Team Profile: Portugal
The Portuguese national side are late bloomers in a European sense, having only really come to prominence in the mid 1980s.
Colours: Red shirts with horizontal green stripe, white shorts and green socks.
Nickname: Seleccao das Quinas (Team of the five shields)
Previous World Cup appearances: (4) 1966, 1986, 2002, 2006
Best World Cup performance: 3rd place, 1966
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Most capped player: Luis Figo 127
Top scorer: Pauleta 47
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 3
The Portuguese national side are late bloomers in a European sense, having only really come to prominence in the mid 1980s. That is, of course, if one discounts their only appearance in the World Cup prior to 1986.
It would be a mistake to do so. In 1966, the Portugal side finished a brilliant third at the World Cup in England, featuring a Benfica quartet of Jose Torres, Antonio Simoes, Jose Augusto, and of course a certain Eusebio.
But then came the lean years, the qualification in 1986, while welcome, bringing only a first round exit. Not until the 1990s did Portugal pick up again.
Here the Seleccao das Quinas began to find legendary players again: Luis Figo, Fernando Couto, Rui Costa, Vitor Baia and much more all began to creep onto the scene, turning Portugal into genuine continental contenders. Euro 96 and 2000 saw a quarter and semi final respectively, and then came the 2002 World Cup.
A return to major tournament play on the global stage again resulted in a First Round exit, though, and then the heartache of losing at home in the Euro 2004 final followed. But fourth place in the 2006 World Cup, and a last eight at Euro 2008, sees Portuguese hearts gain hope again for 2010.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Portugal`s recent highs, through, threatened to become lows when it came to qualification for 2010. Recently-installed coach Carloz Queiroz failed to find consistency for his first several games in charge, with just six points taken from their first possible fifteen. However, then followed an excellent run of unbeaten matches and impressive victories that culminated in a second-place finish behind Denmark. Bosnia-Herzegovina, impressive in their own campaign, was then brushed aside in a playoff, sending Portugal to South Africa.
Portugal are solid at the back. In Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho their central defence is impressive, and Real Madrid`s Pepe is deployed just ahead of them in a defensive midfield role, one at which he excels. The full-backs are fine, too, not least Jose Bosingwa. Then there are the undoubted wing talents of Simao and a certain Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal`s failings in the striking department need hardly be pointed out. Liedson will almost surely start alone up front, and while he`s a dominant presence and a tireless worker, his accuracy in front of goal seems to desert him at international level. It`s up to the midfield to chip in through the likes of Nani, Simao, and of course Cristiano Ronaldo.
Carlos Queiroz is in his second stint as Portugal coach, having endured an ill-fated spell in charge of the country in the early 1990s. From there he became well-travelled, leading a host of foreign clubs and countries, including South Africa, before pitching up at Manchester United as a coach, and later assistant to Alex Ferguson. He thought his ship had come in when he was hired by Real Madrid in 2003; this arrangement lasted less than a year, so it was back to Old Trafford until Portugal sought him out anew in 2008.
Queiroz is a fiery character who believes both in discipline and in speaking one`s mind. He plays a typically Portuguese style of football comprising a tough centre and dynamic play on the flanks.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid, Spain): The man who needs no introduction to any football fan, FIFA must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Portugal qualified, as Ronaldo brings not only undoubted talent and a knack for goals coring beyond anyone else in football, but also worldwide media acclaim, being the world`s most expensive player.
Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea, England): The centre-back quietly gets on with his job at Chelsea, without fanfare or ceremony, and he`s all the more vital for it. In a team with stars, Carvalho provides the steel, and his services will surely be required as Portugal weather any set-piece storms.
Raul Meireles (Porto, Portugal): One of a few home-based players in the squad, Meireles is a midfielder only recently given a chance by Portugal, having made his national team debut in 2006. Since then his versatility and character have made him a core member of Queiroz`s squad, and since he scored the final goal in the play-off against Bosnia, it`s likely that he`ll remain a key influence.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
The 1966 World Cup saw Portugal beat the famous Magyars of Hungary 3-1 in their first ever major tournament fixture, before going on to do what was once though impossible by eliminating Brazil. Then followed a miraculous 5-3 win over North Korea in a game that saw the Asian side 3-0 up after just twenty-five minutes. Eventual winners England knocked them out in the semi-final, but not before Eusebio could add his ninth goal of the tournament and thus finish as top scorer. Portugal has never forgotten the Mozambique-born striker, who remains a by-word for perfection.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Eusebio, Cristiano Ronaldo, and seemingly endless supply of great players for richer European clubs. Oh, and off the pitch? A vast array of architecture ranging from the Manueline Gothic style through to Romantic and up to modernism. Bacalhau, salt cod, is a traditional favourite, but the francesinha - a bizarre toasted sandwich with a tomato-beer sauce, melted cheese, and fries - is perhaps a more modern symbol of the country.
Most likely to: Toast successes with an icy cold glass of Sagres beer, and unite as a nation to cheer on the Seleccao - before waiting until elimination to get back to arguing about the merits of the `big three` teams in the country - Sporting, Benfica, and Porto - and their respective intrigues.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
There is sufficient talent in this Portuguese squad to reach the quarter-finals, providing that all departments operate as they should. In light of the semi-final appearance in 2006, that may be a modest ambition, but the tough road travelled in qualification is perhaps a reminder that this is a team in flux.