5 reasons why Portugal could struggle against Switzerland tonight
Portugal will take on familiar foes Switzerland in the Round of 16 on Tuesday. Both sides mustered two wins from the group stage to progress to the knockout phase. Portugal picked up wins over Ghana and Uruguay in their first two group stage games to book a berth in the Round of 16 with a game to spare.
Meanwhile, Switzerland's wins over Cameroon and Serbia bookended a 1-0 loss to Brazil. Murat Yakin's side came from behind to beat the Serbs in a thrilling contest that also featured flaring tempers and a lot of yellow cards.
While on paper it might look like things could be rather straightforward for Portugal, Switzerland are no pushovers. Without further ado, let's take a look at five reasons why Portugal could struggle against Switzerland tonight.
#5 Switzerland have been a difficult side to beat for Portugal
Switzerland and Portugal have met 25 times in the past. Portugal have managed to win just nine games while Switzerland have won 11. Five matches have ended in draws. The two sides have clashed twice this year and have won one game each.
In six meetings between the two sides in the 21st century, Switzerland and Portugal have won three games apiece. It's quite clear that despite the gulf in quality we've come to associate with both sides, they have been pretty well-matched on the pitch.
Switzerland have been a difficult team to beat for Portugal in the past and there's no reason why tonight should be any different.
#4 Switzerland's defensive organization could numb Portugal's attack
Switzerland are known for their defensive organization and they showcased this quality in their first two group stage games against Cameroon and Brazil. The Swiss kept a clean sheet against Cameroon while they held their own against the Selecao until the dying embers of the game.
Switzerland kept Brazil's famed attacking department at bay for the greater part of the game. After conceding two goals inside the first 35 minutes against Serbia, they shored up their defense and made sure the Serbs weren't afforded giveaways in the second half.
If Switzerland can stick to their guns and maintain their shape consistently, they have a great chance of beating Portugal tonight.
#3 Swiss attackers in good form
Swiss forwards like Xherdan Shaqiri and Breel Embolo are in great touch heading into the Round of 16 game against Portugal. Embolo has scored two goals in three appearances and is a huge threat in the attacking third.
His speed and ability to beat defenders could once again be a defining factor for the Swiss in attack. Embolo could cause problems for Portugal's veteran centre-back Pepe, who could find it difficult to keep up with the 25-year-old striker.
Xherdan Shaqiri's return to form is yet another factor that will inspire the Swiss side to fancy their chances tonight. He has one assist and one goal from two appearances at the 2022 FIFA World Cup and could play a huge role for Yakin's men tonight.
#2 Switzerland are more than capable of springing a few surprises
Switzerland are no strangers to rising to the occasion and springing a few surprises. They eliminated reigning world champions France in the Round of 16 at Euro 2020. They have also done a very good job against top quality opposition in recent months.
Switzerland beat Portugal and Spain in back-to-back UEFA Nations League encounters this year. They have the personnel and the organization to go shoulder-to-shoulder against the best in the world and they've shown it in the recent past as well.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo's awful form
Is Cristiano Ronaldo starting to become a liability for this Portugal side? He is the leading goalscorer in men's international football and has been phenomenal for them throughout his career. But at 37, he is no longer the player he used to be.
In his last six games for Portugal, Ronaldo has not scored a single non-penalty goal. He has also missed six big chances. That is quite poor for any player, let alone a centre-forward who should be converting most of the chances that come his way.
If his outbursts in recent times are anything to go by, Ronaldo will not take kindly to being benched either. So it looks like Santos is caught between the devil and the deep sea. Ronaldo has been in poor form all season and is unlikely to improve all of a sudden.
If the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix and Rafael Leao don't step up big time tonight, the Portuguese will struggle against the Swiss.