The burden of defence

Welcome back for Part 2 of our series investigating the quality of Portugal’s World Cup dreams. Having examined Portugal’s goalkeeper, Rui Patricio, evaluating his skillset against World Cup-winning keepers and contemporaries alike, Portugal fans have every reason to be confident ahead of the World Cup…. so far.

As I relish the good fortune of Portugal’s goalkeeping situation, the ambiance surrounding the defence as a whole is less than inspiring.

“But we still have Pepe….” Well, yes, and the old Portuguese warhorse is still playing reasonably well for Besiktas this season. Based on their defensive performance metric, Pepe’s score is good for fifth-best in Champions League play according to Squawka, not bad for a soon-to-be 35 yr old.

But it is too infrequent that Portuguese football supporters actually consider how our individual players measure up to those of the very national teams we will contest in major tournaments. It is one thing to evaluate the merit of Pepe or Fonte with respect to younger Portuguese options such as Ricardo Ferreira or Edgar Ié. It is quite another to grade their talent with respect to Mats Hummels, Sergio Ramos, or Marquinhos, to name a few.

Alas, I have done too much statistical research to rationalize avoiding the conversation we must now have. Because in the end, while my heart wants so desperately for Portugal’s talented midfield to pacify my collective fears, the harsh truth is that most teams never go further than their defence can carry them at a major tournament.

Even the great 2002 Brazil squad that struck 18 goals only conceded four in seven matches, title winning form in its own right. The last three World Cup winners, Germany, Spain, and Italy, allowed four, two, and two goals in seven matches, respectively. Consider also that Germany scored twice as many goals as Spain at the 2010 World Cup yet finished third. That same tournament, Holland, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil all outscored Spain. But Spain conceded just two goals. Of course World Cup champions often finish top scorers as well, but it is an inescapable truth that teams who concentrate their tactics on shutting down the opposition usually outperform those that try to overwhelm their opponent with attacking ingenuity.

Certainly worked for Portugal at Euro 2016.

Given Portugal’s defensive solidarity at the Euros, one might feel more confident about Portugal’s chances to win it all next summer. But I have to be realistic and confess that the 18 months since the glorious summer of ‘16 have not animated my belief in our defence. Conversely, Portugal’s World Cup qualification at least partially disguised our issues because the quality of opposition was so poor.

For me, the Confederations Cup was the more significant indicator of how our defence might perform at this summer’s World Cup. Surrendering three goals in two matches against Mexico was particularly worrisome, especially the manner in which they were conceded. Even the semifinal against Chile that required penalties to settle probably should have ended differently as Chile squandered many presentable opportunities. That same Chile squad failed to even qualify for the World Cup.

One might argue Portugal allowed only 17 shots on target while preserving three clean sheets in five matches of that very same tournament, and shut out Hungary and Switzerland even more recently with rigorous defensive application. But for me there may be a hard reality lurking just beyond our ability to perceive it.

Centreback statistical comparison - WhoScored.com through Dec 2017

The reality that this Portugal squad’s defensive lifespan may have advanced just beyond the ideal balance between experience and youth, especially at centreback.

Having held down a starting berth at Real Madrid for almost a decade at his peak, Pepe should be considered a legend of the game and still possesses the quality for one last tournament. I honestly cannot say the same for his partner, whose identity is very much unresolved at this stage. Hearts in mouths, we hope Jose Fonte recovers well from an ankle injury, no guarantees at his age. Luís Neto is in-and-out of Fenerbahce’s starting XI, and while Paulo Oliveira and Edgar Ié continue to play reasonably well for their clubs, they simply do not have the requisite experience to complement what I would consider a World Cup-winning back four.

Bruno Alves is 36 years old and playing against competition in Scotland that pales in comparison to what Portugal will encounter at the World Cup. Pedro Mendes is only 27 and has made a compelling case at Montpelier in Ligue 1, but has yet to even be selected for a Portugal squad. Rúben Semedo and Daniel Carriço have fallen off the radar entirely due to loss of form and injury. Granted it was his first ever cap, but Ricardo Ferreira was awful in a friendly against a very average United States squad in November, and has just recently sustained a serious knee injury.

The bottom line? There is no complement to Pepe that is not a liability to some extent.

There are positive counterpoints despite Portugal’s centreback duo appearing less than optimal after investigating the relevant data and comparing our individual defenders to those in previous World Cup-winning squads.

First, Santos’ tactical blueprint does shield our defence’s weak center. Defence is still a team activity, not just a job for the four players composing the backline, and it is no secret our squad has a fundamentally pragmatic outlook and will recede into a defensive posture when required. Second, Portugal have greater versatility at fullback, especially on the right. With the margins of the pitch more secure, the center of Portugal’s defence can concentrate their efforts on tracking diagonal runs made by opposing No9s, or so it goes in theory.

In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into much detail on our fullbacks except to provide a brief statistical run-down based on assimilated data from WhoScored.com and Squawka. Fábio Coentrão is our top performing left back while Ricardo Pereira is statistically stronger than his nearest competitors, Cédric, João Cancelo, and Nélson Semedo (see graphic below).

Regrettably, the news that nobody wants to hear is true: aside from Ricardo Pereira, none of our fullbacks are in exceptional, world-beating form at the moment. When I ran statistical comparisons between Portuguese fullbacks and others such as Marcelo, Jordi Alba, Joshua Kimmich, etc, the results were very one-sided for all the wrong reasons.

Nevertheless, club form alone fails to tell the whole story as to how an individual player might perform on the international stage. While it is undeniable the very best players in football feature consistently for their clubs and statistically dominate their rivals, there are cases in which average club players made huge contributions for their national team.

Fabio Grosso played for lowly Palermo in Serie A prior to the 2006 World Cup, making such a critical contribution from left back that he earned a move to Inter Milan after the tournament. Even so, he failed to build on his World Cup performances, was sold to Lyon after just one season, and only made around 100 appearances for Lyon and then Juventus over the remaining five years of his career. In a similar manner albeit with less impact, players like Hélder Postiga and Silvestre Varela had their moments for Portugal despite very average club careers.

All things considered, there is clearly some risk in predicting a player’s national team potential based only on club form. Still, comparing our pool of centrebacks with those from past tournament champions as well as those from other national teams of the present, I cannot escape the nagging concern we just do not possess the optimal blend of raw talent, experience, and form. Too old, too young, not enough caps, not enough club playing time, not fit….no matter the vantage point for this debate, the critical determinants for success just aren’t there.

When I ran Squawka’s statistical ranking of the top defenders in Europe’s Top Five Leagues plus Portugal’s domestic league, none of Portugal’s defenders scored high enough to even make the top 50. Brazil, Germany, Spain, and France were all represented.

 

Fullback statistical comparison - Squawka.com through Dec 2017

Once again I will point out that Portugal’s first World Cup match against Spain is of crucial significance for its role in demystifying this squad’s potential. It is fair to say we will have learned much about the squad’s ability to withstand threat from an organized, skillful attacking unit right from the onset.

From there, who knows? I leave the reader with one final perspective of Portugal’s defensive concerns. Imagine our best-case-scenario centreback duo against Brazil or Argentina. What are the odds that a match-up against Messi and Aguero or Neymar and Gabriel Jesus ends up in their favor?

Let me be honest. I’m having a hard time with that one, though it is true that most defences would have their hands full against either one of those strike partnerships. My final verdict on our defence? It hurts me to say that I find them wanting. For Portugal’s World Cup dream to become reality, our centrebacks in particular will need to tap into a reservoir of good form they simply have not discovered at club level this season, at least not yet.

Otherwise, Portugal’s defensive strength will need to be tactically derived, i.e., a structural defence in which the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts, credit Aristotle for that philosophical divination. Among other options, that might mean compressing our midfield quartet to deny passing lanes, or utilizing a direct, attacking threat to keep the opposition on the back foot. Knowing Santos, I wouldn’t bet on the latter.

In Part 3 we will consider Portugal’s midfield and offensive talent and whether Fernando Santos will be able to ease our defensive burden without sacrificing attacking effectiveness.

Força Seleção.

by Nathan Motz

 

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Comments (24)

  1. jon/usa

Excellent analysis, Nathan.

I agree that, apart from Pepe, our options at center-back leave a lot to be desired. Jose Fonte has barely kicked a ball this season, and when he has been fit, he's looked a far cry from the commanding presence who...

Excellent analysis, Nathan.

I agree that, apart from Pepe, our options at center-back leave a lot to be desired. Jose Fonte has barely kicked a ball this season, and when he has been fit, he's looked a far cry from the commanding presence who was once regarded as one of the best center-backs in the Premier League. In fact, his form for both club and country has been quite poor ever since the Euros. Bruno Alves has been a loyal servant of the Seleccao for quite some time now, but do we really think we can realistically win a world cup with an error-prone 36-year-old defender who plies his trade in the Scottish Premier League?

Our other options, as you mentioned, aren't much better. Luis Neto generally plays well whenever he represents the Seleccao, but he is far from an elite center-back. Daniel Carrico and Ruben Semedo have barely played, Ricardo Ferreira failed miserably against the USMNT, and Paulo Oliveira, Edgar Ie, and Pedro Mendes, despite playing regularly at their respective clubs, are largely unproven at an international level.

I'd also like to add Ruben Dias -- I was actually surprised you didn't mention him. While I understand that many of Sportinguistas and Portistas are going to say that he is simply another raw and unproven Benfica product who is being ridiculously over-hyped by an undeniably pro-Benfica mainstream Portuguese sports media, I actually think he has a very good shot at making the world cup squad, especially when you consider just how unconvincing our other options are.

Whether people like it or not, any up-and-coming talent on one of the big 3 (and especially Portugal's most popular club) is going to attract a lot of attention, and if he continues to play well week in week out, there is going to be a lot of public pressure from both the media and the Portuguese public to have him included in the world cup squad.

Is he already a world-class center-back who is ready to make the step up to one of Europe's elite clubs? No. However, from what I've watched thus far, he has certainly done more than enough to warrant a call-up for any pre-tournament friendlies. He reads the game extremely well for such a young defender; he's strong in the tackle, comfortable on the ball; much quicker across the ground than the likes of Jose Fonte, Bruno Alves, or Luis Neto; and above all else -- he has proven to be a natural leader wherever he's played (he's been a team captain for numerous Portugal youth teams, Benfica B, and just about every Benfica youth team he's played on). Therefore, while I'm not saying he should be a guaranteed starter alongside Pepe, he should at the very least get an opportunity to prove his worth.

With regards to our fullbacks, I'm not the least big worries. Perhaps some of them (Guerreiro and Semedo) are not playing as regularly as we would have liked, but I would still argue that we arguably have the deepest pool of quality fullbacks in international football.

I also think it's important to note that while it certainly helps, you do not necessarily need world-class defenders to defend extremely well as a collective unit. How many times in both international and club football have we seen an extremely well-disciplined, tactically organized defensive scheme shut down a far more talented opponent? We don't play the most aesthetically pleasing football under Fernando Santos, but in the biggest games, we are generally quite solid defensively regardless of the personnel. As long as Pepe stays fit, I honestly don't think who Santos chooses as his partner is really going to make that much of a difference. That being said, if Pepe's injured, things get a whole lot more complicated.

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  1. Nathan    jon/usa

Jon, Ruben Dias has indeed played well but I still would place him squarely into the category of "not yet ready for WC competition." He and other young CBs just haven't had the time to develop properly yet, and for me he'd be behind Paulo...

Jon, Ruben Dias has indeed played well but I still would place him squarely into the category of "not yet ready for WC competition." He and other young CBs just haven't had the time to develop properly yet, and for me he'd be behind Paulo Oliveira and Edgar Ie in the pecking order. Having said that, he is one who I hope will have a chance to play for the senior side once the WC is over. An elite CB needs more time to mature IMO, which is why you often see CBs play even better in their 30s than they did in their 20s. It's a very unique role.

You're right about Pepe too.....if he gets injured, look out. Thanks for contributing your thoughts!

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  1. Nick J

Good article, thanks.

Humels/Pique/Silva at club level benefit from the midfields in front of them and being at elite clubs - none are great defenders. Silva WAS in his prime, but no longer. Pepe should have one last tournament in him but then...

Good article, thanks.

Humels/Pique/Silva at club level benefit from the midfields in front of them and being at elite clubs - none are great defenders. Silva WAS in his prime, but no longer. Pepe should have one last tournament in him but then it’ll be about new blood and I’d like to see Ruben Dias given a long stint to grow into the role.

Ricardo Pereira of Porto FC? I’m not convinced, even though to be fair he’s been used as RB, RW and generally wanders around midfield on occasions this season (he was all over the place last night, not in a good way either). Cancelo is adventurous but requires cover from the CB’s and CM to make sure holes are filled, in a well-drilled team such as Portugal this shouldn’t in itself be a problem until they play the top teams. Apart from being caught upfield he has this dangerous habit of passing across the midfield to his CB’s when in trouble, often without looking. But if Bernardo Silva plays on the left do they really need Cancelo for his forward runs or a more defensively-sound RB?

Coentrão has the experience and if he stays fit should be the starting LB.

Portugal’s defensive strength will need to be tactically derived, i.e., a structural defense in which the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts, credit Aristotle for that philosophical divination. Among other options, that might mean compressing our midfield quartet to deny passing lanes

This! Discipline/organisation is key.

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  1. Nick J    Nick J

If Bernardo plays on the RIGHT I meant!

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  1. Paulo    Nick J

Great point about the clubs helping the defenders look better.

Also, some players play better in the national sides. Klose of Germany was always better for Germany than his club teams. Maybe the system, players, passion or all of the above...

Great point about the clubs helping the defenders look better.

Also, some players play better in the national sides. Klose of Germany was always better for Germany than his club teams. Maybe the system, players, passion or all of the above contributed to that. Conversely, some players do worse for National teams, i.e. Messi.

As great a player as he is, his impact on Argentina is not on the same level as it is at Barcelona. In Barcelona, he works in a system that works for him and he has mastered. The same thing cannot be said of his NT. And it isn't the lack of talent. Argentina(along with Brazil and some other teams) could field several teams that would rank in the top 10, if it were allowed a country to have more than one NT.

My point is the Portuguese NT under Santos has maximized their ability to win(mostly by being defensively structured). And the cohesion of the team makes up for some of the individual weaknesses. The passion to fight and give all is the intangible that makes the difference in these tournaments. The team showed real character and belief when beating France after losing Ronaldo. They didn't seem shaken or demoralized at all.

The other thing is leadership. Neto looked calm and assured when playing next to Pepe against Saudi Arabia, but looked shaky and unsure when playing next to Ferreira against the US. I know the level of competition may have been more against the US, but still was a stark difference.

The intangibles and luck are what make the difference in World Cups(if there is enough requisite talent). The intangibles are why certain teams always win, the luck helps determine which one. I think this Portugal NT under Santos has the talent and the intangibles, the rest will be up to luck.

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  1. Nathan    Paulo

It is true about individual statistical performance being enhanced by the overall quality of the team in question, but I still find it concerning that our CBs don't measure up well against other top performing CBs. I also agree about...

It is true about individual statistical performance being enhanced by the overall quality of the team in question, but I still find it concerning that our CBs don't measure up well against other top performing CBs. I also agree about leadership/intangibles being important, especially at CB. Remember how Pepe really composed himself during Euro 2016 and had practically no disciplinary issues, play-acting problems, etc... He was focused and in control and it made a huge difference in his play. We need to see more of that from him and from whoever partners him this summer.

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  1. Reminho

Excellent Article.
CBs are looking shaky indeed but can I just point out that Jose Fonte has 2 MOTM performances in his 8 appearances for West Ham who let’s face it have been a total shambles this season. A glimmer of hope that he’s got some...

Excellent Article.
CBs are looking shaky indeed but can I just point out that Jose Fonte has 2 MOTM performances in his 8 appearances for West Ham who let’s face it have been a total shambles this season. A glimmer of hope that he’s got some World Cup Magic in him still.

I for one am incredibly excited by the prospect of Coentrão and Cristiano playing together again. The chemistry that those two have on the field is exceptional bordering telepathic!

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  1. Paulo

I think Santos will surprise us all and change formation!
3-5-2
Pepe; Fonte and Danilo at the back; Guerreiro and Semedo as wing backs; William, B Fernandes and Adrien Silva in midfield; and B Silva and CR7 up front.

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  1. SupremoGino

With less than six months to go, i agree that structuring the defence is our best chance of achieving success and I'm optimistic about Santos being the right tactician to do this. Even though it would be nice to see us play attractive. However.....

With less than six months to go, i agree that structuring the defence is our best chance of achieving success and I'm optimistic about Santos being the right tactician to do this. Even though it would be nice to see us play attractive. However.. why not just take Danilo or William and slide them into the CB position? Since both have already been fully integrated with the team. It really shouldn't cause too many hiccups. Pepe used to be play DM too and we still have 2-3 more friendlies to work it out rather than rushing in a younger CB. All I know is that Fonte and Bruno Alves cannot be the rotation guys or we're definitely screwed.

Great article but as Nick J asserted, I think Thiago Silva, Pique, and Hummels' club teams are causing them to be overvalued. If you look at Spain's midfield. Iniesta, David Silva, and Busquets are getting older and will be less effective in maintaining possession which could burden Pique. I'm not kidding when I say Portugal has every chance in the world of defeating Spain in the first match even if the odds don't reflect it. Brazil and Germany's midfield are stronger.. after all they are favorites for a reason but our midfield with all it's depth and youth can only add upside. Now since we're comparing ourselves with previous World Cup winners. Remember that Brazil 2002 had the three Rs: Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho. When Portugal finished a record best 4th place in 2006 World Cup it was C.Ronaldo, Deco, and Figo. Notice how all their names rhyme too. Therefore all we need is this magical trio formula of Renato, Bernardo, and Mario rounding into form just in time for the World Cup and Portugal is headed in the right path!

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  1. Nathan    SupremoGino

SupremoGino, I offered some comments on Danilo already, but I definitely do not think William would be well suited for the CB role. He isn't a natural defender or destroyer like Danilo. He's a deep lying playmaker, and while he would be great in...

SupremoGino, I offered some comments on Danilo already, but I definitely do not think William would be well suited for the CB role. He isn't a natural defender or destroyer like Danilo. He's a deep lying playmaker, and while he would be great in distribution as a CB I think he'd struggle very much to perform the basic roles of defense against the world's best strikers.

I also wish very much that Renato would have fully recovered his form by now. I do think he would have been a huge asset for us but I just can't see him making the squad at this point. It's possible, but I doubt it, especially with Bruno Fernandes in the kind of form he's in at the moment.

Thanks for commenting!

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  1. George

Fantastic read as per usual Nathan. Only 150 days to go until the start of the World Cup!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Shift Danilo to the CB position. He's built like a CB, has a speed that neither Jose Fonte or Bruno Alves have,...

Fantastic read as per usual Nathan. Only 150 days to go until the start of the World Cup!

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Shift Danilo to the CB position. He's built like a CB, has a speed that neither Jose Fonte or Bruno Alves have, has experience with Portugal already and has played the position in the past so it's not completely foreign to him. At this point, as Nathan said, we're going to be taking a risk with our defense one way or the other, so, wouldn't the smartest move now be to incorporate Danilo in that position? He sure seems to tick off a lot of boxes and sure up a lot of weaknesses in my mind. He's by far the best in a less-than-ideal bunch of options.

See to me, the revelation of Ruben Neves allows us to do this. We have another fantastic DM option - who can SCORE by the way - and no longer necessarily need Danilo in that position, be it as a starter or on the bench. And I've always said Danilo's too good to consistently warm the bench - this was even before Neves' emergence - so include him as a CB already. If Portugal was a club team, and Jose Mourinho was manager, I think he would've done it already. And no I'm not suggesting I'm unhappy with Fernando Santos, I'm just saying it isn't as difficult a transition as it's being made out to be. I know it won't be EASY, and he most likely will take a little time to adjust, but, we still have that time in the form of pre-tournament friendlies. Remember, there was a time when Raphael, Cedric, and Fonte had no experience as well. They were baptized by fire and came out fine. I see no reason why Danilo can't excel in the same way.

My four CB call ups would be: Pepe, Danilo, Fonte/Alves (whoever is healthy and in form - only one of them), and Edgar Ie/Ruben Dias/Paulo Oliveira/Pedro Mendes (again only one, the fitter and more impressive one). I think a foursome in this vein would be balanced and hold up well to scrutiny.

Looking forward to the rest of the series!

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  1. Paulo    George

I was thinking the same thing about having Danilo as CB and Neves as DM.

Danilo is fastest than most CB and is good in the air. Also, his distribution is good. Fonte and Alves usually just heave the ball forward if they receive any pressure.

Als...

I was thinking the same thing about having Danilo as CB and Neves as DM.

Danilo is fastest than most CB and is good in the air. Also, his distribution is good. Fonte and Alves usually just heave the ball forward if they receive any pressure.

Also as mentioned in an earlier post, maybe 3-5-2 would work. You have to use the talent you have available, and I think we are strong and deep at the wing-back position to facilitate a 3-5-2 with Danilo as a CB. Neves and William fit the DM role.

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  1. Nick J    Paulo

Wot up Paulo
For me, not convinced a 3.5.2 would make the best of the talent available and it would require work, which is the last thing needed headed into a WC! They need a settled team/system. Danilo is an idea at CB but he does commit quite a...

Wot up Paulo
For me, not convinced a 3.5.2 would make the best of the talent available and it would require work, which is the last thing needed headed into a WC! They need a settled team/system. Danilo is an idea at CB but he does commit quite a few fouls and gets tangled up with opposing players so I’d be worried about fee-kicks/penalties. William/Danilo are both good enough to shield the defence whoever the second CB is and keeping possession will also allow less chances for the opposition.
For me, a tight, compact 4.3.3. is best for this set of players though yeh, I’d like to see more of Neves.

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  1. Nathan    George

George, I know many have recommended Danilo as a CB and I'm certain he could probably do it. He is well built for the position in many ways. My concern would be his tactical/positional discipline. As a DM he has some license to roam and...

George, I know many have recommended Danilo as a CB and I'm certain he could probably do it. He is well built for the position in many ways. My concern would be his tactical/positional discipline. As a DM he has some license to roam and distribute at will. As a CB his ability to maintain the offside trap and coordinate with the rest of the back four would be paramount. I just don't know that he has those skills well ingrained since he doesn't play CB for his club. I guess what I'm saying is that the role of CB can't be understated and takes experience, discipline, practice, and intelligence to execute properly, especially at a WC. I think Danilo has the physical tools, but he lacks the rest because he's not a CB by trade. In a pinch (i.e. if injuries/suspensions required) I think he'd be a decent alternate, but I would always want a genuine CB who regularly plays the position to get the nod first. Just my two cents, thanks for commenting!

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  1. joe

Good article...I dont put much stock in those type of statistics as international football and tournaments are a whole different beast, the numerous examples of players stepping up to the occassion or not and being replaced by players that do mid...

Good article...I dont put much stock in those type of statistics as international football and tournaments are a whole different beast, the numerous examples of players stepping up to the occassion or not and being replaced by players that do mid group phase highlight that fact..portugal euro 2016...Fonte wasnt the starting CB but made it his own and we won...countless examples in all positions...even superstars wobble in tournaments...so I am more interested in forming a dynamic that works than who looks better on paper.

Having said that, our weakness this tournament player for player is Central Defence. Pepe still plays at the highest level and therefore despite his age, is world class and always seems to really step up. Its about finding that dynamic with the other CB. Fonte at this stage is a problem, however if he hets back to first team football and good form, her certainly wont be fatigued with half a season only. However, we need 2 more options, and the only way to find out is try CBs in friendlies..P.Oliveira, p. Mendes, r. Vezo need to be tested with Pepe. I watched vezo with valencia, was very good, oliveora has been decent and mendes could be the fonte of russia 2018. Bottom line....pairings and players need to be tested for a solid dynamic...not because of name.

The idea of Danilo is possible and he certainly has the attributes....again...test it out against a v.good team in the friendlies...he certainly would help improve playing out from the back which is always an issue I have with our team sometines against better opposition.

Its interesting how we talked very little about fullbacks and for good reason....we have no issue there with the highest level of quality and depth. Its actually a headache because who do you leave home? One or two qaulity players will miss the trip.

I think if fabio is fit, he goes, but, given his and raphaels fitness issues, ricardo pereira has to go as he can play on both flanks. Cedric soares is having a poor season with southampton and j. Cancelo is in and out of team like n. Semedo....but for me Cancelo and semeso go despite cedrics heroics, i think they offer more and are.playing at a higher level with more qaulity in the team that sometimes keeps them out. Cancelo can easily play wing and is a tailor made wing back but as comfortable as a fullback. I could see Santos brining 5 fullbacks instead of 4 because of their versatility in defence and attack.

Lets see.

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  1. Ash

The solution is obvious. Danilo to partner Pepe at the back. Any other partnership will see us out the tournament.
José Fonte is a shadow of himself. Not to mention has been out for a few months with an injury.
Bruno Alves Is too old and a huge...

The solution is obvious. Danilo to partner Pepe at the back. Any other partnership will see us out the tournament.
José Fonte is a shadow of himself. Not to mention has been out for a few months with an injury.
Bruno Alves Is too old and a huge liability. He’s also out with an injury. I’ve also heard Rangers aren’t happy with him.
Luis Neto is simply not good enough.

Paulo Oliveira has been excellent for Eibar as has Edgar Ié for Lille.
Pedro Mendes also has been very good at Montpellier.
Ruben Dias is one for the future.

4 CBS for me would be Pepe, Danilo, Fonte, Oliveira
We desperately need Danilo at CB. We don’t need him at DM since we have William and Neves

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  1. Mazepus

Out defence will be rock hard people! NOTHING will slip through. Watch!

Santos will ensure that we throttle the attaching side, not allowing any form of penetration through our tight defence. I have the utmost faith in Pepe, Alves, Fonte in...

Out defence will be rock hard people! NOTHING will slip through. Watch!

Santos will ensure that we throttle the attaching side, not allowing any form of penetration through our tight defence. I have the utmost faith in Pepe, Alves, Fonte in central defence and the rest on the sides.

With Danilo in front of defence, any attacking formation will find it hard to break through to the back side of our half.

Portugal has a VERY good shanse of lifting this trophy!

Portugal allez!!

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  1. Groothol

I think Santos should take a new approach and go all out attack... attack from behind with our powerful wingbacks and attack from the front with Eder and Oliveira upfront - I think Ronaldo needs to be dropped now as he is off form.

What do you...

I think Santos should take a new approach and go all out attack... attack from behind with our powerful wingbacks and attack from the front with Eder and Oliveira upfront - I think Ronaldo needs to be dropped now as he is off form.

What do you guys think?

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