Portugal's Key Weapon and Achilles Heel at 2014 World Cup

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Portugal's Key Weapon and Achilles Heel at 2014 World Cup
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Portugal doesn't kick-off their World Cup campaign until five days into the competition.

That will surely suit manager Paulo Bento, as the team still has a number of players trying to overcome injury difficulties and obtain maximum fitness.

Opening-day fixtures don't come much more difficult than Germany and a positive result will set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

If Portugal looks at the bigger picture, they can arrive at the match with confidence, as they have only lost once in their last 13 matches and that was against Brazil.

As with all the nations, they have considerable strengths and weaknesses. Here we identify the main ones.

 

Key Weapon

It's not a major surprise that Cristiano Ronaldo is the team's key weapon.

The Real Madrid winger was joint top scorer across Europe this season with Uruguay's Luis Suarez and picked up the Ballon d'Or award in January.

His country of birth has naturally built their current system around the former Manchester United player.

Bento's dilemma is how much he can rely on Ronaldo after his recent fitness concerns. The wide man returned to training on Saturday, along with midfielder Raul Meireles, via The Daily Mail.

His speed with the ball is vital to Portugal in transition from defence to attack, whilst his pace without possession causes the opposition just as much anxiety.

As his nation's top goalscorer, there is plenty of pressure on Ronaldo, although he doesn't let it affect him.

"It fills me with pride, satisfaction, pleasure and honour to represent and captain the Portuguese national team but it is also a big responsibility," he told sportslobster.com.

"I hope I win a title with the national team one day."

 

Achilles' Heel

There are a number of issues that could cause Portugal problems over the coming month, but the biggest is their ability to beat the best.

According to the Coca-Cola FIFA rankings they are a very respectable fourth in the table and although there's some debate as to the legitimacy of some of the country's positions, the rest of the top five is made up of Spain, Germany, Brazil and Argentina.

Since 2006, Portugal has won only twice in their last 11 meetings with the other members of the top five, via Soccerway.

They have been defeated by France, Germany (three times), Italy, Brazil (twice), Spain (twice) and Argentina.

There were draws with Brazil, Chile and Holland in that period, whilst they did manage wins over Brazil and Spain in friendlies.

A further two victories over Holland suggest that Portugal are a bit of a bogey side for the Dutch.

The most alarming of all these results is the three defeats to Germany, which were all in tournament conditions.

Wins for the Germans in the 2006 World Cup, 2008 and 2012 European Championships give them a considerable psychological advantage heading into their meeting.

 

Overall

Portugal has one of the oldest squads in Brazil and the majority of these players were involved in those matches, via Goal.com.

They could use those experiences as extra motivation to overcome their foes, though equally they could suffer from a mental block.

Portugal will need Cristiano Ronaldo to be at his best, if they are to start beating the top international sides in the coming weeks.

A draw against Germany on Monday would be a good result, but a victory would lay down a real marker and would let the world know of their intent.

They have players that have won domestic titles, cups and experienced European glory for their clubs; it's time to transfer this know-how to the international stage.

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