This is what Portugal's World Cup 2026 squad could look like
Portugal have a wealth of talent in their ranks at every age level - but how could their team look by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around?
Predicting the stars of the future can, in some instances, be very straightforward; youngsters that are already progressing to the main stage and showing the confidence and raw ability required to make it to the top are easy to identify as future world beaters.
But, names also pop out of nowhere; football can often be very unpredictable. Sometimes those you expect to progress very quickly falter, while others develop much more rapidly than anticipated.
As such, it is never easy to predict how the national team will shape up in a few years time, let alone by 2026. Injury troubles, rapid loss of form or a single bad transfer and suddenly one of the country’s most gifted players may instantly be brushed to the sidelines, out of contention completely.
Nevertheless, here we have attempted to predict what the Portugal squad could look like for the 2026 World Cup - should Portugal qualify, of course - constructing a 25-man squad constituting the players we believe will be in and around the Portugal first-team squad well into the future:
(..) Number in brackets indicate the player’s age for the 2026 World Cup.
Diogo COSTA (26): Iker Casillas once himself described Costa as his successor at FC Porto. Whether that proves to be the case remains to be seen, though the Portugal U21 international is widely expected to eventually take the reigns at both club and national level. And at the 2026 World Cup, Costa should be doing just that; he’ll be 26 by then, approaching his peak performance level, and will likely be number one between the sticks, wherever he may be plying his trade by that time.
João VIRGINIA: (26): By 2026, Virginia will also be 26 years of age, approaching the perfect age for an international goalkeeper. He has already shown his abilities at youth level for Portugal - and you can definitely expect him to be in and around the senior team come the World Cup in North America.
Rui PATRICIO: (38): By this point, Rui Patricio will still only be 38. We say only, because that’s more than young enough to still be playing international football. And this could certainly prove to be Patricio’s last hurrah for his country. He perhaps won’t be Portugal’s number one anymore, although his experience would prove tremendous for a second or third choice goalkeeper.
Ruben DIAS (29): One thing seems an absolute certainty regarding the Portugal national team; Ruben Dias will play a huge part in any future tournaments for the country, and will not only be included in the 2026 World Cup squad, but will be one of the first names on the team sheet - perhaps a captain or vice-captain. By that time 29 years of age, the Benfica defender will be in the perfect position to be the leader of Portugal’s backline.
Diogo LEITE (27): It has been difficult to predict the successors of the likes of Bruno Alves, Jose Fonte and Pepe in the past, though it really does look like four players are leading the race to be central to solving Portugal’s centreback concerns. And one of them is likely to be Porto’s Diogo Leite. Leite will be 27 by this time, and there’s a huge deal of excitement surrounding the U21 international, who was even given the number 4 shirt at club level at the start of last season. He even played the entirety of Porto’s first three league matches in that campaign, and played the full 90 minutes of Porto’s Champions League victory over Galatasaray.
FERRO (29): Despite only currently being 22 years of age, Ferro was pivotal to Benfica in the second half of last season, and has arguably been even more impressive than his centreback partner and compatriot Ruben Dias - yet he still hasn’t played for Portugal. However, there’s a great deal of optimism surrounding the former U21 international and, having witnessed how quickly Ruben Dias made the progression up to the Portugal senior side, Ferro should no doubt be in and around the Portugal main team by 2022, let alone 2026.
Diogo QUEIROS (27): By 2026, Pepe will be 43, Bruno Alves will be 44 and Jose Fonte will be 42. Undoubtedly, this current crop of long-serving players will have long hung up their boots by this time, and the fourth man that seems set to take on a position in the Portugal national team is the UEFA Youth League champion (with FC Porto) and the U17 and U19 European champion (with Portugal) Diogo Queiros. Perhaps shockingly, he is yet, to this day, to play a single senior match with FC Porto, having only featued for the B team. But by 2026, he should definitely be a first-team regular, and certainly within a very good shout of making Portugal squads on a regular basis.
João CANCELO (32): The Juventus man has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. After missing out on the World Cup squad in 2016, Cancelo has quickly cemented his place as one of Portugal’s top two right backs - and that’s no easy feat. With Ricardo Pereira, Cedric Soares, Diogo Dalot and Andre Almeida all competing with him and Nelson Semedo in the Portugal squad, he still looks guaranteed to be in any team Fernando Santos announces. And he doesn’t look likely to give it up any time soon. Cancelo, aged 32, is still very likely to be included in the 2026 World Cup squad.
Diogo DALOT (27): Nelson Semedo and Ricardo Pereira are both current internationals and worthy candidates to still make the squad for the 2026 World Cup, by which time they will both be 33 years of age. However, Manchester United youngster Diogo Dalot, who will be aged 27 for the tournament, is perhaps the most likely player to be called up, the next 7 or 8 years expected to be huge for the former Porto right back.
Ruben VINAGRE (23): It will certainly be interesting to see how Portugal’s left back situation develops over the next 7 to 8 years years. One thing is for sure though; Ruben Vinagre is a future Portugal left back, and by 2026, where he will be 27 years of age, he is very likely to be the starter of the Portugal national team, long having made this position his own. The current Wolves player has already been given a fair few opportunities in the Premier League, and has impressed in that left wing back position pretty much every time he’s stepped out onto the pitch. A bright future is expected.
Nuno TAVARES (26): Now this is one of the more ambitious predictions, mainly due to the fact that the 19 year old still has everything to prove, and his career could still very much go either way. The signs are promising though; having impressed for the Benfica B team, he’ll now have the chance to play with the senior side during pre-season and, if he impresses, that could turn into something more. We will have to see if he manages to make it, but aged 26, if he does, he’s in with a shout of making the 2026 World Cup squad.
Ruben NEVES (29): Portugal are spoilt for choice when it comes to midfielders, with incredible depth in this area of the pitch - and that will only continue in 2026. It’s perhaps the strongest position of them all for Portugal. But Wolves star Ruben Neves will almost certainly still be in the squad - and starting lineup - by then, with his potential clear for all to see as soon as he arrived at Porto all those years ago. By 2026, Neves will still only be 29, which is quite extraordinary, considering he has seemingly already been around for several years. This should be the age where he’s at his absolute peak, with many years of experience behind him.
Florentino LUIS (27): The player that will be more than rivalling the likes of Ruben Neves for a starting place is undoubtedly Florentino Luis. Currently on the books of Benfica, it would be a huge shock if he were still with the Lisbon club by then, and will almost certainly be playing for one of the giants of world football, one of the likes of PSG, Manchester City or Real Madrid. Only 19 years of age, he has become a starter for Benfica, and by 2026, will be 27 years old and at what is pretty much the perfect age for a defensive-minded midfielder. He’s got a very exciting future ahead of him.
Gedson FERNANDES (27): Yet another Benfica youngster who will have a spectacular future, Gedson has also well and truly been integrated into the Benfica senior side this season and, as such, has already earned two caps for the senior national side, both coming at the end of last year when he was just 19 years of age. By 2026, he will, like Florentino, be just 27, and you wouldn’t bet against him being one of the first names in the starting XI.
Romario BARO (26): Here’s one that many outside of Portugal won’t have heard of - but what a big future he’s got ahead of him. Having impressed for the Porto B team and the U19s, he even lifted the UEFA Youth League trophy earlier this summer, where he played a significant role, scoring 6 and assisting 4 in 10 outings. He is a tremendous talent, and has great versatility too, able to play as both an attacking and central midfielder. Expect him to be very much involved in the Portugal senior team in 2026 - and before.
David TAVARES (27): Now this guy is really special. David Tavares looks like a real up and coming talent that should be set for a huge season with Benfica. Having already trained with the team this summer, he’s impressed with both his technicality and physicality, and he could prove to be the ideal attacking midfielder. He could be set for a huge season - and could be this season’s equivalent to Joao Felix in terms of impact.
(Domingos QUINA) (26): We’ve written up a 25-man squad just to give a little more room for error and Quina is one of the two players that we believe will be just on the fringe and may therefore just miss the cut when the team is reduced to 23. The current Watford midfielder has been showing great promise, both for the Portugal youth teams and at club level, having even been handed a handful of opportunities in the Premier League and cup competitions under Javi Gracia. Quina is one of the players that will be looking to get a call-up to the Portugal national team come 2026 - and we believe he’ll be close.
João FELIX (26): Well, what a sensational year it’s been for Felix - and anybody that has been paying attention to Benfica over the last few years won’t be the least bit surprised. The teenage superstar was only introduced to the Benfica senior side this season, and his huge impact on the team was clear to see. His dribbling and confidence has been a sight to behold, and his awareness on the football pitch mirrors experience beyond his youthful years. Benfica’s youth academy appears to be the future of Portuguese football, and Felix, like Gedson, Ferro and Ruben Dias, is another current youngster expected to lead the line for the country for many years to come.
Bernardo SILVA (31): Bernardo has continued to dazzle fans of the Premier League with his incredible dribbling and technique since arriving at Manchester City, quickly becoming one of their most valuable assets in what is a team filled with outstanding talents, and is expected to be the man to lead Portugal into the post-Ronaldo era. He is arguably Portugal’s most influential players after the Juventus striker, and aged 31, is guaranteed to be in the 2026 World Cup squad (barring injury, of course).
João FILIPE (27): Another player, another Benfica youth product. Despite him having yet to make significant impact for the Benfica senior side, he is expected to make a very loud and very rapid burst onto the scene in the not-too-distant future. When he does, European giants will swoop in to snap up the young star - which could explain why Benfica are so reluctant to play him in the main team yet. By 2026, he will be 27 - the perfect age to be representing the country.
Bruno TRINCAO (26): Perhaps surprisingly, 19-year old Trincão has only played 117 minutes of competitive football for the senior Braga team despite having been so impressive for the Portugal youth teams. Indeed, the teenage winger was top scorer in the 2018 European U19 Championship with Portugal as he helped lead his country to the international title. With that in mind, a big future is anticipated of Trincão, and we think that by 2026, by which time he will be 26, he will be in the main team for his country.
Gonçalo GUEDES (29): The Valencia winger had a sensational 2016-17 campaign and, although his World Cup efforts last summer fell short of our expectations, also showed his tremendous qualities this season. He’s already something of a hero in Portugal after his goal in the Nations League final versus The Netherlands - and he should go on to represent his country many more times in the future. By 2026, he’d be one of the more experienced players in the team.
Rafael LEÃO (27): When Leão left Sporting to go to Lille, eyebrows were raised as to whether that was the correct decision for the young Portuguese star. Lille, having just escaped relegation by a single point last season, seemed a strange destination for a player considered to be the future striker of the national team, and was something of a gamble for the 19 year old. It seems to have paid off though, with Leao having secured a good deal of game time and shown his vast array of qualities. Helping Lille to a shock 2nd place position in the French league, we should also see him in the Champions League next season. If he continues as he has done recently, he’ll be one of Portugal’s key strikers in the future.
Fabio SILVA (23): By 2026, Fabio Silva will still only be 23 years of age and looking at a very impressive future ahead of him. That’s because he is currently just 16 years of age - and already showing the tremendous qualities required of a star striker. Having won the UEFA Youth League last season, Silva showed his terrific movement and finishing ability, chipping in with 5 goals and 4 assists en route to the European title. He is definitely one of the most exciting prospects Porto have - and by 2026, he could be in and around the Portugal senior team.
(Diogo JOTA) (30): Along with Domingos Quina, we think that Diogo Jota will be one of those players that will be just on the cusp of making the team in 2026. He has shown his tremendous capabilities as a second striker with Wolves this season, and could have a tremendous future ahead of him. By 2026, he will be 30 years of age, very much at his peak performance level, and he could be the additional experience Portugal will be calling out for up front.