- Cedric Soares has established himself as Portugal's right-back
- Scored his first goal for national team against Mexico
- *"I have to complete my mission which is to defend well" *
*By Marco Monteiro with Portugal
Since replacing then-favoured Vieirinha in Portugal’s crucial Round of 16 match against Croatia at EURO 2016, Cedric Soares has firmly established himself in the right-back position, has helped his nation win its first ever major international football trophy, and just a few days ago, scored his first ever goal for the senior national team. He achieved all of this in just 20 international appearances. FIFA.com spoke to the Southampton right-back ahead of tomorrow’s big match against hosts Russia.
“Very happy for my first goal,” said Cedric, yet another product of Sporting’s youth system that has slipped into the Seleção and cemented its influence. “But I would have been much happier if my goal had won us the match and the three points.”
Cedric’s goal in the 86th minute looked set to secure the European champions a dream start to the tournament, but it was to be another defender that would claim the spotlight. Hector Moreno’s injury-time header sent Mexican fans into fits of celebration as *El Tri *salvaged what could prove to be a critical point in Group A.
"I think Mexico controlled the match more with much more possession, but we were more dangerous, we had more chances, we just failed a little in the finishing. But still, I think it was a positive performance from us ahead of facing Russia."
When asked if we would see more goals from Portuguese defenders in this tournament, Cedric couldn’t contain his grin. "I hope so, let’s see... but everything else aside, I have to complete my mission which is to defend well, then I can join the attack to add some individual quality.”
That individual quality is not limited to the right flank. On the defensive left, equally-diminutive Raphael Guerreiro is also eager and able to transition into sudden aggressive attacks. In fact, Portugal’s match against Russia could very well see goals coming from both flanks where Cedric and Guerreiro are prone to using their speed and technical ability to switch into sudden and furious flights up the pitch.
While some attackers would assume, wrongly, that the small stature of Portugal’s wing-backs would open them up to being outmuscled, Cedric and Guerreiro have proved that they can stand up to giants, having honed their defence in two of the most physical imposing leagues in the world. Cedric in England with Southampton - where in the first of two seasons with the Saints he helped them to record their highest-ever Premier League finish - and Guerreiro in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. The attacking defensive pair are helped by the large and imposing physicality of Pepe, at times Bruno Alves, and Cedric’s former team-mate Jose Fonte.
While everyone looks for goals from the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani, it's getting easier to imagine the likes of No5 and No21 finding their names on the scoresheet.