Portugal began their defence of the first ever Nations League championship by welcoming 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia to Porto’s Estádio do Dragão.
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Fernando Santos has named another strong squad for their double header, which involves a beautiful blend of the old guard and the next generation of Portuguese talent.
The squad is headlined by none other than captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who is both their most capped player and all-time top scorer. CR7 enjoyed another successful season in 2019/20, scoring 31 goals on the way to winning a second consecutive Scudetto with Juventus.
He is joined by Pepe and João Moutinho as members of the squad to have earned over 100 caps for A Seleção. The latter of which is also a member of the cohort of Wolverhampton Wanderers players in the squad. Wolves – with Moutinho, Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves and Diogo Jota – are the most represented club in the squad of the reigning European champions.
The future of Portugal is also well represented in the latest squad. With uncapped 20-year-old Trincão, who joined Barcelona from Braga over summer in a deal worth £28m, accompanied by Atletico Madrid starlet João Félix.
Though he is yet to score for the national side, Félix will have to fancy his chances against what is arguably a weak Croatian squad.
Zlatko Dalić, who led Croatia to a shock World Cup final appearance in 2018, has been left without both his captain and vice-captain for their opening Nations League fixtures.
Despite being named in the initial 24-man squad, both 2019 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric and central midfield partner Ivan Rakitic have dropped out – whilst Wolfsburg centre-back Marin Pongračić has been ruled out with an illness.
There could be further issues for the Vatreni’s opening fixture too. Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović, having appeared in the Champions League and Europa League finals respectively just two weeks previous, were given extra time-off and could be rested for the opening game.
This, in my opinion, gives Portugal a clear edge over their opponents. As does their imperious home form. Since October 2008, they’ve lost just once in 33 competitive games on Portuguese soil.
Led by the ever reliable Cristiano Ronaldo, supplied by the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva, expect Portugal to take the initiative in defending their Nations League crown.
Back Portugal to win at evens.