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Posted by Tom Kundert on 04/29/2010

So what chance does a small country stuck on the westernmost tip of mainland Europe have of conquering the world? Well, perhaps the biggest factor in Portugal's favour this time round is precisely the fact that nobody is giving them much of a prayer – least of all their own fans.

A stuttering qualification campaign, a series of injury setbacks, a coach with more critics than advocates and a tough draw all combine to exacerbate a national trait of the Portuguese – an innate pessimism.

Group of Death? Bring it on!
Many football pundits quickly wrote off Carlos Queiroz’s team after they were drawn against Brazil, the Ivory Coast and North Korea in Group G. The logical thinking says Brazil will win all their games and North Korea will lose all of theirs, making the runners-up spot and a place in the last 16 a straight fight between Portugal and Ivory Coast. And the most likely prize for the winners of that particular duel will be none other than many people’s favourites for the tournament – Spain.

But there is hope. Portugal tend to produce their best when they are not expected to do much.

Indeed, a decade of considerable success (qualification for six consecutive major tournaments, three semi-finals and one final) began when Portugal were drawn in a seemingly impossible group in Euro 2000, facing England, Germany and Romania. A stunning performance saw Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Nuno Gomes and company storm to three group victories and embark on a run that would only end in extra time of the semi-final against eventual champions, France.

Formidable firepower
Figo and Costa and the rest of the much-feted ‘golden generation’ are now in the past, but with Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Simão looking to provide a healthy supply line for naturalised Brazilian-born striker Liedson, Portugal’s attacking talent is undoubtedly among the very best on show in South Africa.

Less sexy, less documented but no less important is what Carlos Queiroz has achieved at the other end of the pitch. The fearsome Bruno Alves and stylish Ricardo Carvalho complement each other brilliantly at the heart of Portugal’s defence. Protected by the dominant Pepe as the holding midfielder, Portugal has assembled a rock solid backbone that played a huge part in turning around a poor start to World Cup qualifying.

Just two goals conceded in their last 10 competitive matches, and none in their last six games, are statistics that show how effective Portugal’s defensive organisation has become.

With a watertight defence, an attack that will pose problems to any opposition, Queiroz’s biggest worries – and biggest doubts – are likely to be in midfield. More on that in the next post as we attempt to second-guess the squad make-up before it is officially announced on 10 May.

Comments

Posted by Ricardo on 04/30/2010

Great blog. Look forward to reading these. Agree about Pepe. He was a monster in qualifying but will he be fit?

Posted by Darin J on 05/10/2010

Ah Yes what can i say about Portugal being drawn in a group with Brazil? Well not much actually Chritiano Ronaldo will find that Brazil's defense is not only water tight but fearless and then again with Brazil dominating possession Portugal wouldn't have the ball that much to begin with. Well look on the bright side he has both the ivory coast and North Korea to prove himself against

Posted by Victor on 05/26/2010

Portugal is a joke with that donkey coach and douchebag Ronaldo!

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About

Tom Kundert first delved into Internet journalism as Soccernet's Portugal Correspondent for the 2002 World Cup. He liked the experience so much he built a site that is today visited by over one million people a month (PortuGOAL.net). English born and bred, he has lived in Lisbon since 1994.

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