Criticised as perennial World Cup chokers and more recently, a one-man team, Portugal are out to prove their doubters wrong in this year’s World Cup. They will be heavily reliant on their super star skipper, yet boast a host of quality players in their squad that are keen to improve on the country’s best-ever third-place finish at a Mundial.
Qualification: W 8, D 3, L1. *Beat Sweden in a play-off.
Previous World Cup appearances: 5
Best World Cup finish: Third place (1966)
Current FIFA ranking: 4
Coach: Former Portuguese international Paulo Bento took over the coaching reins in 2012, after a poor start to Portugal’s EURO 2012 qualifying campaign under Carlos Quieroz. The 44-year-old safely navigated them to qualification and a semi-final berth at the tournament, where they succumbed to eventual winners Spain. Bento’s side were close to missing out on qualification for this year’s World Cup however, needing a play-off win over Sweden to secure their spot in Brazil.
Captain and Key player: 2013 Fifa Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has blown away all his opponents this year, and fans across the globe will hope his surreal performances for the Galacticos will continue at national level for Portugal.
His incredible goal tally continues to rise – Ronaldo finds the back of the net at better than a goal a game for Real Madrid and he recently scoring his 250th goal for the club since his big-money move from Manchester United five years ago.
The 29-year-old is almost untouchable on the ball, blessed with a bag of tricks and flicks that have left countless defenders for dead over the years. His pace, skill, control and dribbling ability make him lethal in any attacking position, whether he is deployed as a winger-cum-striker, a central forward, a deep-lying attacker or simply left free to do his thing.
Ronaldo is technically gifted, able to use both feet when going for goal, and he is also very good in the air. He is also arguably the world’s most deadly free-kick specialist, finding the back of the net from all angles.
The Portuguese skipper debuted for his country as an 18-year-old in 2003, and received the armband just four years later. He played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and almost single-handedly won Portugal a spot in Brazil 2014, scoring four goals in their two-legged play-off against Sweden. He is Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Key fixture: Portugal cannot ease themselves in at this year’s tournament, facing title contenders Germany in their opening fixture in Brazil.
16 June, 18:00 Germany vs Portugal
23 June, 00:00 USA vs Portugal
26 June, 18:00 Portugal vs Ghana
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