WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Portugal

WORLD CUP PREVIEW: Portugal

COACH – Paulo Bento
BEST SHOWING – Semi-finals 1966, 2006
QUALIFICATION – 2nd in UEFA Qualifying Group F (defeated Sweden in a play-off)
TOURNAMENT ODDS – 28/1
FIXTURES
June 16th – Germany (1700 BST, Salvador, ITV)
June 22nd – USA (2300 BST, Manaus, BBC)
June 26th – Ghana (1700 BST, Brasilia, BBC)

 

Button Germany Button Ghana Button USA

 

A below par qualifying campaign saw Portugal yet again have to win a play-off to secure their passage to Brazil. After defeating the Swedes in the battle of the stars (Ronaldo vs. Ibrahimovic) Paulo Bento’s men are looking to prove that they’re more than Cristiano Ronaldo. With the Real Madrid superstar suffering injury problems as of writing, the onus is on his supporting cast to step up to the plate.

A superstar doesn’t often drag an average side to World Cup glory. You could argue the case for Maradona in 1986 and Zidane did take France to the final in 2006 but Ronaldo needs Portugal’s other good players to rise to the occasion. Nani and Fabio Coentrao in particular have suffered below average seasons.

Portugal’s first eleven are pretty strong and can give most sides a run for their money. But a lack of depth, and if Ronaldo isn’t firing, a lack of goals can prove their undoing.

Rui Patricio or Eduardo will don the goalkeeping gloves and he’ll be protected by Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe and Coentrao.

Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho can hold the fort in the centre of midfield with Raul Meireles being another option. Nani and Varela can play on the wings with Cristiano Ronaldo in a free role behind Hugo Almeida.

Portugal’s Plan A is a fairly obvious one – hit teams on the counter and use their wingers to drag defenders out of position to enable Ronaldo to wreak havoc. Moutinho’s a classy midfield lynchpin and Pepe leads a fairly solid defensive unit.

 

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ONE TO WATCH

07 WORLD CUP MOUTINHOMoutinho played for two of Portugal’s top domestic sides, Sporting Clube de Portugal and FC Porto, before joining Colombian James Rodriguez in a mega money move to AS Monaco last summer.

Moutinho is a central midfielder who can adopt both a defensive or attacking role but for his nation he’ll lie a bit deeper and look to pick apart sides with his passing.

Moutinho is also a dab hand at set pieces but with Ronaldo in the side we probably won’t see this side of his game. He can pick a defence apart with his passing and will contribute defensively as well. Moutinho isn’t the star of the side but his contribution could be crucial in Brazil.


HERE COMES D-JUDGE
D-Judge

Portugal come into this tournament as a side that are expected to go into the knockout stages but I don’t see it as a given. A lack of a top striker and depth outside the first eleven means a lot of pressure falls on Cristiano Ronaldo to produce the goods. He can do that but if he gets crocked or has an off day Portugal don’t have a lot else.

That said, Portugal will be tough to beat. They have a solid defence, they work hard for each other and each one will give their all for the cause.

In a tough group I could argue the case for Portugal being vulnerable to a surprise early exit. We know how good Germany are plus Ghana and the USA are weaker sides but no mugs. Portugal will know from 2002 to write off weaker sides at their peril.

I do think Portugal will advance but Cristiano Ronaldo will need to be in stratospheric form to carry them any further than the last 16.

 

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VERDICT

They’ll advance but I’m not 100% certain in saying that. Any further than the last 16 will surprise me.

world cup Brasil emblem 01

Dan-iche (D-Good)
Owls Alive
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