Portugal – World Cup 2014 – Group G

PORTUGAL

16-June Germany (6pm GMT Salvador)

22-June USA (8pm GMT Manaus)

26-June Ghana (5pm GMT Brasilia)

Portugal have talisman and captain Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for successfully qualifying after he scored four goals in a virtuoso display in the play-offs against Sweden. But, as Tony Ciriello explains, they are going to have their work cut out if they are to make any impression in Brazil.

Coach: Paulo Bento

A fiery and tough tackling defensive midfielder in his day, Coach Paulo Bento is better known for attrition rather than adventure. However, as a tactician he evidently values fluidity by employing a 4-3-3 system with no holding midfielders in sight. As manager of club side Sporting CP, he won six major trophies and broke a number of club records, earning him the nickname ‘Cup-Eater’. But he faces an altogether different test at the World Cup.

Why they could be dangerous

Portugal have historically always been somewhat top-heavy having produced a myriad of flamboyant, attacking talents, but few defensive stalwarts. Little has changed in 2014 as Portugal still rely predominantly on flair and creativity, the majority of which seems to come from Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal have many capable talents in the form of Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Luis Nani, but perhaps don’t quite have the X-factor of the likes of Deco, Rui Costa, Figo and Simao.

The world on his shoulders: Cristiano Ronaldo

Even the most casual of football fans know where Portugal’s hope lies – Cristiano Ronaldo. Captain, creator and goalscoring colossus, Ronaldo can torment even the most watertight defence. Having scooped the Ballon d’Or and finally got one over on Lionel Messi, he has the capability to singlehandedly propel Portugal forward into the knock-out stages. With Germany, Ghana and USA in their group, he will need to be at his brilliant best.

Did you know?

Portugal has produced some of the finest talents to grace the world stage including Eusebio, Figo, Pauleta, Paulo Futre and Rui Costa yet have only qualified for six World Cups, which included eliminations in the group stages in 1986 and 2002. They fare much better in the European Championships having reached the quarter-finals for the last six tournaments. They still, however, remain without a major trophy. They could very well fail to get past the group stage in Brazil.

Country legend: Eusebio

Eusebio has been lauded as one of the game’s best ever players and was at the centre of Portugal’s first and arguably best ever World Cup. As debutants in 1966, Eusebio’s nine goals in the competition helped see off holders Brazil and subsequently the Soviet Union in the third placed play-off. He also helped stage a record-breaking comeback from 3-0 down against North Korea to win 5-3 by netting four goals. Not since Eusebio has a player been tipped for greatness like Ronaldo.

Formation: 4-3-3

It can be expected that Portugal will line up in Bento’s customary 4-3-3 system. The midfield three of Veloso, Moutinho and Meireles will be given licence to roam and interchange positions. Such is the free-flowing nature of their system, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cristiano Ronaldo operating in a Spanish-esque false nine position. This places a lot of faith in the creativity of their midfield players and will certainly make for compelling viewing.

Portugal versus…

…Germany P9 W1 D3 L5 F10 A14

…USA P5 W2 D1 L2 F5 A5

…Ghana P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0

Stats

Population: 10.5 million

World Cup appearances: 5

Best finish: Third place, England 1966

Famous for: Facing the Netherlands in the 2006 World Cup in a bad tempered affair, which produced a record four red cards and 16 yellow cards. It was nicknamed the Battle of Nuremberg.

Top Division: Primeira League

How they got to the World Cup: Beating Sweden in a two legged play-off

FIFA World Ranking: 3

Last World Cup Appearance: South Africa 2010 – Lost 1-0 in the last 16 to eventual winners Spain

Continental Honours: None

Most Capped Player: Cristiano Ronaldo (110 caps)

Leading International Scorer: Cristiano Ronaldo (49 goals)

Nickname: A Selecaó