FIFA World Cup 2018: Cristiano Ronaldo-Andre Silva strike team keeps Portugal hopes high
The European champions are often seen as Ronaldo and 10 others, but Silva’s skills promise to prove that impression wrong in the FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia.football Updated: Jun 19, 2018 19:12 IST
For the last couple of days, Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys have been a prominent sight in the Russian capital as Portugal fans wearing replicas bearing the name of their greatest player have been heading into the city for their game against Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
Ronaldo has been the most important figure in Portugal’s international exploits over the years, including the 2016 European Championship triumph, and one doesn’t need reminding of his popularity among his country’s supporters.
The 2018 World Cup could represent his last shot at becoming a world champion with Portugal and his determination to achieve the same was clear from his hat-trick to hold Spain 3-3 in the opening game.
Even at 33, Ronaldo remains Portugal’s most important player and his value to the team can be gauged by the fact that 15 of the 32 goals in the qualifying campaign were scored by him.
But does the Portugal attack depend solely on Ronaldo? Given Andre Silva’s partnership with the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, both players, and not just Ronaldo, will be crucial to how Portugal fare in Russia.
Silva scored nine goals during qualification and formed a lethal partnership with Ronaldo, helping the side win nine of their 10 games.
Against Spain, coach Fernando Santos started youngster Goncalo Guedes alongside Ronaldo. Guedes was guilty of wasting a promising counter-attack and a scoring opportunity that arose from a Ronaldo lay-over.
With Morocco and Iran up next, it may not be a surprise if Andre Silva, who came on as a substitute against Spain, returns to the starting line-up.
Silva’s rapport with Ronaldo on the pitch comes from his clever movement that complements that of his senior strike partner. During the qualifying round, Santos constantly used this as Silva would drag defenders wide, helping Ronaldo play more centrally and get into scoring positions.
It was acknowledged by the AC Milan forward in a press conference ahead of the Morocco game on Wednesday.
“Playing next to him is a dream. We understand each other very well. With the way we occupy spaces and through our movements, we open spaces for each other,” he told reporters.
It is not just Silva who thinks highly of the partnership. Months after the duo had started playing together, Ronaldo told Gazzetta dello Sport, “When I retire, Portugal will be in good hands because they have already found a great striker: Andre Silva.”
First Published: Jun 19, 2018 12:46 IST