It is almost 50 years and five World Cup participations since Portugal had a player of this magnitude, the last being the late Eusebio, who almost took England to the cleaners in the 1966 World Cup, as Portugal reached the semi-finals.
This time around, the Siberian nation have rested their hopes on the mercurial strength and brutal magic of the current World Footballer of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the epitome of a footballer at the peak of his powers on the pitch. Towering headers, rocket shots, never-seen-before flicked goals, and toppling Lionel Messi as the best this year are just a few of the achievements.
Not only has he done it for Real Madrid, he has now transferred this form to the national side, and at a time it was most needed. Needing to defeat Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to ensure qualification for Brazil 2014, Cristiano Ronaldo hit all four goals of the team over two legs to lead the Latin-styled nation to its seventh appearance.
This has raised hopes of the best World Cup ever in the offing, and the fans are already targeting a Final appearance. Such is the array of stars in the team.
The aforementioned Cristiano Ronaldo is joined by the likes of Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Raul Meireles, Nani, and Bruno Alves.
Portugal coach, Paulo Bento, a Portuguese legend himself, has set up his team to become hard to beat, Passing with efficiency in the middle — led by the technically-gifted Moutinho — and launching deadly counter attacks from the wings. The subtle physicality present in midfield is reminiscent of the man who was a defensive midfielder in his heydays. He has made sure the team does not rely on the star man, moulding them in such a way that their star man can bail them out whenever the need be, as seen against Sweden.
Currently placed third in the FIFA World Rankings, Portugal had to go through the play-offs in order to advance to the world finals for the second consecutive time — a record that undermines their fourth-place finish at the 2006 finals in Germany.
However, this team has maintained a high level of performance in the Euros and would be looking to translate this performance to the World stage, with a mix of fading generation of stars and up-and-coming ones.
Portugal’s strength is in the midfield trio Coach Bento decides to field, as he looks to provide a calming influence before the thrust of counter attack from the wings- led by none other than their all-time leading scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo. Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles will be crucial figures in the centre, while Ronaldo will be looked upon to continue his fantastic year for the Portuguese team. Also, Portugal is one of the best nations in terms of winning games from losing positions, a psychological trait that would be needed to conquer the World Cup.
Apart from their star player Ronaldo, Portugal lack a target forward with journeymen Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga their recognized strikers; and this could cost the nation.
Also, their ageing backline lacks concentration on set pieces. Pepe and Alves — both over 30 years old — are towering centre backs, but they lose concentration at key moments, which could be very costly at the world stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo is used to being the focal point at club level, but the manager has tried to dispel this at national level, while the players also want to prove it. This might be the team’s undoing at Brazil, but hopefully, Ronaldo can inspire them on the pitch, while Eusobio intervenes from the heavens.