Last time we saw Portugal at international level, they were bowing out of Euro 2020 at the last-16 stage after an arm-wrestle with a well-matched Belgium.

One of the favourites for the tournament, their early exit was regarded as a disappointment given the talent at their disposal.

So Stephen Kenny's Ireland can expect a backlash of sorts on Wednesday when the Boys In Green visit the Algarve for the first of a triple-header of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with home games against Azerbaijan and Serbia in Dublin later that week.

Ireland may be expecting to try and hold off a Portuguese side gearing up to make up for a disappointing summer but will it be much evolved from the side that missed out on the latter stages of Euro 2020?

Tom Kundert, the long-time Lisbon-based editor of Portugoal.net and author of numerous books on the country's football fortunes, joined RTÉ Sport to offer an insight into a side still under the management of the conservative stylings of Euro 2016 winner Fernando Santos.

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"Portugal are in a little bit of a state of flux. It's not their best moment in the last five years or so," Kundert explains.

"People are very disappointed with their performance at the Euros because Portugal have had so much success recently and I think everyone here in Portugal thought that this squad was a lot stronger than the squad that actually won the European Championship in 2016."

However, the Euro 2020 disappointment has not led to any change in regards to Santos' position with the head coach contracted up to 31 July 2024 due to the on-field credit he had in the bank, albeit with growing grumblings about his style from some quarters.

"I'd say that credit is starting to run a little bit dry because Portugal just don't seem to be able to get this fantastic generation of players who were shining at the best clubs in the world really into a cohesive unit," says Kundert.

"But it was quite unlikely that (Santos) would be sacked. I think Portugal would have had to have an absolute disaster (at Euro 2020).

"But there are no doubts about it. The calls for him to be replaced are getting louder and louder. People are just not so enamoured with him as they were because basically he is a very conservative coach and we saw that throughout his club career."

Kundert adds that along with Santos' most recent comments, Ireland cannot expect much deviation from the functional Portuguese game-plan spearheaded by the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo who has just re-joined Manchester United.

The forward was joint-top scorer at Euro 2020 and shows little sign of decline, yet there is somewhat of a Catch-22 as Portugal often look more fluid without the 36-year-old marksman who will be aiming to break the all-time international goalscoring record against Ireland.

It's a really interesting question, Ronaldo. I think seeing these next few years, it's going to be very interesting to see how he is managed by Portugal

The 4-1 UEFA Nations League win over Croatia last September was a case in point as Ronaldo missed out with a minor injury and the Selecao played with more verve and movement.

"It is a question being asked in Portugal," replies Kundert in regards to the debate over Ronaldo's status within the team.

"You point to the Croatia game and there was also a phase just after the 2018 World Cup when he actually sat out for about six months of matches at the beginning of the first Nations League tournament and again Portugal seemed to play a lot more fluidly and cohesively in that time.

"But that said, he's the greatest Portuguese football player of all time, he was top scorer at the Euros and top scorer in Italy last season, so you can't really say he's finished can you?

"It's a really interesting question, Ronaldo. I think seeing these next few years, it's going to be very interesting to see how he is managed by Portugal and how he himself manages because I think to be perfectly honest, to a large extent he calls the shots and you can say he has earned the right to do that.

"But you've got these two situations where Portugal tend to play a bit more fluidly without him and also Portugal have got such an abundance of talent, it's not as if they're taking him out of the team and not putting in a top class player in his place."

But Kundert has zero doubt that Ronaldo will start against Ireland if fit and beyond for the remainder of the qualification phase and should Portugal get to Qatar.

As for the Portuguese view on the current Irish team, Kundert says Santos has not been taking Kenny's side lightly and that the Portugal boss has pointed to an encouraging performance in the 3-2 defeat against Serbia (Portugal drew in Belgrade) as a warning shot to his own side if they do not play to their best.

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