The European champions started off their Confederations Cup campaign with a 2-2 draw against Mexico. . .

Portugal started their Confederations Cup campaign amidst much fanfare. With Germany virtually fielding their U-21 side, Portugal are expected to lead the European statement at the curtain-raiser to the 2018 World Cup. Sadly, too many things probably muddled Cristiano Ronaldo’s mind and he cut a sorry figure at the top of the pitch for the Selecao.

Solemnly and slowly, the focus shifted from the No. 9 in Red to the rest of the team, which looked poor in terms of incisiveness and breaking the Mexican defense. 34,372 people in the stadium will certainly be worried about one obvious on the pitch: the lack of positive intent in the attacking third in the absence of Ronaldo.

Teammates who ply their trade for clubs like FC Barcelona and Besiktas still look to pass the ball to him to create and to even shoot, as if he’s some other-worldly demi-god sent to bail them out of crisis situations. On days like these when he isn’t as effective as he usually is, the team is bound to struggle. Fernando Santos and his men, must move off from Cristiano Ronaldo and ideate themselves with players like William Carvalho, Andre Gomes and Andre Silva, easily the national flag-bearers following the superstar.

The team won the European Championship last summer after losing their talisman just 25 minutes into the game. While this cannot be certified with one example, Portugal have always looked a side capable of playing more expansive and well-knit football in the absence of their captain. Even if Ronaldo’s powers are not waning anytime soon, the Selecao must look beyond him, as the fit-as-a-fiddle former Manchester United winger needs to pass the baton on after the World Cup of 2018.

Match Highlights Confederation Cup 2017: Portugal 2-2 Mexico 

The team has used Ricardo Quaresma well, and Santos must look to use him centrally. There has been a resurgence of sorts for the 33-year old playmaker. The former Inter and Barcelona winger has looked a potent threat on the pitch and has played his heart out. Given his impact-substitute role, youngsters like Andre Silva are thriving and the time of Ronaldo taking the role is closing in as well.

The Selecao are bursting with abundant talent. But, sometimes one gets the feeling that they are playing within themselves, almost in a robotic kind of way. Santos must break the shackles and let his players express themselves. While the team must play for themselves and not for their captain.

With the Russians gaining a headstart, the sloppy individual mistakes that led to points dropped against Mexico could prove costly as far as qualification from the group is concerned. Moreover, this tournamennt is a chance for Portugal to substantiate their triumph at Euro 2016 and also to stake claim as one of the contenders for next year’s extravaganza. However, if they fail to get their act right soon, it could become just another missed opportunity on the global stage.