The pair will likely play decisive roles tonight in the Confederations Cup semifinal when both aim to propel their sides to Sunday’s showpiece.
It’s likely to be a tight contest between evenly-matched sides boasting contrasting styles. Chile’s all-action pressing style requires energy and commitment from every player in a system focused on pace and counter-attacking. Portugal’s emphasis lies on quality possession and outnumbering and stifling opponents in the middle third. This then liberates Ronaldo to do what he does best.
Both sides have failed to hit the heights that they’re both capable of in the tournament thus far. Instead they have fallen back on the steely, streetwise ability to win matches when not at their fluent best. Chile’s ability to grind out results in Copa America 2015 and 2016 ultimately saw them win the tournament in consecutive years. Portugal’s route to success at Euro 2016 was a similar one where they nullified opponents first and then picked them off.
Expect a cagey affair when two experienced sides aim to cancel one another out in Kazan for a place in the final.
Likely starting XI (4-4-2): Patrício; Soares, Alves, Fonte, Eliseu; Quaresma, Adrien Silva, Carvalho, Bernardo Silva; André Silva, Ronaldo
Likely starting XI (4-3-3): Herrera; Isla, Medel, Jara, Beausejour; Aránguiz, Díaz, Vidal; Fuenzalida, Vargas, Alexis Sánchez
Uncertainty surrounds the future of Portugal talisman Cristiano Ronaldo at club level but the Real Madrid man’s focus is firmly on the prize with Portugal. He has scored twice in the competition so far and few would bet against him doing so again in the latter stages. New Manchester City signing Bernardo Silva is an injury doubt which will be a worry for coach Fernando Santos from a creative point of view. His namesake, André Silva, will link up with Ronaldo up front. The new AC Milan striker has 8 goals in 11 international caps which is some record for a 21-year-old.
Like opposite number Ronaldo, the club future of Chile’s star man Alexis Sánchez is far from certain but his commitment to Chile’s cause is beyond doubt. The aggressive attacker surpassed Marcelo Salas as Chile’s record goalscorer with his strike against Germany, taking that tally to 38 at international level. If Portugal stifle the space in midfield, it might take an inspired performance from Arsenal’s firestarter to break open what is likely to be a tight match.
Portugal are slight favourites at 3.5 to reach the Confederations Cup final at Chile’s expense.
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