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How far can Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal succeed at the 2022 FIFA World Cup? 

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The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar will probably mark Cristiano Ronaldo’s final foray onto the global stage.

The Portugal captain will turn 38 just six weeks after the final, which takes place on 18th December at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Iconic Stadium. Oddschecker, which compares odds and provides free offers on the World Cup, has predicted that Fernando Santos’ side have a good chance of lifting their maiden world crown, and it would be a fitting end to the career of one of the sport’s true greats, allowing CR7 to bow out on top. While we all know better than to write off football’s resident GOAT, it would be highly unexpected to see the current Manchester United man featuring in the tournament across the US, Canada, and Mexico in four years’ time, at the ripe old age of 42. 

Portugal do have pedigree on the international stage, although they haven’t shown it for some time. They famously defeated England on penalties back in 2006 to reach the semifinals that year, 40 years on from their best ever finish – 3rd place in England in 1966. In Germany, though, they would run into a Zinedine Zidane-inspired France in the final four, and his first-half penalty was enough to sink Luis Felipe Scolari’s brave team. 

Since that painful evening in Munich, the Seleção haven’t truly threatened to go all the way. Four years ago, they were downed by Edinson Cavani’s double in Sochi at the round of 16 stage. It was Spain who dumped them out at the same stage in 2010 and, in 2014, they couldn’t even qualify for the knockout stages, finishing third behind Germany and the USA and exiting at the group stage. 

It has been a different story in the European Championships, of course. Ronaldo’s finest hour on the international stage came at Euro 2016 in France, when Eder’s 109th-minute thunderbolt secured a first-ever major trophy for his country and his captain. And how the Portuguese would love to replicate that success this winter. But how far can they truly go in Qatar? 

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A potentially tricky group? 

Portugal have found themselves in Group H for this winter’s showdown in the desert, meaning that they will have to wait until the other 28 teams have battled it out before they and their three other group members can face off. Their tournament will begin on 24th November against Ghana. Ronaldo scored against the Black Stars back in 2014 en route to securing a 2-1 victory in his side’s final group game in Brasília. It wasn’t enough for his side to progress to the knockout stages, though. 

The West Africans aren’t as impressive now as they were back in 2010, when the only things that stopped them from becoming the first ever African semifinalists were the hands of Luis Suarez. But in Thomas Partey and new recruit Inaki Williams, they do have proven match winners in their squad. Plus, they will face Uruguay – the nation that broke their hearts back in South Africa – for the first time in 12 years, and they will be looking for revenge. Portugal cannot take them lightly. 

But it isn’t just Ghana who are seeking retribution against the South Americans. It was La Celeste who eliminated Portugal in Russia four years ago, and Cristiano and co. would love to return the favour in the Arabian Gulf this winter. 

The final team in Group H is South Korea, and it’s another potential banana skin that should be overlooked at your peril. That’s exactly what reigning champions Germany found out four years ago. Die Mannschaft needed to beat the Taegeuk Warriors in Kazan to secure safe passage to the last 16. Instead, two goals in injury time ensured a 2-0 defeat and group stage exit for the reigning champs. And in Son Heung-Min, South Korea have one of the planet’s greatest talents in their ranks, who must be monitored at all times if Portugal are to ensure victory. 

The route to the final 

Despite Group H being potentially difficult to navigate, it would be a huge shock not to see Portugal in the latter stages of the competition. They and Uruguay are the favourites to secure the top two spots and progress, but which order they finish in is anyone’s guess, which makes the fixture between the pair one of the most important in the group stages. The reason for this is that whoever finishes second in the group will likely face tournament favourites Brazil in the round of 16. 

Should they manage to top the group, then it would be either Serbia, Switzerland, or Cameroon waiting for them in the last 16, rather than Neymar and co. And while Aleksandr Mitrovic’s goal in Lisbon sent Serbia to the World Cup automatically, Portugal would still be the favourites to secure victory and a place in the last eight.

At the quarter-finals stage, there are no easy games, and that would also be the case for Captain Cristiano and co. Belgium, Germany or Spain would be the likely opponents should all go to plan in a fixture that would be a pure 50/50 matchup. And in knockout football, anything can happen. 

So, can they do it? 

Well, that depends entirely on their position in Group H. If they run into Tite’s Brazilians in the last 16, it’s highly likely that another early exit may be on the cards. Should they avoid the Brazilians, then don’t bet against Portugal reaching the final four. A team containing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, and Joao Felix can never be ruled out. 

They have attacking talent in abundance and let’s not forget Ruben Dias. The centre-back has been one of Manchester City’s standout performers in recent years, leading Pep Guardiola’s Blues to back-to-back Premier League titles. Anything is possible in knockout football, and how satisfying would it be to see Cristiano Ronaldo on top, lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy for the first time in his career in front of 80,000 adoring fans on December 18th? Who doesn’t want to see that?

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