Portugal vs Switzerland predictions: Nati's never-say-die spirit can push Portugal
Portugal and Switzerland meet for the third time this year in an intriguing World Cup round-of-16 clash to be played at Lusail Iconic Stadium on Tuesday night.
Haris Seferovic scored the only goal in a 1-0 home Nations League victory for the Swiss in June — one week after Cristiano Ronaldo had plundered two goals in Portugal's 4-0 win over Murat Yakin's side in Lisbon.
Nati regained some momentum in Group G with their come-from-behind win over Serbia as they finished runners-up to Brazil, only on goal difference, while Portugal lost some of theirs as a much-changed side lost to South Korea in the denouement to Group H.
Fernando Santos made six changes against South Korea as he utilised his squad depth by handing starts to teenage defender Antonio Silva, right-back Diogo Dalot, midfielders Vitinha, Joao Mario and Mateus Nunes plus forward Ricardo Horta.
But the conservative Selecao coach is likely to revert to the line-up he favoured in the first two group games with William Carvalho, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Neves and Bruno Fernandes in a midfield diamond with Joao Felix back alongside Ronaldo up front.
Dalot did well enough to make him think twice about his full-back personnel, however, with Joao Cancelo able to operate on either side.
Nuno Mendes was ruled out of the rest of the tournament last week after suffering a thigh injury, while Danilo remains sidelined after sustaining fractured ribs and Otavio remains doubtful too.
Switzerland have been boosted by the return of two key players from illness — first-choice goalkeeper Yann Sommer and experienced central defender Nico Elvedi.
They both missed the 3-2 group win over Serbia as Gregor Kobel and Fabian Schar were drafted in to deputise.
But Yakin has declared he has a full squad to select from with the previously sick players back in the fold.
He could name an otherwise unchanged side with Granit Xhaka, who will not face proceedings from Fifa's disciplinary committee after ugly scenes at the end of the Serbia game, to play alongside Remo Freuler in midfield.
Breel Embolo looks set to play between wingers Ruben Vargas and Xherdan Shaqiri in attack.
Switzerland, who took six points from their three Group G contests, have never before won three matches at a single World Cup.
Nati have now progressed to the knockout stages in five of their last six World Cup finals appearances since 1994, but they have not made the quarter-finals since hosting the tournament in 1954.
Portugal have themselves only been beyond this stage twice with their last knockout win at the World Cup (not including penalty shoot-outs) coming in a fiery last-16 tie against the Netherlands in 2006.
Shaqiri is the first Switzerland player to net at three different World Cups and just the third player to score at each of the last three global tournaments after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Portugal have players that can outshine Switzerland all over the park, but Nati's team spirit and never-say-die attitude should not be overlooked here.
The stats from their 4-0 Nations League loss in Lisbon were pretty dismal with the hosts raining down 20 shots, of which 10 were on target, on the Swiss goal.
But defensively, both teams have clear fallibilities and Switzerland striker Embolo might actually be in better form to exploit Selecao's than Ronaldo and Felix are to hurt his own side.
Two of Portugal's group games featured three goals or more and the other, against defensive-minded Uruguay, could easily have too.
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