How Fernando Santos Will Use Cristiano Ronaldo To Win The 2018 FIFA World Cup
Portugal coach Fernando Santos named his 35-man provisional squad for the WC 2018 on Tuesday. The squad boasts of a number of mainstays of the team which won the 2016 European Championships like Pepe, William Carvalho, Joao Moutinho, Nani and Ricardo Quaresma.
However, it is needless to say that the main focus of the team will be on Cristiano Ronaldo who has had an amazing club season once again. Ronaldo, who is on course to win his third successive UEFA Champions League title with club Real Madrid will want to win the FIFA World Cup for the first time in his career in Russia.
Change in mentality
Since Fernando Santos took over as coach of the Portugal national football team, he has instilled a will to win mentality in the Portuguese players. Portuguese players would often melt under the pressure of a big match situation in days gone by but not anymore.
Portugal’s squad looks heavily experienced on paper but lacks the overall quality which squads of Germany, Spain, France possess. And this is where Santos uses Ronaldo to inspire his team.
Ronaldo – the key
Santos has made the defense of Portugal resolute and full of steel. At the heart of the defense lies 35-year old Pepe who will be partnered by either Bruno Alves (36) or Jose Fonte (34). Their first job would be to stop the opponent from scoring. Once they have done that, they will need to find Ronaldo.
Even though he is 33 now, Ronaldo still possesses the blistering pace which can rattle any defense. Portugal under Santos favors the 4-4-2 formation and Ronaldo will be used as one of the front two along with Andre Silva. Silva has had a much underwhelming season after his big move to AC Milan last summer. He will be looking to get at the end of any ball Ronaldo tries to cross into the box. Central midfielders like William Carvalho or Bruno Fernandes will also look to do the same and not be over defensive.
Ronaldo does have another ace up his sleeve and that is to cut into the box himself and try to shoot.
Portugal under Santos have an enviable record. The national football team has lost only twice since the 2014 FIFA World Cup and both times they were playing without Ronaldo.
Long season for Ronaldo
Ronaldo has had a long season with his club Real Madrid which will get over on 27th May which provides him just more than three weeks to recover before Portugal’s first group stage match against Spain. As the tournament progresses, Ronaldo’s tiredness will be a factor but Portugal and Santos will need him on the pitch because an unfit Ronaldo will also have the full attention of defenders and make space for other players to benefit