In the first round of fixtures in international football since the World Cup in December, Luxembourg and Portugal return to action to start their attempts to qualify for the European Championships, hosted in Germany next summer.
With a population of just 640,000, Luxembourg are not expected to qualify for the Euros next summer, having managed only four wins across 40 games in their previous qualifying games for the Euros, which is as many as Portugal managed in their previous Euros Qualifying campaign.
Despite failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, Luxembourg had their best qualifying campaign yet for a major tournament, winning three games, including a win away to Ireland, which was the first time they managed more than one win in a qualification campaign and as many wins as they had managed in their previous 60 World Cup qualifiers, which shows that they might be a country on the rise.
Luxembourg have had a few players starting to pop up around the top European leagues, with their crown jewel being Leandro Barreiro, with the 23-year-old midfielder being a starter for Mainz for four seasons now, and his recent form has been great, scoring twice and assisting three times in his last eight Bundesliga appearances.
After having massive expectations for the World Cup, having one of the most talented squads, it was a disappointment for Portugal to be knocked out to Morocco in the quarter-final, and now they start a new era under recent Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez.
Portugal are massive favourites to top their qualification group, being placed as the ninth best team in the world by FIFA, and no other team in their group being placed inside the top 50 and their record against Luxembourg would suggest this would be an easy win, having won 17 of their 19 matchups, drawing once and losing once and have won their 12 meetings in the 21st century, scoring 42 goals and conceding just twice.
Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo has been the main man for Portugal for the past 15-20 years, his bench appearances at the World Cup might see a new era for Portugal with their array of young talents taking European football by storm, which might see more starts for the likes of 21-year-old Goncalo Ramos, who 19 goals for Benfica this season and Raphael Leao, who played a massive part in AC Milan’ Scudetto victory last season.
Portugal and Luxembourg have been placed together for their last two major tournament campaigns, which has majorly benefited Portugal, winning all four of their meetings, including their last matchup 5-0, which saw Portugal score three goals in the first 17 minutes and Cristiano Ronaldo bag a hat-trick which included two penalties inside the opening 15 minutes.
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