Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal, having already secured qualification to the Euro 2024 final tournament, take on Iceland in their finale of the qualifying competition.
Through nine matches, Portugal have a perfect record, scoring 34 goals and conceding just two in one of the softest collection of opponents in the group stage. Yet even so, their performances have been top-drawer, emphatically confirming their place in the tournament next summer.
Ronaldo is the competition’s top scorer with 10 goals of his own, adding to his total on Thursday as Portugal brushed aside Liechtenstein 2-0 in a game that could have ended a lot more lopsided.
Iceland have failed to qualify for the competition through the group stage, but they could still reach the playoff round thanks to their Nations League results. However, that’s not guaranteed, as they must hope that neither Serbia nor Ukraine fall out of a qualifying position on the final matchday, which would see those higher-ranked nations consume the final League B spot that Iceland currently occupy.
Regardless, this match has no bearing on how the final standings will look from a qualifying standpoint for either nation and thus only pride and records will be at stake.
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Portugal confirmed their place in the Euro 2024 field months ago, but they haven’t let their foot off the pedal since. Their 34 goals scored and two goals conceded both stand as the best mark of any nation in the qualification field, partly due to their exceptional form and partly thanks to their exceedingly soft group.
Iceland were competitive a few cycles ago, but they have slipped in recent years. They coughed up four goals to Slovakia last time out, drew with Luxembourg back in October, and needed a stoppage-time winner to beat an extremely down Bosnia & Herzegovina side in September.
Portugal may not have anything to play for, but they are not a match for Iceland at their best, and there’s no reason to think that the hosts will let up in front of their fans here in the final qualifying round.
Portugal couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn last time out against Liechtenstein, but they still created loads of chances against a bunkered opponent.
They have struggled to finish for a while now, but while stretches like that for individuals might last, for a collective it’s much harder to rely on. If they create the same kind of chances against Iceland that they did against Liechtenstein, they will pour on the goals and hit this total.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s the most likely goal scorer for Portugal by far, but his odds reflect as such and thus are not palatable. Joao Felix, however, sports extremely tasty value.
The Barcelona forward has been prolific for Portugal in recent months, ripping off nine total shots across his last three appearances in October and November. He picked up a goal and assist in the 5-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina last month, and he let fly with four efforts against Liechtenstein last time out, unable to hit the target.
Felix is in good form, and so is his team on the whole, so unless Ronaldo hogs all the goals in this match, there should be enough chances to go around, and Joao Felix is likely to be on the receiving end.
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