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World Cup: Look Out For – Portugal
By Paul Downey.
The third team to feature in our ‘Look Out For’ series is 2006 Semi-Finalists Portugal. After a very average qualifying campaign (much like Argentina), the Portugese could be another team that could prove – it doesn’t matter how you get there, it’s what you do while you’re there.
Former Manchester United Assistant Boss Carlos Queiroz, has taken a risk in naming Real Madrid defender Pepe in the squad, despite him not playing since December due to a knee injury. There are quite a few familiar faces from 2006, with Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Deco and of course Cristiano Ronaldo included.
Much like Argentina’s hopes rest on Messi’s shoulders, so do Portugal’s with Ronaldo. He’s had a good if not spectacular first season in Madrid scoring over 20 goals, but he must know he needs to deliver on the highest pedestal for Portugal to even get out of the group.
Oh yes, I forgot to mention Portugal occupy one of the places in the famously dubbed ‘Group of Death’ including Ivory Coast and Brazil. The Brazilian are stubborn opposition with their once soft defence replaced by the stealy presence of Lucio, Juan and possibly the best goalkeeper on the planet in Julio Cesar. The Ivory Coast are an athletic, robust side with the goalscoring talents of Chelsea’s Didier Drogba to call upon (if fit). So you could really flip a coin on which of Ivory Coast and Portugal will reach the knockout stages along with Brazil.
Finishing runners-up could set up a second round meeting with Spain provided they top Group H. Alot could depend on Queiroz’ tactics and mainly, where he deploys Ronaldo, on the wing or up front?
There is alot of creativity at his disposal too with Nani coming-of-age at Manchester United last season, as well as Danny who impressed many with his display against United in the European Super Cup at the beginning of the season for Zenit St Petersburg. Deco is also back for one last hurrah, and if he is in the mood his quality cannot be questioned, even if sometimes his heart can.
With much of the same squad in place as their 2006 appearance, minus the huge void of Luis Figo, Portugal could threaten the latter stages and surprise a few people. So without a doubt it will tough for Portugal, and guaranteed not many will be tipping them but doesn’t that suddenly make them such an appealing prospect?
How do you think Portugal will get on in South Africa?