Why Man United star Diogo Dalot is yet to play for Portugal at World Cup as calls grow for his debut.

December 1, 2022

Diogo Dalot did not make his Portugal debut until their third group game at Euro 2020 and his World Cup debut could come in their final group game against South Korea..

The best right-back in the Premier League this season played in all three of England’s group games at the World Cup yet the other standout right-back remains an onlooker in Qatar.

Diogo Dalot was unused in both of Portugal’s wins against Ghana and Uruguay while his three fellow full-backs – Joao Cancelo, Raphael Guerreiro and Nuno Mendes – all started.

Cancelo has lined up twice at right-back and on the left Mendes replaced Guerreiro for the defeat of Uruguay. A tearful Mendes was forced off injured in the 42nd minute.

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Guerreiro, an ever-present in Portugal’s surprising European Championship triumph in 2016, replaced Mendes but Dalot is likely to make his World Cup debut against South Korea on Friday. Portugal have already qualified for the knockout stage as one of three teams to have won their first two games.

In A Bola, eight Portuguese coaches named Dalot in their preferred XI for the Korea match while other Portuguese media personalities have pressed the case for coach Fernando Santos to accommodate Dalot and Cancelo.

Portugal are blessed with two versatile full-backs in the Manchester-based duo. Dalot turned heads as a teenager in England by helping Porto keep a clean sheet against Liverpool at Anfield from left-back and Cancelo has allayed City’s concerns about the absence of a specialist in the role.

Guerreiro and Mendes are premier left-backs, starters for Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, Champions League clubs preparing for tantalising ties in February. Both are left-footed, so Santos is bound to gravitate towards a more balanced pair of full-backs.

Dalot and Cancelo are still operating in the more intense and taxing league and the former has enjoyed a breakthrough year at United, starting all but one of their 21 games. Dalot only missed the 2-1 win at Fulham through suspension.

Cancelo, a playmaker of a full-back, has amassed two goals and four assists but is prone to defensive lapses and was culpable for Andre Ayew’s equaliser in a frantic second-half against Ghana.

This calendar year, Dalot has been the more prominent attacker for Portugal from right-back, scoring twice against Czech Republic and providing an assist in the friendly thrashing of Nigeria.

According to InStat data, in his three appearances for Portugal in 2022 Dalot has averaged 0.67 shots on target per game, 0.67 key passes and 2.7 successful dribbles, as well as a passing accuracy of 88%.

Dalot could be a late bloomer in his second tournament. He was an 11th-hour call-up for a Covid-stricken Cancelo in the Euros last year and emerged for his senior debut in the third group game with France before a creditable starting role in the knockout defeat to Belgium.

Portugal are not assured of topping Group H and Korea have to win to have any chance of extending their stay in Doha. Dalot has already outplayed Son Heung-min in United’s most complete performance this season against Tottenham and a commanding display would be a compelling case for him to start against the Group G runners-up, likely to be Switzerland or Serbia