Ronaldo and co. will do it the hard way

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Portugal should get through against a tough Turkey side but extra-time or penalties may be needed, says Jamie Pacheco.

Portugal v Turkey
Thursday March 24, 19:45

Portugal have themselves to blame

If Portugal don’t qualify for the World Cup, they really only have themselves to blame. They needed only to avoid defeat against Serbia at home to make it and they were 1-0 up in that decisive game after just two minutes.

But what happened next was unfortunately something that’s happened too much under Fernando Santos these last few years. Their gut instinct is to shut up shop, defend what you have and play like underdogs for the rest of the match, even though in this case they were at home to a side they’d normally expect to be beating.

Portugal paid the price. First Dusan Tadic and then Aleksandr Mitrovic in injury time scored the goals Serbia needed to send themselves through and Portugal to the play-offs.

Defensive absences give Santos conundrum

Despite an embarrassment of riches in midfield and upfront they don’t have too may high-class centre-backs.

So, it was rather disastrous that they lost the excellent Ruben Dias to injury. They then also lost Pepe to a positive Covid test, but the Porto man isn’t the player he once was, and is less of a loss.

Santos may consider playing PSG’s Danilo in defence rather than his more usual position in midfield where Portugal have plenty of other options. But one of them isn’t Ruben Neves, who also has a minor injury.

Manchester City’s Joao Cancelo (pictured above) also misses out and he’s a really big loss.

Low on star names, high on resilience

Turkey put in a decent performance in qualifying, finishing second to the Netherlands in a Group that also contained a much-improved Norway.

Their 21 points came courtesy of six wins in 10 matches and they only lost the one game, even though it was, admittedly, a 6-1 thrashing against the Netherlands.

Unlike in previous years, this isn’t a Turkey side with too many star names but it is one that fights hard and shows determination.

But expect to see Caglar Soyuncu marshal the defence and their dangerman up front is likely to be Cenzig Under, who played alongside Soyuncu at Leicester last year.

He’s having a good season on loan at Marseille and scored in each of his first five games of the season, including two on international duty.

Portugal are 1.412/5 to win the game in 90 minutes, with Turkey 9.08/1 and the draw 5.04/1.

The Portugal price is one to avoid and one that can surely only be justified on three counts: that they’re at home, that they have a superb record when it comes to qualifying for major tournaments (not missing one since the 1998 World Cup) and they’re much better ranked than their opponents: Portugal are eighth, while Turkey are 39th.

It’s also true that Portugal’s record against Turkey is excellent with six wins from the eight matches they’ve played them. Having said that, the last one was almost 10 years ago and for interest’s sake, Turkey actually won it 3-1 in Portugal.

Either way, Portugal aren’t generally great in matches like this where they’re expected to win. If they go into a match as slight underdogs they’re generally at their best and they’re unlikely to slip up as 1.21/5 favourites, either.

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But it’s against these ‘inbetween’ opponents that they can be a bit vulnerable.

We’re going back a bit now but take Euro 2016 as an example, which of course they ended up winning. They were favourites against all of Iceland, Austria and Hungary in the Group Stages and Croatia and Poland in the knockout rounds and ended up drawing all of them after 90 minutes.

The far better bet is that Portugal do this the hard way. There’s not too much wrong with taking that big-looking 5.04/1 on the draw but there might be an even better alternative.

You can get 8/1 on Portugal winning in extra time and 13/1 that they need spot-kicks to book their place against (presumably) Italy and be just one match away from the World Cup.

Portugal are generally very good in extra-time and their penalty shootout record is good, with three wins in five shootouts.

That they’re good when games go beyond 90 minutes shouldn’t be surprising.

Their fitness levels are high so they can find extra energy when it comes to trying to break during extra-time, while they always have technically gifted players who are good at taking penalties.

So split your stakes between those two outcomes.

All eyes on Cristiano Ronaldo, in search of more goals and the chance to break more records.

That wonderful hat-trick against Spurs is still fresh in the mind but he’s only scored in two of his last 12 games and can sometimes try a little too hard on international duty, so I don’t think the 8/11 is for me that he gets on the scoresheet.

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Bernardo Silva is generally pretty good for Portugal but a record of just eight goals in 64 matches suggests the 9/4 is too short, although you should be able to get a significantly better price than that on the Exchange.

Forwards Diogo Jota and Joao Felix are 11/10 and 7/5 respectively to score but it’s somewhat unlikely that both will play so if you want to back one or the other, best wait till the teams are announced.

In the world of Bet Builders, Bernardo (pictured above) may rate a better bet in the anytime assist market, at 7/2.

If you lump that together with both teams to score at evens, the Bet Builder comes to 8.24.

Author: Ellen Garcia