At Lusail Stadium on Tuesday, Group H champion Portugal will take on Group G’s runner-up Switzerland after both teams advanced to the World Cup’s knockout round with two victories out of three.
A crucial spot in the quarterfinals is at stake as two teams who had very different results in their final group matches square off in one of only two all-European matches in a diverse last 16.
Portugal had a strong start to their campaign for Qatar 2022, meaning that they only needed one point in the final round of group games to guarantee themselves the top spot and automatic entry into the knockout stages.
It appeared that the Selecao would breeze through when Ricardo Horta, one of several new players introduced for the occasion by coach Fernando Santos, gave them the lead against South Korea in the fifth minute.
However, their opponents pulled off one of the numerous comebacks that have defined the first fortnight of the finals, tying the score before halftime and then scoring a dramatic goal in the 91st to defeat them 2-1.
Portugal, despite suffering their first defeat, advanced as the group’s top team thanks to Uruguay’s victory over Ghana, and they are now trying to advance to the round of 16 for the first time since 2006, when they ultimately placed fourth in Germany.
After seeing his team defeat Ghana 3-2 to open the World Cup and then add a 2-0 victory over Uruguay on Monday with two goals from Bruno Fernandes, Euro 2016 champion Santos can conceivably aim to break new ground this winter.
A Eusebio-related Despite their success at the youth level and third-place finish at the 1966 World Cup, the Iberian country of Portugal has never advanced to a senior international final. In fact, two of their last three seasons came to an end in the opening round.
Santos must pick his team wisely in Lusail because the Selecao will be facing familiar opposition with a successful track record in major finals, and there is ongoing speculation regarding the health and form of one-man record breaker Cristiano Ronaldo.
When Portugal and Switzerland last faced off in the UEFA Nations League earlier this year, the results were very different and happened within a few days of each other. Portugal won easily, 4-0, in Lisbon, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring twice in the first half, while Switzerland won 1-0 in Geneva.
Following their victory over Spain in the Nations League during the summer, Switzerland went on to defeat the Czech Republic and Spain in the same competition before beginning their improbable journey to their first World Cup by winning two of their opening three games in Qatar.
After losing to Brazil and Cameroon both by the same score of 1-0, it was thought that the second-placed Nati would only need a point to advance from Group G, but Cameroon’s incredible victory over the Brazilians changed everything.
In order to advance to the round of 16, Serbia had to be defeated in a tense 3-2 victory in front of their home crowd at Stadium 974, where 11 players were given bookings by the referee.
They won thanks to goals from Breel Embolo, Remo Freuler, and first-goal scorer Xherdan Shaqiri, who celebrated by silencing the Serbian fans who booed him at every touch. Granit Xhaka narrowly avoided getting sent off at the end of a stormy match.
The Swiss have never previously won three games at a single World Cup finals and have missed the quarterfinals in seven of their previous attempts, but this year, Portugal vs. Switzerland Murat Yakin’s team is now just 90 minutes away from accomplishing such a feat.
Switzerland hasn’t advanced past the round of eight since they hosted the World Cup in 1954, but after defeating France, the defending champions and neighbors, to reach the quarterfinals of last year’s Euros, a team experienced in the ups and downs of the knockout stage, will undoubtedly fancy their chances on Tuesday.
The previous time Portugal played, Fernando Santos took advantage of the opportunity to make six changes to his starting lineup, but the renownedly conservative coach is expected to stick to his guns on Tuesday night.
Antonio Silva, a 19-year-old defender for Benfica, made his first competitive appearance against South Korea in August alongside Pepe, Portugal vs. Switzerland a veteran player 20 years his senior.
However, as Ruben Dias returns to the back four, the youngest Portuguese player to play in a World Cup match may be moved aside; Diogo Dalot made a strong impression in his first World Cup start and may be kept.
Cristiano Ronaldo, the Selecao’s all-time leading scorer, starts up front once more despite being one of three players replaced after 65 minutes on Friday. Andre Silva and another Benfica prospect, Goncalo Ramos, are relegated to the bench.
Due to an injury, Nuno Mendes was forced to withdraw from the rest of the tournament last week. Danilo is still out with rib fractures, and Otavio is still questionable.
After missing their final Group G match due to illness, Switzerland will be hoping stalwart goalkeeper Yann Sommer can return to strengthen their back line at Lusail Stadium. If Sommer were still available, he would replace Gregor Kobel of Borussia Dortmund because of his 76 caps for the Nati, which included 30 clean sheets and countless clutch saves.
Murat Yakin’s team has a good chance of remaining largely unchanged because Granit Xhaka, Remo Freuler, a disciplined defense, Portugal vs. Switzerland Breel Embolo, and the midfield screen they provide.
Christian Fassnacht and Renato Steffen are both alternatives on either flank, but Ruben Vargas and Xherdan Shaqiri offer support from wide.
Costa, Dalot, Pepe, Dias, Cancelo, B. Silva, Neves, Carvalho, Fernandes, Felix, and Ronaldo could be Portugal’s starting lineup.
Sommer, Widmer, Akanji, Schar, Rodriguez; Freuler, Xhaka; Shaqiri, Sow, Vargas; Embolo could be in the starting lineup for Switzerland.