Portugal's recent form doesn't suggest they are the no. 3 team in the world. They have depended largely on Ronaldo to provide the inspiration in every game. Having had a shock 0-0 result against 117th ranked Cape Verde Islands in a friendly a week ago, there has been an increase in the number of doubters about Portugal's credentials of winning the World Cup this year. But Portugal will certainly hope for the best when they start their World Cup campaign against Ivory Coast on June 15.
LAST WORLD CUP JOURNEY
Portugal had a relatively easier group last time around with Mexico, Angola and Iran in their group. Portugal coasted through to the knockout stages with wins in all their three matches.
In the knockout 1st round match, they faced a tough opposition in Netherlands. They managed to win that tie 1-0 courtesy a 23rd minute Maniche goal. The match was a live wire with tackles flying everywhere. Boulahrouz tackled Cristiano Ronaldo which apparently injured Ronaldo forcing his substitution at half-time. Cristiano left the field in tears. In the 78th mnute, Deco was sent off after collecting his 2nd yellow card. Netherlands were also down to 10 men when Van Bronckhorst was sent off for a foul in injury time. Next, Portugal faced England in which Deco and Costinha were unavailable due to suspension. This match is infamously remembered for the sending off of Wayne Rooney in extra time, allegedly triggered by his then United team-mate, Ronaldo. The match ended 0-0 after extra time. Portugal went through by winning 3-1 on penalties and they would now appear in their 1st ever WC Semi-Final after 40 years. There, they met a strong team in France where they faced a hostile crowd of English and French fans, accusing Ronaldo of unsporting behaviour. France won the match 1-0 with a Zidane goal and ended Portugal's dream of appearing in a World Cup Final. In the other semi-final, Germany lost to Italy resulting in a 3rd place playoff between Portugal and Germany. The first half, both the teams played cautiously. But the Germans managed to bang in 3 goals in 20 mins of the 2nd half. Portugal got a consolation goal through Nuno Gomes in the 88th minute and the match ended 3-1 in favour of Germany resulting in Portugal finishing 4th in the 2006 World Cup.
After having left the Manchester United no. 2 job for Portugal's no.1 job, Carlos Queiroz has certainly struggled to make his mark as a top coach. He has often been termed as 'lucky' by the Portugal fans. He will certainly be looking forward to impress the Portugal fans and the world alike at the World Cup.
Beto, Daniel Fernandes, Eduardo
Fabio Coentrao, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Bruno Alves, Rolando, Ricardo Costa, Duda, Pepe, Miguel
Tiago, Deco, Raul Meireles, Ruben Amorim (in place of injured Nani), Miguel Veloso, Pedro Mendes
Simao Sabrosa, Hugo Almeida, Liedson, Cristiano Ronaldo, Danny
Solid in defence, exceptional in midfield and with plenty of options in attack, Portugal are not short of highly-rated players. Technique, speed, alertness, the Portuguese have access to individual strengths on a world class level. In Ronaldo, they have one of the best players in the world. During qualification, their defensive skills allowed for a series of four games in which not a single goal was conceded and which made World Cup participation a reality for the Portuguese.
Consistency is certainly the main weakness for Portugal. Ronaldo hasn't scored for Portugal since EURO 2008. Queiroz's uncertainty as to where to play Ronaldo, as a striker or as an attacking winger, is surely affecting the flow in Ronaldo's game. With Nani's absence, their wing-play will be affected.
MEN TO WATCH
The Portugal captain and arguably, the best player in the world, is definitely the key man for Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo has the potential to change any match at any given point of time and will have to be at his best if Portugal are to have any hopes of lifting the World Cup. Having scored 26 goals for Real Madrid this season, Portugal are sure to rely heavily on their captain to provide inspiration.
The Zenit St. Petersburg star is the Russian league's most expensive player, but the no. 10 remains an enigma in western Europe, despite having the capabilities to control a game on his own.
Portugal have been very inconsistent in terms of their results in the recent past having required to play a playoff to qualify for the World Cup which clearly doesn't make worthy of their 3rd rank in the world. With Nani now out of the World Cup and having Brazil in their group certainly doesn't make things easier for them, but the uncertainty of Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba's presence in the initial stages of the tournament means that Ivory Coast will be a far lesser threat to the other teams. Portugal should qualify to the knockout stages.