Portugal - World Cup 2014 Team Profile
Tom Kundert reports
Tom Kundert is the editor of the Portugal football website portugoal.net
Road to Brazil
After a highly successful Euro 2012, where Portugal only fell to a narrow penalty shoot-out defeat in the semi-finals against eventual winners Spain, Paulo Bento's team were expected make it through a straight-forward looking World Cup qualification group F easily.
It didn't turn out that way. As usual, Portugal gave their fans plenty of anxious moments, with qualification for an 8th successive major tournament hanging in the balance at times. A defeat against Russia and disappointing draws at home to Northern Ireland and twice against Israel forced the side into a play-off for the 3rd qualification campaign running.
Portugal have shown nerves of steel on these occasions, and against Sweden it was no different, winning home and away for a 4-2 aggregate victory, with captain Cristiano Ronaldo putting on a master class in Stockholm by hitting a memorable hat-trick.
Portugal Kit 1
Portugal Kit 2
Portugal v Germany 16 June; Salvador
Portugal v USA 22 June; Manaus
Portugal v Ghana 26 June; Brasilia
It's a tough job predicting what sort of shape Portugal are in right now, such are the multitude of imponderables surrounding their participation at the Brazil World Cup.
- The side were distinctly unimpressive in the qualification phase - but struggling to get to tournaments has not stopped them performing heroically once there.
- An alarming number of squad members (Éder, Vieirinha, Nani, Postiga, Almeida, Rafa) have missed months of their respective seasons with serious injury - but could that actually be an advantage instead of coming into the tournament with 50 games in their legs?
- Captain Ronaldo himself appears to be struggling for fitness - but the world's best player is known for his incredible physique that affords him remarkable powers of recovery.
- Opening opponents Germany are 2nd in the FIFA rankings, and the other group opponents Ghana and USA were the most impressive qualifiers from their geographical zones - but Portugal themselves are ranked 3rd by FIFA.
An objective assessment of the make-up of the squad would lead most pundits to surmise that this particular set of players is not as strong as recent Portugal teams, with the one notable exception. However, coach Paulo Bento has done a terrific job at extracting the very best out of every squad member, and building an extremely cohesive unit. João Moutinho, Fábio Coentrão and Nani for instance, have all struggled for large sections of the season, yet when they pulled on a Portugal shirt they performed to their usual high standards.
Portugal have made a habit of punching well above their weight in the last decade and a half. Four semi-finals and one final European Championships and World Cups in that time span is an impressive record for a country of just ten million inhabitants.And with the team likely to receive vocal backing in a country with such strong historical, linguistic and cultural ties, don't be surprised to see Portugal outperform some of the traditional powerhouses once again.
Key player: Cristiano Ronaldo
At the very peak of his powers, Cristiano Ronaldo is carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders. He has thrived since Paulo Bento, his former team-mate at Lisbon giants Sporting, was made head coach of the national team, scoring 24 goals in 32 matches (compared to 3 in 18 under previous coach Carlos Queiroz). Already considered by many as the greatest Portuguese player of all time, should Ronaldo carry his phenomenal Real Madrid form into this World Cup, who's to say he can't "do a Maradona".
One to watch: William Carvalho
William Carvalho exploded onto the scene in spectacular fashion this season, turning in endless man-of-match performances for Sporting to get most people's vote as the Most Valuable Player in Portugal in 2013/14. His immense strength at the base of the midfield is a Godsend for Portugal, a side traditionally laden with skilful players of flawless technique but who at times can be "bullied" off the ball by physically stronger adversaries.
Coach: Paulo Bento
Stubborn and set in his ways say some, a man of strong and unwavering convictions say others. As is the norm for a national team coach, Paulo Bento is often targeted for stinging criticism, but he can point to his results in his defence. Well liked by the players, Bento has moulded an excellent spirit of camaraderie in the camp which was evident at Euro 2012 when every player contributed to a memorable campaign.
Not exactly an innovator, we can expect Bento to roll out his tried and trusted 4-3-3 formation in Brazil, with an alternative system only brought into play if extreme circumstances dictate.
1986, 2002 First Round; 2010 Second Round; 2006 Fourth Place; 1966 Third Place.
2014 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: André Almeida (Benfica), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valencia), Neto (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia)
Midfielders: João Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (D. Kiev), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Rúben Amorim (Benfica), William Carvalho (Sporting)
Strikers: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Éder (Braga), Hélder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Rafa (Braga), Varela (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)