Portugal

Population: 11 Million

Area: 92,000 sq km

Capital: Lisbon

Currency: Euro

Federation: Federaçao Portuguesa de Futebol, created in 1914, affiliated to FIFA in 1923.

Registered players: 132, 734

Kit colours: All claret with green trim

Team nickname: Seleccao Das Quinas (Team Of The Five)

World Cup record: Third-place (1966), fourth-place (2006), second round (2010) first round (1986, 2002)

European Championship appearances: 6 (1984, 1992, 1996, 2004, 2008, 2012)

European Championships: Finalist (2004), semi-finals (1984, 1992, 2012), quarter-finals (1996, 2008)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Finished second in Group F with 21 points behind Russia on 22pts and ahead of Israel 14, AZerbaijan 9, Northern Ireland 7 and Luxemburg 6 with 6 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat 20 goals for and 9 against – then beat Sweden 1-0 and 3-2 (4-2) in the play-offs.

Top clubs: Porto, Benfica, Sporting Lisbon

Portugal have often done well in international tournaments but have never won one, but with Cristiano Ronaldo at his peak and a handful of very good players backing up the superstar they are credible outsiders at Brazil 2014.

Portugal will feel at home in Brazil, sharing a language and a great deal of culture with the hosts.

A lot will come down to Ronaldo’s performance and the Real Madrid striker showed his ability in the play-off with Sweden scoring four exceptional goals in the 1-0, 3-2 (4-2 on aggregate) win over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s side.

Prior to that Ronaldo had scored eight of their 20 group goals, and more worryingly, picked up five yellow cards in 10 outings.

This is the eighth consecutive qualification for an international tournament for Portugal and Paolo Bento’s charges only fell on a penalty shoot-out to Spain in the semis at Euro 2012 after a thrilling and tight encounter.

Portugal also lost to Spain (1-0) in the second round out in South Africa four years ago.

This time out the first round is no picnic for Portugal who face Germany, Ghana and the United States, all of whom made the knock out phase last time out.

Paolo Bento says his team are seeking to make the knock out phase at the very least and refuses to accept an accusation of overreliance on Ronaldo, who he describes as having a determining influence because of his tactical awareness, technical ability and physical strength.

In goal, ‘keeper Rui Patricio won rave reviews at Euro 2012 when still just 24-years-old and has maintained the standard with Sporting Portugal ever since.

Portugal may lack depth in their defensive options but they do possess Real Madrid defenders Pepe and Fabio Coentrao. Pepe is a feared and commanding central defender capable of playing on the right of defence or in midfield, while Coentrao is close to his captain and also has great tactical awareness. Giant defender Bruno Alves is no slouch either and scored four times in qualifying.

In midfield another man close to Ronaldo is the blossoming Joao Moutinho of AS Monaco, who is flanked by the dependable Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev) and the battling Raul Meireles of Fenerbahce.

In attack Valencia’s centre-forward Helder Postiga, who bagged six goals in qualifying, usually gets the nod while Manchester United’s gifted winger Nani makes up the trident with Ronaldo.

Portugal have a history of outstanding players with Eusebio and Luis Figo. While getting within touching distance, neither of these two carried Portugal to a title. Ronaldo too may fall short, but as with his illustrious predecessors, he’ll leave it all out on the pitch.

AFP

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