Confederations Cup Third-Place Playoff Preview: Portugal

Another laboured campaign from the Portuguese has failed to end in the fairytale that was Euro 2016, but they’ll be hoping to finish the Confederations Cup on a high nonetheless.

The story so far

Incidentally, this Confederations Cup campaign will end where it started for Portugal with a clash against Mexico. In their opening group game, the Mexicans twice came from behind to draw 2-2 with a patchy Portugal outfit.

Their star man Cristiano Ronaldo would then be the difference in a nervy 1-0 win over host nation Russia before they found an extra gear against New Zealand to claim a more convincing 4-0 win.

Perhaps a little too content after their massive win over the Kiwis, Portugal were far from their best against Chile in the semi-final and were only gifted a chance at penalties after the post twice denied the Chileans in extra time. Alas, Portugal couldn’t make the most of the shoot-out with Claudio Bravo saving three straight penalties to send Portugal packing to an always disheartening third-place playoff.

They’ll beat Mexico because…

The fact Portugal twice squandered leads when these two sides clashed in their opening group game suggests they do have what it takes to claim a win at the third time of asking. 

They may not have been much better than Mexico in that game but on paper and sheer form Portugal do have the advantage.

Though they never really looked like scoring against Chile, Portugal shouldn’t have the same difficulties against a Mexican defence that’s shipped eight goals in just four games. 

They’ll lose to Mexico because…

Genuinely unpredictable and with a penchant for punching above their weight, Mexico are every chance of pinching a win against a Ronaldo-less Portugal. 

They’ve been a rich vein of scoring form this tournament scoring in each game including an absolute screamer in their 4-1 semi-final loss to Germany. While Mexico have shipped an average of two goals each game, they’ve countered this by scoring seven goals across the same period.

And yes, the absence of Ronaldo is quite a boost for the Mexicans who will be desperate to build some momentum heading into the Gold Cup.

How have they faired in this Confederations Cup?

On the whole Portugal may well be disappointed with their showing in Russia. The reigning European champions couldn’t hold out Mexico, made life difficult for themselves against Russia, looked second best at times to New Zealand and never really showed up against Chile.

A win against Mexico for third place will add some gloss to an otherwise scratchy Confederations Cup campaign for the Portuguese. One they’ll need to improve upon quickly if they’re any hope of lifting the World Cup here next year. 

Best moment of the tournament so far

Andre Silva’s strike against New Zealand to make it 3-0 unsurprisingly still has my vote after an uneventful semi-final showing. His surging sprint forward and stinging strike across goal a demonstration of what Portugal are capable of with an inch of space.

Key player

Portugal will hope it’s a case of no Ronaldo, no worries with a well-stocked midfield likely key in this one. The three Silvas have all been instrument to date but the often overlooked William Carvalho will be key to making the difference against Mexico. In what has the potential to become a real frantic affair, Carvalho’s calm presence in the middle will be a real asset for Portugal.

Injuries/Suspensions

Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be involved in this one following the birth of his two newest sons.

Prediction

Expect and indeed hope for plenty of goals in this one. Should Portugal find their feet in front of goal they’ll be looking the goods to walk away 3-2 winners in a tight contest.

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A football fanatic and journalism student who won't leave you wondering about any Wanderers news this season as I cover all things Red and Black for The Football Sack.