EURO 2024 Round of 16 | Portugal vs Slovenia

Portugal vs Slovenia (Frankfurt, 21:00)

Portugal headed into this tournament as one of the favourites, boasting a squad rich in talent and experience. Under the leadership of manager Roberto Martinez, they were able to win their first two games, playing the attacking football they have become associated with. This afforded the manager the luxury of resting some of his key players, which should result in a very fresh-looking Portuguese outfit.

As Slovenia picked up their third draw of the campaign against England during the week, there were signs of jubilation. Understandably so. For a nation with a population of merely two million, to make it to this stage of the tournament is some achievement. Noted for their grit rather than outstanding talent, this plucky Slovenian side have added an intriguing element to this year's tournament.




Performance in the Group Stage

Portugal's group stage performances were a real mixed bag. They secured a dramatic 2-1 victory over Czechia in their opener, with Francisco Conceição scoring a late winner. They followed this up with a commanding 3-0 win against Turkey. This is when some stood up and started to consider the Portuguese serious contenders to go all the way.

They did rest a few players against Georgia. Even so, many were expecting a comfortable victory, but this proved far from the case. This didn't affect their position in the group, but this 2-0 defeat to Georgia could have rocked their confidence significantly.

On the other hand, Slovenia has been one of the tournament's surprise packages. They showed great resilience and tactical discipline to advance from a challenging group. Serbia, Denmark and England presented considerable challenges to this side, but this didn't phase them, as none of these sides ultimately proved good enough to beat them.

Match Analysis

Portugal manager Roberto Martinez has a reputation for attacking football. He certainly has the right players to put his style of football into action. In their first two games, they showed off their attacking talent, with many surprised by the talent coming off the bench.

Slovenia will undoubtedly opt for a more cautious approach, employing a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 formation. They will focus on staying compact defensively, utilising quick transitions and counter-attacks to catch Portugal off guard. Iličić and Šeško will be the primary threats up front, relying on the support of the midfield to create scoring opportunities.

Players to Watch

As noted, this Portuguese side were one of the pre-tournament favourites. The two players below must click for Portugal to be at its best.

- Cristiano Ronaldo: The veteran forward remains a talisman for Portugal, capable of changing the game instantly with his goal-scoring ability and leadership. Despite his evident brilliance, if he holds a young and talented team back, there has been plenty of debate. It looks like he is going to play, no matter what. It will be interesting to see if he has another legacy-defining moment in him.

- Ruben Dias: This Portuguese side has a ton of attacking talent. However, they also have one of the best centre-backs in the world. He has been at the heart of Manchester City's era of dominance and is now searching for an international trophy.

As touched upon, Slovenia's game plan will be remarkably different. We have decided to highlight two players at opposite ends of the pitch who will likely play a significant role for their sides.

- Jan Oblak: One of the best goalkeepers in the world, Oblak’s shot-stopping skills and command of the defence are crucial for Slovenia. They will likely be under the pump for most of this game, meaning his presence is undoubtedly a huge plus.

- Benjamin Šeško: Due to his side playing predominantly on the back foot, we haven't seen the best of the RB Leipzig striker. If they are able to create a few attacks, it is this man the Slovenians will be relying on to convert them.

Match Prediction

This match is expected to be a tactical battle, with Portugal dominating possession and Slovenia focusing on the counter-attack. Portugal is the better side; this is not up for debate. The Slovenians have shown remarkable resilience and have not been beaten.

The Portuguese will likely find this an evening of frustration, but we are still backing them to win this match by the odd goal. The first 20 minutes are crucial to how the rest of the game plays out.