How would this 'Portugal C squad' perform on the world stage?
Portugal are a small nation blessed with great footballing pedigree, and their stature on the world stage since the turn of the century has continued to rise dramatically. Once minnows of world football, the reigning European Champions are flying high, but just how much depth has the current squad got?
Portugal, currently ranked 7th in both the national FIFA World Rankings and in the UEFA European league rankings, have high-calibre players dotted around Europe while also possessing three or four top quality club sides domestically, all of which are almost always competitive in European competitions, both in the Europa League and the Champions League.
It's proven a wonderful formula for the national side, who seem to be benefiting hugely from the current nature of European football, having a good blend of domestic and overseas players in their ranks.
Since the Euro 2016 triumph particularly, we've seen many Portuguese players move abroad, both players from the title-winning squad and nationals from the Primeira Liga - the most notable examples of this found at Wolves, Lille and Nottingham Forest. Portuguese players really are spread high and wide across the continent, to a scale we've perhaps never seen before.
And what better way to assess the newfound depth in Portugal's ranks than constructing a potential 'Portugal C' side, a side made up of very competent and, in several cases, talented players, but players that are similarly, for one reason or another, far off the main team.
First, to construct the 'C' team, a rough estimation of both the 'A' and 'B' team have to be made up, which constitutes players that are fully-fledged internationals and just on the fringe of making the senior Portugal squad.
Below are the two suggested 23-man squads, firstly the 'A' team and then the 'B' team. Some players could easily be transitioned between the two sides although these are, overall, the top 46 squad players Portugal have. It should also be noted that the sides are made up of players as if they were all fully fit. This is most notable for Ricardo Ferreira, who is currently suffering from a long-term injury. If he were fit, he would likely be in squad 'B'.
Here are the squads:
Portugal 'A' team: Rui Patricio; Anthony Lopes, Beto; Pepe, Ruben Dias, Jose Fonte, Luis Neto, Cedric Soares, João Cancelo, Mario Rui, Raphael Guerreiro; Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho, Ruben Neves, João Moutinho, Pizzi, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva; Gonçalo Guedes, Ricardo Quaresma, Gelson Martins, Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva.
Portugal 'B' team: Claudio Ramos, Jose Sá, Marafona; Bruno Alves, Pedro Mendes, Ricardo Ferreira, Diogo Leite, Ricardo Pereira, Nelson Semedo, Fabio Coentrão, Vitorino Antunes; Sergio Oliveira, Adrien Silva, Gedson Fernandes, Renato Sanches, Manuel Fernandes, João Mario; Rony Lopes, Bruma, Nani, Rafa, Diogo Jota, Eder.
Two strong sides, there's little doubt about it, with particular strength at right back with four top-quality options, while the strength in the attacking department is also clearly on show. The main concern is, perhaps, in the goalkeeper position and in centreback, where there is similar certainly much less strength in depth.
Portugal 'C' Team
Now, for the main part of the article - the complete potential Seleção 'C' team. The full squad list is shown below:
Portugal 'C' team: Bruno Varela, Eduardo, Joel Pereira; Rolando, Paulo Oliveira, Daniel Carriço, Edgar Ié, Ruben Vinagre, Eliseu, Andre Almeida, Diogo Dalot; Palhinha, Andre Gomes, Andre Horta, Xeka, João Felix, João Carvalho; Helder Costa, Ivan Cavaleiro, Rafael Leão, Gil Dias, João Filipe, Nelson Oliveira.
There we have it, a potential C team for the European Champions, a team that is no doubt a few levels below that of both the 'A' and 'B' side but one that still contains a wealth of talent - and actually a very respectable level of senior international experience. Here we have an even closer look at the side:
Perhaps not as strong as one would hope for, Portugal have an exceptional trio of goalkeepers to have in their senior squad, with Patricio, Beto and Lopes three top quality goakeepers. Other than that, however, the strength in depth between the sticks is somewhat lacking.
It means that the three goalkeepers for the 'C' team - arguably the 7th to 9th best goalkeepers Portugal currently have - are Benfica backup shot-stopper Bruno Varela, Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Eduardo, who has been loaned out to Dutch outfit Vitesse, and Manchester United youngster Joel Pereira, who is also currently on loan, at Primeira Liga side Setubal.
All very capable goakeepers, with Eduardo capped 36 times for the Portugal senior team, having also been part of the Euro 2016 squad, while Varela was Benfica's number one choice last season. None are by any means world-class, but they are acceptable options and are still perhaps better than the top goalkeepers on the rosters of many other European countries.
As said previously, right back is a position of great strength for Portugal, and it's further shown by the options present in the 'C' team. In Andre Almeida we have a right back that is everpresent in the Benfica starting lineup, having well and truly confirmed himself as the best right fullback at the club in recent years, coming with a wealth of Champions League experience also to his name, while Diogo Dalot is a highly exciting prospect, further confirmed by his £20million move to English giants Manchester United.
Left back in the 'C' team also looks strong; Ruben Vinagre has been an absolute sensation since arriving at Wolves. Fans of Portuguese football knew his talent after his simply stunning performances for the Portugal U17s, but the way he has seamlessly translated that form and composure to club level has been a sight to behold. With the inexperience of Vinagre comes the experience of Eliseu, Benfica's backup left back. The 34-year old has racked up 29 caps at senior level and has a huge level of experience at club level to also call upon. Having been part of the Portugal squad that won Euro 2016, Eliseu has proven himself as an accomplished leftback.
Centreback is, as has been well-documented, the position that Portugal are lacking the most depth, with the likes of Pepe, Fonte and Bruno Alves still among the senior team despite being deep into their thirties. When you therefore go down to the C team, the side that, in essence, contains the 9th to 12th best centrebacks of the nation, there is a clear lack of top quality options.
Rolando, however, has a huge level of experience, and is still a valuable player for Marseille. The 33-year old has played for Portugal 21 times and still has a lot to offer. Edgar Ie, meanwhile, also plays in France - for Lille - and has represented Portugal many times at several different youth levels. He played 35 Ligue 1 matches last season and, while he's struggling for game time this time around due to the arrival of compatriot Jose Fonte at the club, has proven himself a very adequate defender.
Paulo Oliveira and Daniel Carriço, meanwhile, are both based in Spain, and have slipped under the national team radar somewhat. Oliveira, currently with Eibar in La Liga, has been a stalwart for the club, having played the entirety of all four of Eibar's league games this season, as well as 26 last campaign. Yet the 26-year old has only represented the Seleção once at senior level.
Carriço, on the other hand, is the vice-captain of Sevilla, and has been desperately unfortunate with injuries the past couple of seasons. Indeed, he was limited to just 6 league outings last campaign as a result of muscle and hamstring injuries, but was something of a regular when available. He has also played in 5 of Sevilla's Europa League fixtures this season but, like Oliveira, has only played for Portugal on one occasion.
Portugal have always been blessed with quality in central midfield, and the fact that Andre Gomes is arguably only sufficient to make the 'C' team at this time is testament to Portugal's talent in the middle of the park. Having previously been at Benfica and Valencia, Gomes, one can recall, then earned a huge €50million move to European heavyweights Barcelona, such was the ability he had already demonstrated in Spain, and he was even given 46 La Liga outings across the two seasons he was there. Now out on loan at Everton, the 25-year old is an excellent option in central midfield and hopefully he will get a chance to further his career in the English Premier League.
Palhinha would then offer an exceptional option in defensive midfield, with the 23-year old Braga loanee proving a very capable replacement to Vukcevic, who departed to Levante this summer.
Andre Horta is also a very accomplished central midfielder, now plying his trade in America with Los Angeles, while the highly regarded João Felix, who has already made a big impact at Benfica despite still only being 18, and João Carvalho, who has recently moved to Nottingham Forest for €15million, offer great ability and flair in the middle of the park.
Meanwhile Xeka, 23, has really come to life this season, playing the entirety of every single Lille league match this season, and has impressed as the French club have climbed to second place in the table, only behind big-spenders PSG.
An incredible range of attacking talent in this one; Wolves duo Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro can count themselves somewhat unfortunate to not have a look-in for the main Portugal squad, such is the talent they have at their disposal. But it's testament to the strength in depth Portugal have in the wide areas. In any case, Helder and Cavaleiro have just two caps between them - both of which are for the latter - which again illustrates how much talent is at Fernando Santos' disposal right now.
In addition to them, U19 European champion João Filipe, who almost singlehandedly led Portugal to that U19 victory, would likely be a part of any Portugal C team, and his flair and dribbling ability makes him a nightmare for any defence. The 19-year is a guaranteed star in the making. Youngster Rafael Leão would also likely be in the hypothetical team, another hugely exciting prospect that showed in his handful of performances for Sporting that he has the potential to be an excellent striker.
Nelson Oliveira, who has played for Portugal 17 times, would then offer much-needed experience up front in what is a very youthful side. He's performed to a very good standard at Norwich in recent times, although has found game time this season very hard to come by. In any case, Portugal have never been blessed with outstanding out-and-out strikers in recent times, and Nelson Oliveira is a very acceptable option to have. Nottingham Forest's Gil Dias, playing in the same division as Oliveira, is the other attacker in the hypothetical squad.
So what do you think of this Portugal C squad? Would they be able to qualify for Euro 2020? What level opposition could they still beat? And is there anyone else that you would have included in the squad? Have your say in the comments below.