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World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014 Tactics: Analysing Portugal’s tactical approach, set-up & formation

All eyes are on the Portugal team, the team of the best player of the world. There are high expectations of this team, and that will probably be their biggest enemy. Nevertheless this cannot be used as an excuse, this team has a very experienced group of players, well accustomed to this level of football. Portugal’s team isn’t the favourite to the reach the final, but they should at least, get to the latter stages of the competition.


Typical Portugal Line up: Rui Patrico, João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentão, Miguel Veloso, Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Helder Postiga.

Portugal plays  with 4 defenders 3 midfielders and 3 attackers who are spread wide.

Portugal WC formarion


In defense Portugal uses two powerful and sometimes hard players in the two central positions. These two players are supported by a defensive midfielder, when Portugal is in the defensive process. When Portugal starts to build the offensive process, it always starts with the defenders who have the support of the defensive midfielder for the transitions from the defensive process to the attacking process.

On the both sides of the defense, Portugal plays with very offensive players. Because Portugal has a very offensive right full back and left full back the defensive midfielder has the important job of covering for the offensive runs of these players..

For the midfield, aside from the defensive midfielder, Portugal plays with two inside midfielders in front of the defensive midfielder  with the support of the wingers and the striker in the defensive process. The two central midfielders have the job of affecting the attacking transitions, and a lot of, if not all the play, goes through these midfielders.

MORE READING | Read our interview with Portuguese expert, Tom Kundert, founder of

It is out wide where Portugal are truly dangerous. There, they have players who are very quick, and technically very strong too. However, the man up front is the weakness, and this is why he is told to be more flexible. While he can stay in front of goal, he can also drop deeper to assist in the build up play.

The Portuguese coach normally plays with Rui Patrício in goal. Rui Patrício is the keeper from Sporting and is one of the better keepers in world football. He is strong on the line and with crosses, but is weak when it comes to playing with his feet and charging out of his box. The keeper that will threaten his place in the side is Beto. Eduardo is the “just in case” solution.

In defence, Portugal have very quick players on both sides. Both Coentrao and Joao Perreira will take advantage of their speed to participate in attacking moves. In central defense Portugal will field two very experienced and sometimes hard players, Bruno Alves and Pepe. Both of these defenders are very strong aerially, and it is going to take a some effort to beat them in the air. Nevertheless, they are a little bit static. The remaining defenders are Neto, who is a centre back, the multi tasker, André Almeida(Can play on the right, left and as a defensive midfielder and in last case scenario central defence) and Ricardo Costa(Can play as right and central back).

In the midfield Portugal plays with a defensive midfielder, normally, Miguel Veloso. This is the position we will see major competition for, with William Carvalho being the man who is looking to displace Miguel. He had an amazing season at club level, and has shown that he can be the man to improve this team. The defensive midfielder is the most important player in the team, because he participates in all 4 stages of the game. The defensive midfielder is the player who is an active participant in attack, defense, and most crucially, the transition phases. Carvalho has shown over the season that he can do this job well, and carry a team on his shoulders. The remaining 2 positions will be filled by two box-to-box players like Moutinho and Meireles. On the bench Portugal will have either Wiliam Carvalho or Veloso, depending on which one of the duo starts. Aside from him, they will also have the services of the versatile Ruben Amorin who can play as a defensive midfielder, box-to-box midfielder, and even as a right full back.

The attack is the unknown territory for Portugal. When he does recover from injury, obviously, Cristano Ronaldo has a spot. It can be on the left wing but it’s safe to assume that he will cut inside very often to leave the wing wide open for Coentrão to get forward, or in a situation where they need to force the attack, or in experimental mode he can play as a striker. The other two positions will be filled by a striker, Helder Postiga, who is very useful when the ball is on the ground, because he can drop deep and bring markers with himself and open a gap for Cristiano Ronaldo or Nani with a diagonal pass. Portugal can also field Hugo Almeida in this position to get a powerful aerial presence in the box. The backup resource here is the powerful Éder.

The right wing has many different options, starting with Nani, who,  in normal conditions is the owner of the spot. But this has not been a normal season for Nani, and so Portugal can look to Vieirinha and the strengh of Varela, both players that can play on the left and the right. At last, we have Rafa a very talented player, but one who is likely to see very few minutes this World Cup.


Cristano Ronaldo | It really wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Portugal base their game around Ronaldo, and it should be no surprise either. But, at the end of the day, he is the best player in the world, and any team would be foolish to not utilise that capability. There is nothing new to be said about him, and what he brings to the table.

João Moutinho | This season has been disappointing for him at the french club Monaco. However, it is expected that Moutinho will leave his Monaco troubles behind when he arrives at the World Cup, and performs for Portugal. He is expected to fight for every ball from the start to the finish of every game. Moutinho is the player who has the ability to dictate the style of play that Portugal put forward, and he needs to be the midfield maestro for them to do well.

Nani | Like Moutinho, Nani too had a season to forget, but for different reasons than Moutinho. Nani’s main objective in this World Cup, aside from taking his team to the title of course, is to put himself in the shopping window. With all the focus on Ronaldo, Nani will get space and the opportunity to do some damage. If he can be the back up contributor that Tom Kundert talks about, Portugal can go a long way.


William Carvalho | Remember this name. Carvalho had an outstanding season at club level, propelling his team from 7th to 2nd place in the table. Sporting had William Carvalho to thank for this terrific performance. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he’s done so, despite being a youngster. He covers the defensive gaps well in that phase of the game, and starts attacks equally well after recovering the ball. His distribution has also been impressive, and he was severely missed when he was out. William Carvalho was named in our Team of the Season at our inaugural Talent Radar Young Player Awards.

Rafa: This is a player for the future. This call is important to give him some experience of playing during the final phases. Generally, Rafa is a very quick player, with good dribbling technique. But for this world cup he has lot’s of players ahead of him in queue, so he will not have many chances to show his value.

This piece was written by Antero Santo. Follow him on Twitter @AnteroSantos

Read our Analysis of all teams here, and all other WC2014 related content here.

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