2010 FIFA World Cup: What Are Portugal's Chances of Success?

Eugene FogartyContributor IJune 6, 2010

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 8, 2010 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid won the match 5-1.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Portugal possess one of the world's most naturally talented squads, but inconsistency has plagued their progress since their run to the semi finals in 2006.
For the Selaccao das Quinas, goals have been hard to come by since losing that third place match 3-1 in Stuttgart. Liedson has become the latest naturalised Brazilian to join the Portuguese squad, but he could not fire his new country into the World Cup automatically.

Home scoreless draws with Albania and Sweden in qualifying left Carlos Queiroz's team facing the dreaded playoffs. An improving, attack minded Bosnia-Herzagovina lay in wait, and after a nervy first leg in Lisbon, Portugal closed out the contest with a 1-0 win in Bosnia.

If the Iberians are to even escape from their group in South Africa, then Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. will need to be far more prolific to get by Brazil and the Ivorians.

World Cup History

For a nation of such footballing stature, this is only Portugal's fifth World Cup appearance, the most famous of which came in 1966. In England, a Eusebio inspired team beat Brazil in the group stage bfore meeting North Korea in the quarter finals. A 3-0 deficit was turned around almost single handedly by the Benfica legend, as the Europeans went on to win 5-3 and ultimately finish third having been defeated by the eventual champions.

Schedule: Group G

Cote d'Ivoire, June 15—Port Elizabeth

Korea DPR, June 21—Cape Town

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Brazil, June 25—Durban



The draw has not been kind to all four teams involved, although the structure of the fixture list offers some solice to the Selaccao. With Brazil up last, there is the possibility that an understrength team will take the field in Durban, as Brazil may have already acquired the neccessary six points. That said, in their most recent friendly in 2009, the home side ran out 6-2 winners in Brasilia.

The Portuguese players cannot be counting on a favour from their forler colony however, as Ivory Coast pose a serious threat, with or without captain Didier Drogba. Although if they can achieve at least a draw in the game, the Ronaldo lead team will believe they have a foot in the second round.

Key Players

The star of the show is undoubtedly Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the Real Madrid superstar has not scored for his country since Euro 2008, and the coach, Queiroz, seems to be unsure of where to play the world's most expensive player. The Manchester United and Real Mardid model's would surely offer up an indicator on how to best utilize the player, but the national team just doesn't possess the attacking options that those clubs have, leading to Ronaldo being marked out of games.

With Ronaldo not firing, that task may be left up to the likes of Simao Sabrossa and Nani. The two wide men are far more mercurial than their captain but are certainly capable of the type of magic that can inspire the team.

Deco will still pull the strings in midfield. He may not be the player he was circa 2006 but in the slower environs of international football, the Brazilian born schemer still has a major role to play.
The return of Pepe from injury to the heart of the defence with Ricardo Carvalho will be imperitive to Portugal's efforts of getting through round one. His aerial prowess will also be a potent weapon at set pieces.     

One to Watch: Danny

The Zenit St. Petersburg star is the Russian league's most expansive player, but the no. 10 remains an enigma in western Europe, despite having the capabilities to control a game on his own.

Best Case Scenario
Victory over Spain in the last 16 will represent a decent World Cup, as a second consecutive semi final is surely out of reach.

Worst Case Scenario

Not only defeat to the North Koreans but failure to even finish second would be a disaster for Portugal and even more so for their coach, who will surely lose his job if that transpires.


Prediction

The opening game with Cote d'Ivoire should be the groups most significant game. The tie with Brazil is mouth watering for the neutral but the first game will be the most important. Progression to the second round should be the height of their capabilities however.