Portugal coach Fernando Santos will name Portugal’s squad on Friday for the upcoming friendly matches against Saudi Arabia and USA, and it may contain clues into the manager’s thinking as regards who he will take to the 2018 World Cup.

Immediately after the win against Switzerland that confirmed Portugal’s place at next summer’s tournament, Santos said: “My focus now is November, and the friendly matches. This is an ongoing job of assessment to choose the final 23 players.”

Santos will rely on the same core of players that won Euro 2016, in addition to Bernardo Silva and André Silva. However, there should still be room for one or two less established players. After all, Santos’ decision to select Renato Sanches for Euro 2016 paid off handsomely with the teenager being named Young Player of the Tournament.

PortuGOAL compiles a list of ten peripheral players that could force their way into Portugal’s squad for Russia 2018.

 

Edgar Ié, Lille, Centre-back

Much has been made of Portugal’s embarrassment of riches in many areas of the pitch. However, centre-back is the glaring exception. Fortunately, there are some emerging players and perhaps none better than Edgar Ié. The former Sporting and Barcelona academy product has had a positive start to the campaign averaging 3.3 aerials, 2.2 tackles, 2.5 interceptions and 3.8 clearances per match and a 6.87 rating according to Whoscored.

 

Paulo Oliveira, Eibar, Centre-back

The former Vitória SC and Sporting defender has had a decent start to life in Spain. In nine La Liga matches, Oliveira has averaged 2.2 aerials won, 1.0 tackle, 2.7 interceptions, and five clearances per game. He has only registered one yellow card playing on a team near the bottom of the table. And his average rating of 6.70 is good when you consider the level of competition he has faced so far. 

 

Ruben Dias, Benfica, Centre-back

The 20-year-old earned a spot in Rui Vitoria’s squad ahead of the new campaign with some solid displays in pre-season. Although it is a small sample size, Dias has managed 1.8 aerials won, 2.5 interceptions and 2.3 clearances in four Liga NOS matches, for an average rating of 6.85. And he stood tall in his Champions League debut against Manchester United, registering three aerials won, two tackles, nine clearances and one blocked shot. He has also completed 86.2% of his passes in all competitions so far. 

 

Roderick Miranda, Wolverhampton, Centre-back

Miranda was named in the pre-squad for this past summer’s Confederations Cup before being left out in the end. He was also a member of the 2011 U20 World Cup that defied all the odds to get to the final before losing to Brazil. He made the switch from Rio Ave to English Championship side Wolverhampton this summer where he has proven to be one of the cornerstones of Nuno’s project there. He has managed a 7.01 rating so far, plus an impressive 3.1 aerials won and 5.9 clearances per match.

 

Ricardo Pereira, FC Porto, Full-back

He was one of the best full-back in Ligue 1 for the previously two seasons while on loan at Nice and switched from the left to right and back without much issue. Yet, Ricardo was only selected once during the recent World Cup qualifying campaign, while not seeing any game action. He could be a solution to the left-back position where Portugal is relatively short of options right now, given the injury problems afflicting Raphael Guerreiro and Fábio Coentrão. The 24-year-old has an impressive 7.76 rating in seven Liga NOS matches so far while playing on the right.

 

Bruno Fernandes, Sporting CP, Attacking midfielder

He was a key player for Rui Jorge’s U21 squad and captained the side at this summer’s European Championship. His move from Sampdoria to Sporting for a handsome €8.5million looks like a bargain considering he has responded to the high expectations with goals, six in 13 matches to be exact, most in spectacular fashion. And he has not looked out of place in the Champions League against heavyweights Barcelona and Juventus. If he keeps it up, he should be on the plane to Russia.

 

Rony Lopes, AS Monaco, Attacking midfielder

At one point, it looked like the former Benfica and Manchester City youth player would be the flagbearer for the emerging generation of Portuguese talent, however it has not quite turned out that way. A move to AS Monaco, plus two loan stints at Lille and several injuries have kept him from living up to the hype. At least, so far. Back at Monaco, Lopes has been a mainstay on Leonardo Jardim’s squad, managing two goals and three assists in 11 Ligue 1 matches, playing on the right side of midfield, a position previously occupied by Bernardo Silva.

 

Bruma, RB Leipzig, Winger

Like Lopes, Bruma is another former wonderkid that has not come good just yet. He had a slow start to life in Germany after making the move from Galatasaray this summer. However, he has made the starting line-up more often than not over the last few weeks. And his terrific assist versus Borussia Dortmund a few weeks ago, that included him nutmegging the goalkeeper, went viral. Still only 23, this could finally be the opportunity for Bruma to establish himself.

 

Goncalo Guedes, Valencia, Winger/second striker

The former Benfica winger has been a standout so far this year for Los Che, on-loan from Paris Saint-Germain. He currently has the second-highest rating of any La Liga player at 7.73 according to Whoscored, behind only Lionel Messi. His recent performance in a 4-0 win against Sevilla earned him a rare 10 rating. And he is very versatile as well. Guedes could fit in nicely in Santos’ 4-4-2 formation as a secondary or support striker role.

 

Diogo Jota, Wolverhampton, Winger/second striker

He is currently the third highest-rated player in the English Championship with a 7.53 rating after 14 matches. Jota has managed seven goals and two assists so far. And he was named the top player in the league for September. Like Guedes, he could also play as a second striker which he did last season at FC Porto, alongside André Silva no less. Santos recently acknowledged in an interview the strength of the English second tier. And Jota’s performances may just be too good to ignore for much longer.

 

*Statistics from Whoscored.com as of 30 October

By Rui Miguel Martins

 

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Goncalo Guedes has been absolutely brilliant in La Liga thus far and if he keeps it up, he's guaranteed a spot on the world cup squad. Ricardo Pereira is another player who, given his quality and versatility, definitely deserves to be one of our 4 fullbacks alongside Guerreiro, Cedric, and Nelson Semedo.

    Barring injury, Pepe, Jose Fonte, and Bruno Alves will all be in Russia. Luis Neto is perhaps the favorite to be our 4th choice center-back, Edgar Ie, Paulo Oliveira, and Ruben Dias all have outside shots. Given the fact he plays for Benfica, I wouldn't be shocked if Ruben Dias makes the squad, especially if he continues his great form.

    Bruma can be absolutely unplayable on his day, but I still feel he needs to add a bit more consistency to his game before he has a realistic shot of making the final squad.

    Andre Gomes shouldn't be anywhere near the world cup squad, but he most be doing something right in training since he always seems to get called up. Let's just hope he doesn't get in the way of Bruno Fernandes' inclusion in the squad.

    This would be my squad:

    Ronaldo, Andre Silva, Goncalo Guedes
    Quaresma, Gelson, Bernardo Silva, Joao Mario
    Bruno Fernandes, Joao Moutinho, Adrien, William, Danilo
    Guerreiro, Ricardo, Cedric, Nelson Semedo
    Pepe, Fonte, Alves, Dias
    Patricio, Lopes, Beto

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  • Don't you think Andre Gomes offers enough cover over a few positions to make him a certainty? Plus he's good positonlly and running with the ball from deep.

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  • Guest - Ash

    In regards to Gomes, what good is having a player be able to cover multiple positions if he’s complete crap at all of them?

    Fact of the matter is, Gomes sucks and is only taking up a spot away from someone better.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I have to agree with Ash on this one. Andre Gomes' confidence is at an all time low and his performances for both club and country over the past two seasons have been really poor. Yes, he is an above-average carrier from deep, but we have other players who can serve the same function. Joao Mario, for instance, is just as good as Gomes at breaking lines with the ball at his feet, but he is far superior in every other aspect of his game. Bruno Fernandes isn't a fantastic carrier, but he is just as versatile, much better technically, and a far better finisher. Even Goncalo Guedes, when operating as a winger for Valencia this season, has been extremely effective when leading counters with the ball at his feet.

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  • looks like i'm on my own with Andre! I prefer him to Joao Mario who really flatters to deceive BUT the plus point is there are quite a few younger Portuguese talented players to competition for the squad can only be good.:)

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  • Has anyone ever tried Andre Gomes at Centre Back?

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  • Guest - George

    I agree with what's been said already about Andre Gomes. While I've come to see that he isn't as bad as some people are making him out to be, and, I can see what he brings to the team, there are other players who can bring what he brings. I look at Joao Mario as a player who brings a similar style and versatility for example. So, the question now becomes: What is more valuable to the team? Gomes' familiarity or the emerging goal-scoring talents of players like Bruno Fernandes, Gonçalo Guedes, and Diogo Jota? I know where I stand, and where the majority stand on that one.

    I mention those three players specifically because I think they should all be on the squad based on current form. I look at Fernandes as the missing piece in our midfield - a goal-scoring midfielder who can link the creative players with the strikers, and who, even more crucially, can score from LONG RANGE. There are times when we struggle to break teams down so goal scorers are vital and I think his inclusion in the starting lineup would make us a much stronger team. Oh and let's not forget the fact that it would push Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho to the bench, an area where, as supersubs, I believe they can be the most effective.

    I believe Guedes and Jota should be on the squad as well due to their goals from distance. I know some questions have been raised as to whether we need two more strikers in addition to Andre Silva and CR7, and, I honestly believe we do. The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned, especially when they're as versatile as the ones who are currently in contention.

    What's your guys' opinion on this lineup, for example, in a hypothetical worst-case scenario where we need to chase a goal or two:

    Patricio
    Semedo-Pepe-Alves-Guerreiro
    Jota-Danilo-Fernandes-Guedes
    Andre Silva - Ronaldo

    If the familiarity is there between the lot of them, wouldn't you fancy our chances in such a scenario? I know I would. It's with this lineup in mind, an ultra-offensive lineup that can score in a myriad of different ways, that I would include Fernandes, Jota, and Guedes in the squad.

    I won't go over Ricardo Pereira again - you all know how I feel as regards to him filling a LB spot. He should be on the team. And in terms of CB - thank goodness there are, indeed, some options out there. Been very impressed with Edgar Ie and Ruben Dias so far this season. I would lean towards Ie because I think he's quicker and more versatile, but I wouldn't mind if either is included. Haven't seen much of Paulo Oliveira this season but I like him as well. So long as a younger CB option is included - I'm happy.

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  • Good forward-looking team but I fear they would get overrun in midfield against an experienced team. If they were chasing a goal i'd put Quaresma on the right.

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    @ George - Agree with Ie and/or Dias need to be on squad. Dias has looked solid and unintimidated in big games(like against Man U ), of the current CB's in the article, he looks to have the best chance of being a long term CB for the NT. However, if we are going to have Pepe, Alves and Fonte, I worry about our speed, especially if Pepe can't play(like at the last WC with Red Card). That is why Ie would be a good option if we face a team with a lot of speed in the forwards (at the WC).

    Guedes, given his current form needs to be on the team. Since he has been playing regular minutes for Valencia, they have won every game. The three draws were before he was a fixture or before his transfer in. He was great against Sevilla, his first goal was incredible and his second was a great touch over the goalkeeper. His assist was nearly perfect. He is tied for third in assists in La Liga, but his impact on the attack is much larger than the assists and goals he has produced so far.

    Fernandes has be in good form also and is tireless in his effort. He(and Guedes) has a great outside shot, something the NT has consistently had since Maniche. I would put Fernandes on the team. He gets frustrated a little to easily, but being with seasoned warriors of the NT, it will help build his mental toughness(he is already a fierce competitor).

    Ricardo Pereira needs to be on the team at left back, but also for his versatility. He can play right back and also was a forward in his time at the Youth NT's.

    I really like Jota, but don't know who we drop to accommodate? Bruma and Lopes are also playing well, but like Jota, who do we drop?

    from California, USA
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  • Guest - Ash

    Let’s not rush it with Jota. The kid is obviously talented and will no doubt make it to the seniors but the U-21s need him more. They just lost their first match in years. We already took Guedes from them let Jota stay there.

    Ié is our most promising CB imo. I hope he gets called up for the upcoming friendlies. Wouldn’t mind Oliveira either. Dias looks like a total stud. But the other two have more senior experience. Let him gain more experience.

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