After finishing second behind Russia in their qualification group, Paulo Bento’s men recorded a 4-2 aggregate victory over Sweden to reach a major tournament via the play-offs for the third successive occasion. This apparent weakness compared to their continental rivals makes them 12/1 (13.00) long shots to finish as top European side.
That play-off clash was billed by many as a Cristiano Ronaldo versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the Real Madrid man emerged as the undoubted victor after scoring all four of his team’s goals, albeit Ibrahimovic did score both of Sweden's goals in the two-legged encounter.
The Ballon d’Or winner will take centre stage once again in Brazil as captain of a talented squad featuring the likes of Nani, Joao Moutinho, Pepe and Fabio Coentrao.
A difficult draw sees the Selecao playing second fiddle to Germany in Group G, where Ghana and the USA also lie in wait. At 1/2 (1.50) to qualify, Bento’s team are widely expected to reach the knockout stages, but a record of three consecutive defeats against the Germans at major tournaments sees them on offer at a reasonably lengthy 11/4 (3.75) to finish in first place. With this in mind, odds of 13/10 (2.30) represent an attractive proposition on them securing second spot.
Should all go according to plan and Portugal seal second place then they will probably come up against dark horses Belgium in the last 16, whose talented but inexperienced squad would provide a real test.
There are odds of 12/5 (3.40) available on Bento’s team crashing out at this stage, although the 7/2 (4.50) price on them losing against probable opponents Argentina in the quarter-finals may prove more tempting. Beyond that, you can get odds of 7/1 (8.00) on them suffering a third semi-final exit in their history, and 16/1(17.00) on them losing out in the final.
Danny’s free-scoring form for Zenit St Petersburg this season meant his omission from the squad came as something of a surprise, although Ronaldo is more than prolific enough to cover this absence on his own.
Having scored 11 times in his last seven international games, Portugal’s 49-goal leading scorer is the overwhelming 1/2 (1.50) favourite to lead the charts for his country this summer. While it is obviously hard to look past their talismanic forward, 6/1 (7.00) odds on Helder Postiga to finish as top scorer offer potential value for a lone striker with 27 international goals to his name, particularly after outscoring Ronaldo in the qualification group stages.
Bento’s 4-3-3 formation is designed to get the best out of Ronaldo’s explosiveness on the counter attack and his side’s 3-2 away win over Sweden provided a perfect demonstration of how devastating this game plan can be.
With an experienced centre-back partnership of Pepe and Bruno Alves soaking up the pressure and forward-thinking full-backs in Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao supporting a midfield boasting Moutinho’s creative spark, defence can turn into attack within the blink of an eye. If Ronaldo is in top form then 6/4 (2.50) odds on Portugal making it at least to the quarter-finals should prove a solid investment, while 4/1 (5.00) may appear tempting on them earning a place in the semis. Should that come to pass then the 16/1 (17.00) price on Ronaldo collecting Player of the Tournament will look very generous indeed.
|Portugal's World Cup squad - 33/1 with Paddy Power|
|Rui Patrício||Andre Almeida||William Carvalho||Cristiano Ronaldo|
|Eduardo||Bruno Alves||Joao Moutinho||Helder Postiga|
|Fabio Coentreo||Miguel Veloso||Hugo Almeida|
|Joao Pereira||Raul Meireles||Ivan Cavaleiro|
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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.