Population: 10,600,000
Area: 91,391 km²
Capital: Lisbon
Language: Portuguese

Portugal won UEFA group 3 in style seven points ahead of Slovakia.
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Mar 01 Portugal v Saudi Arabia 3-0
May 27 Portugal v Cape Verde Is. 4-1
Jun 03 Luxembourg v Portugal 0-3

Participations: (3) 1966, 1986 and 2002
Best placing: Third place 1966
Topscorer: Eusebio, 9 goals
More detailed history information

Jun 11 - POR v ANG  in Cologne
Jun 17 - POR v IRN  in Frankfurt
Jun 21 - POR v MEX  in Gelsenkirchen

- Portugal in Group D -
Jan Alsos: 2nd place
Pierre Boisrond: 1st place
Ruud Doevendans: 2nd place
Mike Gibbons: 1st place
Peter Goldstein: 2nd place
Paul Marcuccitti: 2nd place
Felipe Santos: 1st place


by Ruud Doevendans

    Portugal reached the World Cup in an impressive way. Though they surprisingly lost two points in Liechtenstein, their 7-1 trashing of Russia was a memorable result and put them in the driving seat for the rest of the qualifying campaign. In the end, no other European team scored as many goals as the Portuguese: 35. Portugal are equally strong in defence, midfield and attack. With a head coach who proved to be able to take a team all the way in a big tournament, they will not be underestimated by anyone. And they have to recitify their reputation on World Cup level. In 2002, they performed well below par by losing against the USA and South-Korea. That, most certainly, will not happen again. Their lucky draw (Iran and Angola really should be no problem for Portugal, Mexico may be but ending second would be no disaster) leaves no doubt about them advancing to the second round. From then on, the schedule could make it possible to go a lot further.

    Coach Felipe Scolari will have been disappointed by not taking this team to the European title in 2004, but the team recovered quickly and Scolari has a strong squad to choose from. In defence Ricardo Carvalho, one of Europe's best defenders though not always a regular at Chelsea (but who is?) formed a solid partnership with Jorge Andrade before the latter had to withdraw because of an injury recently. The way it looks now, Fernando Meira will back-up for the unlucky Andrade. At right back Paulo Ferreira and Miguel fight for a place, while at left back Nuno Valente may be pretty sure about his. Behind the back four Sporting Lissabon's Ricardo is a certain starter. He is more spectacular than safe though, and if this team has a weak spot it is between the posts.

    Deco and Maniche are two strong pillars in midfield. Deco hardly loses the ball, controls and can score as well. Maniche is always in motion, has a powerful shot and often shows up in the box to score, yet wins the ball a lot to set up attacks on the other side of the field. He made a dreadful mistake by going to the Russian league before showing up at Chelsea with his former coach Mourinho. He is still not back to his full potential but in regular form he is one of Europe's best midfielders. Then Portugal needs a defensive midfielder, Costinha and Petit have been two contenders for this place for a long time and it will not be different for the World Cup.

    A good defence, a very good midfield and a perfect attack? Well, that is certainly not far from the truth. Luis Figo, now the country's most capped player, found back something of his old form at last with Internazionale after being transferred from Real Madrid, where he seemed to have lost everything of his former capabilities in the end. Now a starter at Inter he might be capable of doing it one more time, and that is more than every Portuguese footballfan dreamt of after Figo's dramatic Euro 2004 tournament. He will play at the left. At outside right there is Cristiano Ronaldo, one of Europe´s brightest talents who can make every left back look a silly amateur. On the other end, there is also the danger that he overestimates himself, which is always part of his young age. But anyway, he is a very interesting player to watch. With 9 goals in 29 matches he has been a successful goalscorer for his country.

    Another man to watch out for is centre-forward Pedro Pauleta, who recently surpassed Eusebio´s total of 41 goals scored for Portugal and now is the country's top marksman. His 3 goals against Poland in the 2002 World Cup earned him the headlines but it was too little to send his team through. When it mattered most, like all of his other teammates, Pauleta couldn´t fulfil the expectations just like in 2004, when he was one of the worst players in the Euro 2004 tournament. He will be on a mission to do better this time and has a fair chance of succeeding.

    Now take a look at this. First round, finishing first or second, they will meet Argentina, Holland, Serbia & Montenegro or Ivory Coast. Never an easy match, but on a good day Portugal is capable of beating all of them. When they come through, most likely Germany, England or Sweden will be the next opponent. I think Portugal at least is stronger than Germany and Sweden, against England it will be a 50/50 decision. Then: maybe Italy, very strong and one of my big favourites, but Portugal should be able to make it as difficult as anyone for the Azzurri. Predicting is always if this and if that, but it would not surprise me if Portugal goes a very long way in the 2006 World Cup. The qualities are there, the coach is okay, the draw not bad. One consolation: they can never do as bad as four years earlier.




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