After lifting their first major international honour at the Euro 2016, Portugal remain one of the favourites for the upcoming UEFA Euro 2020. Although they find themselves in the Group of Death alongside two former World Cup winners Germany and France, they have a strong squad- with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva- in their ranks to make it through the group stage.
Portugal is known for producing some of the greatest attacking talents the world has ever seen, with the list including Eusebio, Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Ronaldo. However, the defence has always been a cause of headache for them as it lacks the depth available to them in the front of goal.
In the defence, the left-back is a particularly tricky position for Portugal because apart from the routine duty as a defender, there is also the additional responsibilities to provide cover for Ronaldo and link well with him to launch effective counter-attacks, something Marcelo used to do seamlessly at Real Madrid.
Last time around, they barely made it past the group stage and if they are to make it into the knockout phase again it would be unwise of them to rely on their attacking threat alone and it is imperative that they maintain solidarity at the back.
Luckily, they also have some solid defensive options to choose from before heading into the continental tournament and in this article, we'll be taking a look at the three best options for A Seleção at the left-back position.
#3 Kevin Rodrigues
Kevin Rodrigues is one of the players who'll be vying for a spot in the final 23-man squad, set to be announced by Fernando Santos soon. The French-born left-back has not been called up for international duty since November 2018 but has performed well with Leganes this term where he is currently on loan from La Liga club Real Sociedad.
A lengthy injury layoff in the 2018-19 campaign saw him lose his spot in the national team at the UEFA Nations League and he was not called back to the squad even after he resumed his duties with Sociedad.
In September last year, he was loaned out to Leganes, where, after struggling to cement his place in the initial stages of the season, he has now established himself as a regular starter.
In 17 appearances for the club this term, he has two assists and a goal to his name and as per WhoScored is the best performer for Los Pepineros this season. His ability to play as a wing-back also makes him an attacking threat, though with Ronaldo starting on the left flank, his involvement will have to be limited to defensive duties only.
#2 Mario Rui
Napoli defender Mario Rui has regularly made it into Portugal's squads for major tournaments since making it in the final 23-man squad for the FIFA World Cup in 2018, though he has mostly been limited to the bench in that period.
In 15 appearances this season, he only has one assist so far but it is only because he prefers to stay back in his half, allowing his counterpart on the right flank, Giovanni Di Lorenzo to move deeper into the opposition half and link up with the attackers. He has two goals and three assists this season.
It is expected that Leicester City's marauding full-back Ricardo Periera will start on the right flank, so a player like Rui who knows how to hold his position can provide a delicate balance to Portugal's defence. His quick feet, tracking down capabilities and the ability to make perfectly-timed tackles also makes him one of the top full-backs of his country.
1. Raphaël Guerreiro
Raphaël Guerreiro undoubtedly remains the top Portuguese left-back in the world at the moment. He has been an active member of the national side since 2015 and gradually managed to take the place of former Real Madrid star Fabio Coentrao as the first choice left-back of his country.
This season he has mostly operated as a wing-back on the left-hand side of the pitch for Borrusia Dortmund and has flourished in that role. In just 19 appearances this season, he has scored five goals, while also proving three assists to his teammates.
The 26-year-old fleet-footed defender is a major threat going forward, whose lightning-quick pace helps him create chances from defensive positions. He also has an eye for the goal and is not one for shying away from taking a crack at the goal, if he finds an opening.
Though he can be a bit inconsistent at the back, he makes up for it by his incredible work-rate and tenacity. Operating as a wing-back he covers a lot of ground, most of which is a result of tracking down opponents who have made strides into Dortmund's half.
Despite not being the most technically-sound player when it comes to defending, he is one of the most naturally gifted players in Portugal's squad and should start in the EURO for the reigning champions.
Published 04 Mar 2020, 15:49 IST