Portugal head in to this fixture with a team packed with players who are coming off the back of incredible seasons for their respective clubs, they’re presented with the task of beating a well drilled Switzerland side who aren’t short on quality either.
The last few internationals have been a relatively dull time to be a Portugal supporter, four draws with just two goals scored in that time. The national teams last win came in a friendly against Scotland back in October of last year. Since that game they took a solid point against a strong Italian team away from home and then drew 1-1 with Poland despite going down to 10 men just after the hour mark so I’d actually say that those two results are more impressive than they look on the surface.
However what followed was two defeats that caused some real frustration for fans, players and staff alike. Portugal kicked of their European qualifiers with a 0-0 draw against Ukraine. The visitors were incredibly well organised but offered little threat in attack, their game plan was clear, they wanted to stifle Portugal and hope to leave with a point and ultimately; they succeeded. Portugal missed a whole host of chances, the best of which falling to Cristiano Ronaldo but even he couldn’t drag them to a result. The hosts had 18 shots and 18 corners and from watching the match I find it near impossible to explain how Portugal didn’t win, in fact, Ukraine almost snatched it at the death.
After this they moved on to the next game against Serbia, again in front of their own fans. Clearly Serbia took inspiration from the Ukrainian success and set about adopting an identical game plan. They even took the lead early through Dusan Tadic and from then on they held on for their dear lives and once again Portugal couldn’t get the win despite having almost 30 attempts on goal.
The reason I think these results are so significant is because I can see Switzerland planning exactly the same set up and I see them as a stronger side than both Ukraine and Serbia. Particularly defensively with the likes of Fabian Schar and Nico Elvedi coming off the back off great club seasons, they also have a top quality goalkeeper in the form of Yann Sommer. They’ll set up in a rigid 4-2-3-1 system which will likely become a 4-5-1 for extended periods of the game. If you fancy Switzerland to frustrate Portugal then you can back the to win or draw at a price of 2.2.
Portugal are the firm favourites to win this at a price of 1.62 and you can see why when you look at how their squad has developed over the course of this year. The big inclusion could well be 19 year old wonderkid Joao Felix; the Benfica forward announced himself on the big stage with some dazzling Europa League performances, particularly against Frankfurt. He may start alongside Ronaldo in a partnership that represents two very different generations of Portuguese football.
He’s not the only one who’ll be flying high on confidence from their club campaign. Bernardo Silva needs no introduction and has now established himself as one of the best players in The Premier League after a terrific season at the heart of Manchester City’s title winning side. But it’s the talent coming out of Portugal’s native Primeira Liga that the Swiss need to be wary of. I’m sure they’ll be well aware of the quality though, given that the league’s top scorer: Haris Seferovic will lead the line for the visitors.
There is some truly incredible individual stats for some of the Portuguese players. Bruno Fernandes is regarded as some of the hottest property in Europe right now. He hit 20 league goals and claimed 13 assists, all from an attacking midfield role. Rafa will start from the left for the hosts, he got 17 goals for Benfica during a superb campaign. Felix helped himself to 15 goals and 7 assists and then there’ the man competing with Bruno Fernandes to start this match: Pizzi. The Benfica midfielder scored 13 goals and got an incredible 18 assists, it’s thought that he may get the nod to start alongside William Carvalho in the heart of midfield.
Many of the prior mentioned players dominate the goal scoring markets. Of course Ronaldo leads the way at 1.83 anytime. Felix is 2.4 to get himself a debut goal, I’d be eyeing up Rafa to get himself a goal at 4.0 anytime.
I think that Portugal should get over their previous lacklustre performances, they were some months ago now and the team has come on leaps and bounds in that time. The emergence of high quality of players from their own league should help the side gel together and there’s a real excitement about a lot of these players.
I think it’ll be relatively comfortable in the end for Portugal because as solid as Switzerland are they really lack a creative spark; they’ve consistently relied on Xherdan Shaqiri for that and he’s played very little football recently and I doubt his focus has been solely on this match given that he’s just picked up a Champions League winners medal. The Swiss have a dangerous finisher in Seferovic but getting the service to him will be the tricky part. I like the price of a 2-0 win for Portugal at a price of 7.0. Portugal -1 at 2.88 also looks like some great value.
Portugal to win 2-0 @ 7.0
Portugal win @ 1.62
Rafa to score anytime @ 4.0