As Portugal head into their final group game against Iran, a date with one of their own in a winner-take-all scenario is probably something they could do without.
Before taking the Iran coach’s job, Carlos Queiroz was in charge of the Portugal side he will be hoping to dump out of the competition.
Moreover, he built up a special relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo during their time together at Manchester United.
If there’s one man that knows how Portugal will play, their strengths and weaknesses, it’s Queiroz. And his Iran team have already shown that they’ll be no pushovers.
They were unfortunate to have a goal disallowed against Spain and pushed La Roja all the way.
With the opportunity of qualifying to the group stages themselves were they to win, Iran will play in exactly the same way and hope to neutralise the threat that Ronaldo poses.
There’ll certainly be opportunities for the Real Madrid man to add to his four goals, and on current form you wouldn’t bet against him taking at least one of them.
But to continue to rely solely on their country’s talisman would be folly from Portugal. His colleagues really have to step up in this game.
Joao Mario has been particularly disappointing in this tournament meaning that deliveries from the left side have been almost non-existent. Bernardo Silva has been marginally better in terms of incisiveness, but his passing has been very poor.
Just a 59 percent success rate against Morocco last time out is far from what Fernando Santos needs from his wide man.
Though Ronaldo will drive everyone on and drag them up to his level, he will know that Queiroz has a plan for him and, therefore, will need to pick his battles carefully.
Joao Moutinho will make his 113th appearance for his country, becoming the third most capped player behind Ronaldo and Luis Figo, and the man of the match in the last game will also be key to Portugal’s aspirations on the day.
Saeid Ezatolahi did a great job of protecting has back four against Spain, so Moutinho will be tasked with moving him away from the central areas to expose their weak centre-back pairing of Majod Hosseini and Morteza Pouraliganji.
It’s imperative that the rest of Ronaldo’s supporting cast take advantage because Iran, for all of their industry, don’t score too many.
Just one against Lithuania and Uzbekistan should give Santos and his squad hope that if they can get on the scoreboard early, this one is in the bag.
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