As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. With 8 days to the big kick-off, it is the turn of Portugal.

Portugal come into this World Cup tournament as the European champions and yet, the expectations don't suggest that they will be in contention for World Cup honours.

The traditional soccer superpowers such as Brazil, Germany and France are all considered to be the main contenders this summer.

The biggest change to that victorious Portugal squad from two years ago is the absence of Renato Sanches, who failed to even make the preliminary 35-player squad for the trip to Russia.

Sanches was a star performer for Portugal at the Euros, producing an impressive run of displays which yielded the then 18-year-old a £35m transfer to Bayern Munich.

His career trajectory seemed to be heading for an upward curve, but after showing such promise and potential, Sanchez's form plunged in the interim. He 25 appearances for Bayern before he was released on loan to Swansea last year.

His struggle to get regular game time continued at the Welsh side and was compounded by persistent injuries.

He also went viral last year when footage emerged of him passing the ball straight out of play and into the advertising boards. Apparently, he was confused by the colours which resembled the Swansea kit.

He's now back with the German club, but there's no space for him on the Portugal panel, along with former Man United player Nani who has also been omitted. 

Naturally, Cristiano Ronaldo remains to be their most valuable asset despite ongoing suspicions that he might be approaching his peak in form as he heads for his 34th birthday next February.

But he's showing no signs of decline, and was instrumental in Real Madrid's journey to a third successive Champions League title last month, following victory over Liverpool in the final.

Ronaldo after Madrid won the Champions League.

Portugal will be reliant on him during this tournament and perhaps it's no coincidence that their only defeat of the qualification campaign took place while he was injured, losing out to Switzerland.

He lasted just 24 minutes in the final of the Euros when he was struck down by injury as moths swarmed around his tear filled face.

Crucially for Portugal, it bodes well for them that they still managed to win that tie in his absence, and they will take reassurance from that experience should they lose him during the World Cup.

Beyond Ronaldo, Portugal also have a dependable midfielder in Man City's Bernardo Silva, who made 35 Premier League appearances this season on the way to his side becoming champions.

Fernando Santos' side booked their ticket to Russia after topping their qualification group, scoring 32 goals and winning nine times throughout the campaign.

Portugal are well positioned to get to the knock-out stages of the World Cup as they prepare to enter Group B along with Spain, Morocco and Iran.

Assuming that the results follow as expected, Portugal and Spain should get out of that group and face into the round of 16 stage against opposition from Group A - Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Uruguay. 

Portugal would be expected to compete against all of those countries, meaning that we could see them get as far as the quarter-finals this summer.

They open their campaign against Spain on 15 June.

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais), Beto (Goztepe SK), Rui Patricio (Sporting CP)

Defenders: Antunes (Getafe), Bruno Alves (Rangers), Cedric (Southampton), Joao Cancelo (Internazionale), Jose Fonte (Dalian Aerbin), Luis Neto (Fenerbahce), Mario Rui (Napoli), Nelson Semedo (Barcelona), Pepe (Besiktas), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo (Porto), Rolando (Marseille), Ruben Dias (Benfica)

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Leicester City), Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP), Joao Mario (West Ham United), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), Rony Lopes (Monaco), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Sergio Oliveira (Porto), William (Sporting CP)

Forwards: Andre Silva (AC Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gelson Martins (Sporting CP), Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Nani (Lazio), Paulinho (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.