In Focus: Bruno on a roll ahead of Swiss encounter
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Toby Rathborne
LiveScore
Bruno Fernandes has been in superb form for Portugal at the World Cup
Bruno Fernandes has been in superb form for Portugal at the World Cup

Portugal have a first-ever World Cup trophy in their sights — and Bruno Fernandes is leading the charge. 

The Manchester United playmaker was dropped by boss Fernando Santos at Euro 2020 after a string of poor group-stage performances. 

But he has been his nation's talisman this time around and contributed to four of their six goals so far. 

Ahead of Portugal's last-16 clash with Switzerland, we analyse the midfield maestro's displays in Qatar.

Brilliant Bruno

Fernandes' first contribution at this World Cup came against Ghana when his through-ball set Joao Felix up for a composed finish. 

His second assist came from a quick counter in the same fixture, finding substitute Rafael Leao to curl in their third of the night. 

In the next game against Uruguay, Fernandes scored his first of the tournament with a searching cross from the left flank that ended up in the back of the net. 

He later sealed the win in stoppage time from the penalty spot with a hop, step and strike to confirm Portugal's place in the knockout stages.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice in the group stage
Bruno Fernandes scored twice in the group stage

Old Trafford toils

United's No8 has been a shadow of himself at club level this term, managing a meagre two goals and one assist in 13 Premier League appearances. 

When he first arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting, Fernandes set the league alight thanks to 18 strikes and 12 assists in his first full campaign. 

His struggles have mirrored his club's, with the Red Devils sitting fifth in Erik ten Hag's first campaign in the dugout 11 points adrift of league leaders Arsenal.

Backing from the boss

Despite his lack of goal contributions for the Red Devils, Ten Hag has been full of praise for his attacking midfielder. 

He said: "I think Bruno [Fernandes] is playing really good this season, so I can see that he can produce more goals [and] assists. 

"But I think he's often in the line of the goal and he's playing a massive role in a lot of moments of football for us, in building up attacks, creativity, movement. 

"Also, in transitions, in both sides, in the defensive transitions he's magnificent and doing a really good job so I'm really happy with his performances."

Free Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes has two assists for Portugal in Qatar so far
Bruno Fernandes has two assists for Portugal in Qatar so far

Fernandes has been crucial for his country, leading from the front both in and out of possession. 

He operates at the tip of the midfield diamond and is given freedom to roam from that position, often interchanging with team-mates. 

That role grants him the capacity to affect the game and threaten from anywhere on the pitch. 

He also thrives when surrounded by willing runners like Felix and Leao, who attack the space behind defences — enabling the 28-year-old to either play through-balls or drive forward himself. 

So far in Qatar, he has completed 40 passes in the attacking third and created three chances.

Swiss challenge

Bruno Fernandes has been crucial for Portugal in attack
Bruno Fernandes has been crucial for Portugal in attack

Switzerland have enjoyed a solid World Cup campaign thus far qualifying ahead of Cameroon and Serbia while their only loss has been at the hands of tournament favourites Brazil. 

Murat Yakin's men have been on the rise of late, beating world champions France at Euro 2020. 

Breel Embolo and Xherdan Shaqiri are their primary threats in attack, though their real strength lies in defence — no team conceded fewer goals in European World Cup qualifying than their two.

However, their stout rearguard was breached by Brazil and Serbia and Fernandes will be key to exploiting any vulnerabilities with his passing and ball-striking abilities. 

If he can carry his fine form into the knockout stages, Portugal will be confident of taking a big step towards a first World Cup success against the Swiss.

Tags

World CupPortugalBruno FernandesManchester United
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