Jun 5, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Getting to know… Portugal: In the year their nation lost its legend, Portugal turns to its present superstar to try and replicate Eusebio’s success at the 1966 World Cup. That year, Portugal finished third in the tournament behind Eusebio’s tournament-high nine goals. Since then, Portugal endured a 32-year period with just one qualification before being shocked by the United States (amongst other teams) in 2002′s group stage. A fourth-place finish in 2006 was met by a Round of 16 loss in 2010 heading into this tournament.
Record in qualifying: Suffice it to say they almost blew it. Portugal went 6W-3D-1L in UEFA’s Group F, finishing second to Russia and putting Ronaldo and company into a playoff against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden. Portugal drew Israel and Northern Ireland at home, and a win in either of those games jumps them over Russia for automatic qualification.
What group are they in? Group G with Ghana, Germany and the United States
Game schedule: Group G
16 June, 13:00, Salvador – Germany vs. Portugal
22 June, 19:00, Manaus – United States vs. Portugal
26 June, 13:00, Brasilia – Portugal vs. Ghana
Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Well, duh. Ronaldo scored all four of Portugal’s goals in their qualification playoff against Sweden (Ibrahimovic scored both of Sweden’s markers). If he’s not the best player in the tournament, he’s 1b or 1c at worst. He’s magic on the ball and the key to any hopes for the Portuguese faithful.
Manager: Paulo Bento
At just 44, Bento may have come close to missing the World Cup, but he also led Portugal to the semifinals of Euro 2012. He’s a smart boss who led Sporting CP to wins in 61% of his games in charge before leaving for the national team. Does he have the player ammo to emerge from Group G?
The Fenerbahce star, 31, is the same fiery former Chelsea and Liverpool guy you recall from his Premier League days and can keep opposing stars in check. He also carries the ability to draw and earn cards, so he’ll be absolutely necessary to Portugal’s chances to emerge from Group G.
Prediction: Ronaldo will find a way to take his shirt off in the highest profile of ways. In fact, if he was bleedy profusely from his knee, I bet he’d rip off his shirt and flex while tying the tourniquet. As far as Group G, the Portuguese should find their way into the next round, second to Germany. It’s not that the United States nor Ghana have little chance of stopping Ronaldo, but watching what he did against Sweden shows that a determined C-Ron is remarkably difficult to stop.
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