Portugal didn’t endear themselves to neutrals in 2016 when they largely drew their way to success at the 2016 European Championships in France. Bizarrely, the tournament’s format then allowed teams to progress to the knock-out phases even if they finished third in their group – as indeed Portugal did. They kick off their attempt to retain the title against a somewhat enigmatic Ukraine side, with the two teams involved in this one unquestionably the strongest in their group.
The Portuguese, for all their qualities, actually don’t score as frequently as you might expect for a side boasting the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo among their ranks. In fact, Fernando Santo’s men have notched twice or more in just two of their last nine meetings, so don’t expect a goal fest. Instead, I’m really taken in by the price up for grabs on the home side winning but fewer than three goals being registered during the 90 minutes for my Portugal vs Ukraine prediction. That’s a 15/8 poke, which looks extremely lengthy given the above stat.
Ronaldo is a best price of 8/13 to score against Ukraine on Friday night, so it’s safe to say we’ll be looking elsewhere! Those who have watched Manchester City this season will acknowledge the growing influence of Bernando Silva – who was probably a bit of an unknown quantity to many of those who follow the Premier League. Not any more! The Lisbon-born attacking midfielder will undoubtedly be disappointed with his goal tally for the national team but he’s grown in confidence and stature remarkably quickly this season, making him one of Portugal’s primary threats.
Silva is on the cusp of emulating his highest scoring season to date and I see no reason why that form can’t translate into his international performances. He’s 2/1 to notch at any point here and looks the most obvious selection bar the predictably short Ronaldo.
Save for a thumping at the hands of Slovakia in November, the Ukrainians have been decidedly difficult to beat of late. They saw off the Czech Republic twice during their Nations League dual and also recorded an impressive draw with Italy, so Portugal can forget about strolling this one. Ukraine are known for being difficult to beat first and foremost and certainly won’t look to play the sort of expansive style of football that their hosts on Friday will look to implement.
With that said, I can’t really see the visitors kick starting their Euro 2020 qualification campaign by getting three points in the board as I expect the Portuguese to have too might on the night. The Navigators will be buoyed by the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was unavailable for selection towards the back end of last year. so you’d expect their obvious quality to prevail. You can get 5/1 on Portugal winning 2-0, which, on paper at least, certainly looks a plausible outcome.