With five wins from five and no goals conceded yet this qualifying campaign, Portugal are one of the early favourites for the summer tournament despite a changing of the guard being overseen under Roberto Martinez.
Eight years on from Portugal’s shock win at EURO2016 courtesy of a winner from Eder against France, there is once more hope that it may be the turn of A Seleção das Quinas to bring the trophy back to Porto.
The tournament in June will again be dominated by the giant shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo looming over the national side, after Paulo Santos chose to drop the veteran in favour of Goncalo Ramos in Qatar.
It was a move that proved successful, but the side couldn’t capitalise on their newfound chemistry and suffered a shock last 16 defeat at the hands of underdogs Morocco, causing Santos to lose his job and plenty of speculation around Ronaldo’s international career.
So far, Martinez has restored him to the side, and Ronaldo has scored five times in the five qualifiers so far. The caveat of course, is that these goals have come against Lichtenstein, Bosnia and Luxembourg, none of whom are likely to be in the reckoning to win the competition in Germany, and some critics will still question if the 38-year-old is the right man to lead the line in bigger games.
Opting for a 3-4-3 formation, Martinez has stumbled across a winning formula with a front three of Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva either side of Ronaldo, while Joao Palhinha and Bruno Fernandes appear to be his preferred midfield pairing. ahead of the likes of Ruben Neves, now playing for Saudi side Al-Hilal.
It is a system that has yielded plenty of goals and is yet to concede any, though again with the caveat that the sides that they have faced aren’t world-class.
Young defensive pair Gonacalo Inacio and Antonio Silva, along with midfielder Vitinha are all growing in
The same questions persist though; Can Goncalo Ramos do a better job than Ronaldo, is Danilo Pereira really the answer at centre-back, where does exciting winger Rafael Leao fit into everything and can Diogo Costa really be trusted between the posts?
There are also wider questions about the man in charge, with Martinez widely accused of squandering Belgium’s golden generation, and with Portugal now perhaps at their strongest in recent years, there are fears he could do the same to another European giant.
For now, these fears simmer in the background as Portugal fly through their group, and they will make it into June’s tournament should they win just two of their final four games, where they will be considered one of the big favourites.
With Ronaldo set to be 41 by the time that the World Cup in the USA comes around, it could be the striker’s final chance to win another piece of silverware for his country, and his goals so far have ensured that they will be in with a shout of doing that, provided they can piece together their best side.