Portugal have been given a much kinder draw – especially in comparison with the likes of Italy and France – after they have been paired against the likes of Switzerland in their World Cup qualification group.
Manager Fernando Santos was fearing the worst due to the presence of teams like Netherlands in the second seed. Even world champions Germany was frightened the prospect of facing big teams in their group stage. Since only the group winner can qualify for the World Cup 2018 directly, this was of paramount importance. Following their poor World Cup 2014 campaign, Portugal can now hope to prepare for the next edition in a better manner.
Apart from Switzerland, Hungary, Latvia, Faroe Islands, and Andorra are the other group opponents from Portugal. Santos has admitted that this is one of the better draws for his team since there was a distinct possibility of coming up against the big guns. Even though the World Cup qualification group has thrown up a much easier route, Portugal will first concentrate on the Euro 2016 which will begin next summer. France host this tournament and Portugal are seen as one of the underdogs. This could be one of the final tournaments at international level for superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently turned 30.
“It’s a group where Portugal naturally part as a favorite to arrive, but it would happen in any group. Switzerland has evolved a lot, Hungary is growing and has a new coach – and I can say that before coming to Portugal had an invitation from Hungary and I know the major investment they want to do the check. Regardless of the draw in order to Portugal is to be present at the World and wanted to leave a message already: I am now worried about the Euro 2016, that’s what interests me. But for the future, say since nothing is easy,” said Santos.