Sandwiched between Portugal’s greatest moment in international football - the Euro 2016 triumph - and a World Cup where the Seleção can legitimately aspire to at least equal their best finishes (3rd in 1966 and 4th in 2006), is the Confederations Cup, which begins this weekend.

Portugal have taken their strongest possible squad to Russia and coach Fernando Santos is keen to maintain the winning habit. “We came here with the natural ambition of a team that wants to win the tournament,” he said upon arrival in Kazan on Wednesday evening.

Opinion is divided as to the wisdom of Portugal going to the tournament with their first-line options, with many arguing it was the perfect opportunity to experiment new faces.

Costa criticism

And Portugal legend Rui Costa openly criticised the very existence of the competition last week, saying it was putting too much strain on the already overloaded schedule of many of the world’s top players.

When asked to comment on Costa’s thoughts, Santos diplomatically replied: “that’s not a question you can ask the Portugal coach. It’s a question for other institutions to answer. My job is to prepare the Portugal team.”

Santos has proven in his tenure so far that he gives short shrift to any ‘negative noise’ surrounding the Seleção, focusing solely on winning. And with captain Cristiano Ronaldo’s well-known incapacity to take his foot off the pedal, it is fair to assume that Portugal will be well and truly up for adding more silverware to their trophy cabinet.

The European champions open their campaign against Mexico on Sunday. With hosts Russia their next opponents (New Zealand complete the group), a good result against the CONCACAF Gold Cup holders could be key to set Portugal on their way to a successful tournament.

It would therefore be no surprise if Santos repeated an almost identical line-up to the starters chosen against Latvia in the World Cup qualifier last Friday. Centre-back Pepe has still not looked 100% fit in training, while Bernardo Silva could get the nod over Gelson Martins, who disappointed in his first competitive start for the full national team against Latvia.

Fernando Santos’s reluctance to make use of Bernardo Silva despite his magnificent season for Monaco has been debated at length in Portugal, and from an individual point of view the new Manchester City man could have more to gain from this tournament than anybody. (PortuGOAL correspondent Nathan Motz discusses “the Bernardo Silva conundrum” and other Seleção talking points here)

Portugal’s predicted XI v Mexico (4-4-2):

Rui Patrício
Cédric Soares, Bruno Alves, José Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro
Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho, João Moutinho, André Gomes
André Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal debuts in Confederations Cup

It is the first time Portugal has played in a tournament that has been running since 1992. Originally an invitation competition staged in Saudi Arabia, at the turn of the millennium it was expanded and now serves as a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, and is played every four years, one year in advance of the planet’s biggest sporting event.

The 8-team tournament involves the champions of the six football federations around the world, the host country and the reigning world champions.

Although striving to make history for the second summer running, should the Seleção not lift the cup in the final in Saint Petersburg on 2 July, they can take some solace. The Confederations Cup winners have never gone on to win the following year’s World Cup.

by Tom Kundert

Related: Portugal squads announced for Confederations Cup / U21 European Championship your social media marketing partner

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  • Guest - Brian/USA/RI

    Though I agree that the tournament doesn't have the same auora as other tournaments, it's still a chance to display the strength of this squad. I feel many still think Euro was a fluke, and winning this will quiet a few more doubters, something Ronaldo relishes. Also many teams in the past have mentioned that they have benefited from the tournament, as it allowed them to get famiiar with the host nation (logistics, travel, etc) before the media storm and hectic pace of the World Cup.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    If Portugal are to qualify for next year's World Cup which is set to commence exactly one year from yesterday.. then Real Madrid better wrap up the league title two months early.. and Barca, Juve, Atletico and Bayern better all be unjustly eliminated by the end of the group stages of the Champions League too. So Zidane can deploy the B team to win Madrid's 3rd straight CL.. but remember to sub in Ronaldo around the 80th minute of the final so he can score the penalty insuring he wins the player of the year award again, to move ahead of midgestical Messi for the all time lead. This way we'll have our best player happy, fresh, and full of confidence to give us his most optimal performance at the World Cup. P.S. The confed winners have never gone on to win the WC, but what about any confed participants in general?

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  • Guest - Serge

    While the relative prestige of this tournament can be debated it is ultimately important for two reasons.

    1. Fifa alocates a lot of rankiing points for wins in the confederate cup-about the same as euro and world cup. Given our current ranking we are on the bubble to be a pot 1 team and avoid the likes of Germany, brazil, Argentina, france etc. In the 1st round of the world cup. Winning the confederation cup will probably guarantee us a pot 1 slot at the world cup draw. - assuming we take care of business in qualifying.

    We have to continue the winning culture. Winning this tournament will add to our confidence in tournament play. At least privately within the team we will have the belief that we can really win the world cup like the other top nations rather then feel we can merely have a good run and compete.

    from Toronto, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Nelson Oliveira

    Was going to say, not worth it, but Serge brought up a great point about being a top seeded team for the group stage. Although, Portugal has historically faltered when favored too much.

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  • Guest - Felipe Dinis

    Sure confederations cup is not a big cup compared to the world cup and european cup, but still would be great to win it. No international team that has won the confederations cup has gone on to win the world cup. But records are meant to be broken!
    Forca Portugal

    from London, UK
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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    I've spent my entire life in the US and can tell all of you that Americans do not respect Portuguese soccer even in the slightest. It is all about Germany and England. This mentality probably has something to do with the 2014 WC match in which the US basically beat Portugal, after Portugal's loss to Germany 4-nil, or the 2002 WC loss to the US. Most Americans (I know I'm generalizing, but I think I can speak on this subject considering my experience.) see the NT as a Ronaldo and co. show with little substance to go with the hype. No one I've spoken to since the Euro has given the Selecao its just due, but instead shrug off the win as luck or a fluke. Worse yet, every single person I've talked to about Portugal's World Cup aspirations have laughed until realizing that I was actually being serious. This sounds insecure, I know, and winning this tournament probably will not win over any naysayers. But, it will make it a lot harder for the largest media outlet in the world to ignore Portugal's threat of winning in 2018

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  • Guest - George

    Agree with absolutely everything everyone has said here, and, in particular, with Serge. I've mentioned this before but it bares repeating: we need to beat Switzerland to the top of our WC qualifying group, and we need to ensure that, come WC draw time in December, we have a FIFA ranking of 7th or higher. The Confederations Cup may not be a "serious" tournament but wins still count for something - something big. Portugal historically finds itself in a "Group of Death" at the WC because, according to FIFA rankings, we're always a great team, but, not really good enough to warrant a spot in Pot 1. Instead, we get to be one of the best teams in Pot 2 (hooray!) and find ourselves in groups with Brazil and the Ivory Coast, or, Germany, Ghana, and the USA. And, even should we escape the group, we usually get to crossover against a superseed from the opposing group (like in 2010 when we had to play Spain in the Round of 16 in South Africa right after we played Brazil). Meanwhile, your crappy host team - like South Africa or, in this case, Russia get a cozy Pot 1 spot so they can participate in the opening game (can't have them as the A2 team right? Gotta be A1..) or, a perennially mediocre team like SWITZERLAND pips other powerhouses to a Pot 1 spot, and relegates them (i.e. US) to another group of death because they historically perform well in qualifying. This CAN'T happen this time. Wins in this tournament- especially against teams ranked above us like Chile and Germany - will go a long way towards ensuring that it doesn't.

    No one wins the WC in December at the WC Draw, but, depending on the outcome, you can definitely lose it. Argentina made it to the final last time in big part because of the path that was laid out for them: First (as has been the recent trend), they found themselves in an easy group - Bosnia, Nigeria, Iran; from there they had to go through Switzerland in the Round of 16, Belgium in the QFs, and the Netherlands in the SFs to get to the final. Nothing is guaranteed of course, in football every game is different and every game is difficult, but, wouldn't you fancy Portugal's chances if they only had to contend with those teams on route to the final? I know I would! Just another reason why performing well in this tournament is crucial.

    I've already said what I've had to say about Santos and his squad selections so I'm not going to harp on that again, instead I'll just touch on what Danny said about the US and some American fans in general:

    I swear to God... if there's ONE team that I WANT to draw come December - again, should we be fortunate enough to qualify - it's the good'ol US of A. I don't just want to beat them - I want to embarrass them into oblivion. Both Portugal and the US finished with identical records in Brazil - 1W, 1D, 1L - the only reason we crashed out and the US proceeded to do.. well.. nothing... was because Pepe lost his head against Germany and we had a 4 goal deficit we couldn't make up. Had the game been closer, things could've been different. It's also worth mentioning that that game against the US was in the Amazonian heat of Manaus, and Paulo Bento decided to field a bunch of older/injured players (Ronaldo himself was suffering from tendinitis) but, I'm probably wasting my breath with that. Understanding context isn't exactly the strong suit of the American sports media - ESPECIALLY when it comes to football/soccer. Instead they just hype up their own players to borderline English levels so they can sell the game to the people who watch them hate on Ronaldo on a daily basis on ESPN FC. I look forward to hearing how Christian Pulsiic is better than Ronaldo next summer. It's gonna be fun.

    Just a couple of weeks ago, after the Champions League final, I made the mistake of tuning into FOX for a "preview" of the Confederations Cup and this Mexican analyst was laughing at the idea of Portugal winning a World Cup saying that it was impossible. He went on to say that Messi and Argentina would win one. Umm... What..?! I'd put the emerging Portuguese talent up against the emerging Argentine talent any day of the week. In fact, besides Paulo Dybala... who else do they have right now? Maybe Icardi? Certainly nobody on defense. If Argentina wins a WC playing a Sampaoli-pressing style with that midfield/defense, and Messi, Di Maria, Aguero, etc., contributing defensively all game like Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez did for Chile... I'll be absolutely shocked. Argentina's had their chance - their BEST chance playing in South America - I think Portugal has a better chance now. Just sort out the defense Santos... Do that, and I say bring on all comers - especially the USA!

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  • George, Danny DaSilva,

    Canada has pretty decent coverage of the Euros and WC. It used to be awful with all pro English commentary back in the early 90's and 2000's but the recent addition of Jason DeVos, Kristian Jack and I forget the 3rd guys name.

    It is balanced and fair. In fact just about the only analysts that picked Portugal to beat France in the finals was Kristian Jack and Jason DeVos. The are on either TSN or Sportsnet if you catch them in the USA. They are also both huge Fernando Santos fans and often highlight his strategies and setups.

    Forca Portugal!

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - James

    To be fair Portugal soccer and their fans have long thought they belong amongst the elite teams without any real success prior to Euro 2016. You can have the most talented team on paper, but results matter, and therefore there is a huge disconnect between the actual success Portugal has had through the years and their fans perception of how great the national team is.

    Speaking of results matter, I am pretty sure the US beat Portugal's 'golden' generation in 2002 and if it wasn't for a late winner from none other than Varela they would of beat them again. I also remember prior to that match plenty of people saying Portugal's B team could beat the US, but when they scratched out a late draw the script switched to include all the excuses: Bento, 50% Ronaldo, the heat and an aging squad, no Pepe, and on. That US team gave Belgium all it could handle, so maybe they should get a little credit. Does Portugal have more talent and technical ability? Of course, but lets not go crazy and assume the USA/Canadian media's perception of Portugal is based on nothing. Portugal has always had an inflated sense of self, while never living up to their true potential. It is fitting that they finally won a major trophy playing the most 'un-Portugal' brand of football. Also, I don't think it is that crazy for people to view it as a fluke. It has happened I need to bring up Greece? It is up to Portugal to prove otherwise. Furthermore, a lot of their young talent was on display yesterday and they put in one of the most disjointed performances. I've never seen so many loose passes or heavy touches from a Portugal team. Even their under 20 WC team looked very lackluster. Again end product matters not potential. I love Portuguese football, but I can parse out belief bias.

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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    Yeah, I’d rather listen to anyone but Alexi Lalas and/or Ian Darke. Darke is the worst. His correlations about the Portuguese NT players as being playboys and laying about lazily in Algarve as for the reason behind their lack of success can get tiring, along with his blatant dislike for Ronaldo. Even if there is truth to this, it is highly unprofessional on his part (downright insulting), for that is to insinuate it is a Portuguese mentality. Players worth millions from elsewhere aren't doing the same thing? So if the Russian NT players fail to advance is it for that they were sun bathing on the Black Sea? But, whatever.
    Today, the Portuguese NT played awful, and now Lalas and Darke can do their "I told you so routine" until God willing our players gather themselves a win against Russia. It would be nice for us to finish out the group with two wins.

    Ian Darke declared that “the Euro was the worst major tournament since Italia ’90." Certain media outlets and the cultures that they represent are unjustified in referring to this team as a fluke. The consistency from 2000-17 speaks for itself. We'll see how the North American players do in a year from now. I wish all participants the best.

    On a different note, Chile's players struggled with Cameroon. We actually match up fairly well with Cameroon. If we make it out of our group and face the Chileans, than we should still have a fighting chance at making the finals.

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"We'll go to Russia to fight to give great joy to the Portuguese people."

Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach)


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