Who are Ghana really facing in Brazil 2014: Portugal edition

Portugal National Team

Portugal National Team

With the World Cup imminent, Ghanafans.com analyzes the teams Ghana faces in the group stage of the football’s biggest tournament; we take a brief look at their World Cup history, qualification and preparations for the finals, key men, strengths and weaknesses.

Portugal- Os Navegadores (The Navigators)
World Cup History: Portugal has not had quite an impressive World Cup run. They have featured in just 6 out of 20 (including Brazil 2014) World Cup tournaments. The Portuguese were not invited to the very first World Cup in 1930 which involved a final stage and no qualifying rounds. Portugal, however took part in the rest of all the World Cup qualifying matches till date, 13 of which they did not qualify (1934 to 1962, 1970 to 1982, and 1990 to 1996). In their 6 appearances,  they finished 3rd, their best performance in 1966, 4th in 2006 and reached the round of 16 in South Africa 2010. The rest of which their journeys were short-lived as they did not make it past the group stage. Portugal has however produced some of the most talented players the footballing world has ever seen- Eusébio, Luis Figo and current captain Cristiano Ronaldo are just a few names.

Brazil 2014 Qualification And Preparation: Portugal was placed in a group of 6 teams under the UEFA qualification. Their group included Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg. Unfortunately, Portugal failed to attain direct qualification for the 2014 World Cup when they failed to finish first in the group. They finished second and hence settled in for the play-offs against Sweden. In the two-legged match, A Selecção or Os Navegadores (The Navigators)of Portugal emerged as winners to qualify for the World Cup on a 4-2 aggregate. In preparation for soccer’s greatest tournament, Portugal has played three friendlies this year; thrashing Cameroon 5-1, drawing 0-0 against Greece and beating Mexico 1-0. They have one more friendly against the Republic of Ireland on June 10th before locking horns with Germany in their first World Cup match.

Strengths And Weaknesses: With players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Helder Postiga, this is a team that can exploit set pieces to the maximum. They have a ‘fighting till death’ attitude, which makes them very good coming from behind. Scoring late goals are therefore very likely from such a team. Ironically, this is a team poor in defending headers and set-pieces especially corners. Despite the presence of Ronaldo and Raul Meireles, this team cannot shoot from long ranges, forcing them to create almost all their goal scoring opportunities in the opponent’s 18-yard area. This can be very difficult when they come up against teams very good at defending in their halves.

Key Players:
Cristiano Ronaldo- Portugal
CRISTIANO RONALDO: The 29-year-old Real Madrid forward is currently enjoying the best form of his career and there is no better time to arrive at a World Cup. With 32 goals from 22 matches, Ronaldo is arguably the best and most dangerous player in front of goal. His quick feet, speed, strength and overall physique are second to none. His aerial presence and free kick abilities are one of a kind and his powerful shots can leave any net shaking at any time. However, with 2 goals in 2 World Cup appearances (2006 and 2010), the two time Ballon d’Or winner has not been able to repeat his goal scoring feat on football’s biggest stage. That will surely improve in Brazil. Ronaldo is Portugal’s all-time leading goal scorer with 49 goals and is currently facing a fitness battle ahead of the World Cup.

Ronaldo and Pepe celebrating a goal
PEPE:  The former Porto Brazilian-born player is set to make his second World Cup appearance after being called up for South Africa 2010. The Real Madrid defender has played in just two World Cup matches and might lack a little bit of experience but his strength, awareness and tackling can leave any opponent frustrated.

Portugal face Germany in their first game of the Brazil 2014 World Cup on June 16.

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