more individual brilliance and strength in depth than that winning 2016 squad. On paper at least, they are true heavyweights with a star-studded team capable of going toe to toe with the best Europe has to offer.
It is easy to see why Portugal fans go into the tournament with optimism despite their draw in the ultimate “Group of Death”.
Yet, despite this new array of stars, there are question marks over whether they truly gel together as a team. Their relatively conservative coach Fernando Santos may not let their array of attacking talent off the leash as much as some fans might like; they are more defensive-minded than you might expect from a glance at their teamsheet.
And whilst Portugal are packed with potential Fantasy points magnets, managers might think the group stages are a bit early in the game to be taking on the likes of France and Germany.
And Portugal are not one of the lucky sides to get home advantage, with Germany and Hungary both on home soil when they face Cristiano Ronaldo and company.
In partnership with UEFA, we continue our series of EURO 2020 articles by examining Portugal in detail to see if any of their players can compete for a place in your Fantasy teams.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
Portugal’s qualification campaign was something of a disappointment. They won five, drew two and lost one to Ukraine, who ended up beating them to top spot by three points. This slip-up landed them in the tough group they now face.
From a Fantasy perspective, though, the record of 22 goals whilst conceding just on six occasions bodes well. And this is no accident: they frequently created good quality chances and didn’t give too many away, either.
Their more recent six UEFA Nations League matches in 2020 and the three World Cup qualifiers in 2021 are consistent with their qualifying record. Over the last 18 months, they have shown defensive solidity and the capacity to dominate competent sides like Sweden, Serbia and Croatia, frequently scoring three or more versus opponents of this calibre.
Their recent record against the heavyweights is less convincing, most notably group opponents France, who shut out Portugal both home and away in the Nations League. And in two friendlies against Spain (one in October 2020 and one last week), Portugal could not find the net – giving them a miserable record of blanking in the last four matches against high-calibre opposition.
That is a clear concern when heading into the so-called “Group of Death”. Yet, optimists could point to a expected goals (xG) total just shy of five across those four tough games. They are at least creating chances versus the big teams and may just be lacking that final finish or kind bounce to get it over the line.
So, it would seem reasonable to think Portugal could get a goal past France and Germany, but perhaps a reach to expect much more. It is worth noting though that the Germans have been surprisingly shaky at the back in recent times, which offers some more hope for Portugal assets.
If all of that sounds like a mixed report card, it’s because it is. Their record suggests they could rack up big points totals in the opener versus Hungary. And they have every chance of breaching the German defence, too. But getting much out of the final game versus France looks a tough ask.
Portugal’s coach Santos typically deploys a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1, with the latter having been used in last week’s warm-up friendly versus Spain.
With many managers expected to dodge this “Group of Death”, perhaps Portugal can offer some low-ownership differentials, even if we only make use of them for the opening fixture versus Hungary before shipping them out when the fixtures toughen up.
EURO 2020 QUALIFYING STATS
- Most starts: Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rui Patricio (8), Raphael Guerreiro (7), Bruno Fernandes, Danilo Pereira (5)
- Most goals: Cristiano Ronaldo (11), Bernardo Silva (3), William Carvalho, Goncalo Guedes (2)
- Most assists: Bernardo Silva (5), Bruno Fernandes, Raphael Guerreiro (2)
- Goals scored: 22
- Goals conceded: 6
- Clean sheets: 4
THE KEY TARGETS
Cristiano Ronaldo (€12.0m) needs little introduction. Clearly, he’s the main man and the penalty taker, which could be an important factor since we are seeing more spot-kicks per minute than ever these days.
His qualifying record is superb, with a spree of 11 goals in his last six qualifiers. And he was unlucky not to add assists in that run, too, given the chances he was creating.
If you want to pick holes, he hasn’t had a great season for Juventus and could now be distracted by speculation of another move. And just one goal and zero assists in his last six appearances for Portugal might alarm some. However, throughout that relatively barren spell. he was getting plenty of good chances and creating them too.
The whopping €12m price tag in a tough group is also a buzzkill. Whilst many Fantasy managers are usually a stickler for the underlying numbers, with Ronaldo you could make a valid case that we do not have to worry about the form and fixtures in quite the same way that we do with more run-of-the-mill superstars.
The form could be better and the fixtures are largely against him. But he can hurt anyone and we know he turns up in the big games.
Diogo Jota (€8.5m) comes with a tempting price tag and boasts three goals and an assist from his last three competitive matches. And that’s no accident, as he’s consistently had quality chances in those games. The most recent friendly versus Spain was disappointing and he couldn’t muster even one attempt on goal in 71 minutes.
Still, Spain are tough to beat and it would be absolutely no surprise if Jota turned up with a goal or even more in the opener versus Hungary.
Joao Cancelo (€6m) is nailed-on to start and offers excellent threat and assist potential from full-back. Raphael Guerreiro (€6.5m) on the opposite flank is in a similar vein and anyone who follows Dortmund will know him for his attacking flair.
It’s odd to see him slightly more expensive than Cancelo, who would be my pick between the two. Guerreiro is very capable though and perhaps in later rounds you could double up, or use Guerreiro as a differential if he is looking dangerous.
One other thing worthy of note: against tougher opponents such as France and Spain recently, the full-backs are not given the attacking licence they are versus the weaker sides. That could dampen hopes for attacking returns versus Germany and France.
Veteran Pepe (€5.0m), believe it or not, is still going strong at 38 and has had a great season for Porto. He is expected to start and should be the cheapest way into the Portuguese defence, which has been solid.
That route offers a strong chance of an opening game clean sheet before the tough fixtures against Germany and France roll around.
You could upgrade to Ruben Dias (€6.0m), which buys you nailed-on status and a very mild improvement in goal threat over Pepe. But unless you really have €1.0m to burn, that would seem a luxury. Not everyone agrees, because 41% of managers are apparently happy to have him as things stand!
THE LONG SHOTS
Bruno Fernandes (€10.5m) seems a popular choice, currently sitting at 18% ownership in the official UEFA game. His status as a Premier League superstar might draw many to him by itself but the real geeks amongst us might balk at his record of nine consecutive internationals with no goals and just a single assist.
This is interesting as, if you poke under the surface of those miserable stats, you’ll see that Bruno might be seriously unlucky here: over that barren run he had decent chances in most games and was definitely creating plenty of good opportunities that were not put away by his team-mates. Every tournament brings a few players that leave we nerds weeping into our spreadsheets whilst those who pick on gut feel cheer – and Bruno could easily be one of them.
You could put Bernardo Silva (€8.5m) in a similar category. Despite just one assist in his last five run-outs for Portugal, he is getting and creating at least one good scoring opportunity almost every game. Plus he enjoyed a real purple patch in 2019, providing seven assists and three goals in eight internationals.
It’s hard to wholeheartedly recommend Bernardo as we head into the group stages as there are so many great options with better form and fixtures. But he’s capable and may look more attractive as the tournament progresses and teams are whittled down.
Andre Silva (€9.0m) comes off the back of his best ever season, scoring 28 goals in 32 games for Eintracht Frankfurt. That’s more Bundesliga goals than Erling Haaland, so expect the transfer rumours to fly soon. It’s hard to see where he fits in this team alongside Ronaldo but if we did think he was going to start a game, he could be a superb differential.
We can expect plenty of attention to fall on highly rated 21-year-old Joao Felix (€8.5m). We should see him mainly from the bench and whilst he is talked about as the next big thing to come out of Portugal, he’s got a lot of work to do. Recent goal and assist potential is weak but there is no doubt he is a massive talent.
If you spend far too much time watching leagues outside of the English top flight, you’ll know that former golden boy Renato Sanches (€6.0m) is making quite the comeback at Lille after an ill-fated spell at Bayern and shouldn’t be far away from a link to a big Premier League club. We should see him from the bench initially and he could be a decent late-tournament differential.
We should see Rui Patricio (€5.5m) between the sticks for Portugal although given the tough group, I think he’d need a €0.5m discount to make him an attractive option right now. But he might look better in later rounds if his national side make it through the groups.
FANTEAM PRICE CORNER
Cristiano Ronaldo is priced up as the joint-seventh most expensive forward in the FanTeam game at a relatively cut-price €10.0m, with Diogo Jota (€8.0m) a couple of million cheaper.
Raphael Guerreiro is listed as a €6.5m midfielder in FanTeam, negating his appeal somewhat, with Pepe the joint-cheapest route into the Portugal backline at €5.5m.
Bruno Fernandes will set FanTeam managers back €9.0m.