At the 2006 World Cup, Portugal captured fourth place, losing to Germany in the semi-finals. Selecção das Quinas is back and determined to improve on that performance.
Team: Selecção das Quinas
Colors: Red and green
Portugal has the world’s best individual talent, but over the past few years, Selecção das Quinas (“Team of the Five Shields”) has been out-played, out-scored and simply out-worked. They pose the question: can athletes who are superstars on their club teams play well together as a national unit? Consistency has been a problem.
Another issue: Portugal’s game plan is focused around one man, Cristiano Ronaldo. When things are not working out for Ronaldo, the other 10 players on the pitch have to pick up the slack.
On the plus side: at the top of their game, Selecção das Quinas can beat anyone. The team’s speed and ball movement are straight up sick. They run circles around defenders and score from set pieces when they want to. If they were in any other group, they’d use a game to tune up and still advance to the knockout round. As part of the “Group of Death,” they’ll have to bring their A game if they want to survive.
Key Players: Ricardo Carvalho, Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal’s success will rely on every player on the pitch, but the one who must maintain top form at all times is Carvalho, whose role is to control the defensive front and shut down the all-star strikers from Brazil and Côte d’Ivoire.
Deco, Portugal’s playmaker at midfield, shows few signs of aging. Standing 5’8” on a good day, Deco is an elusive, speedy midfielder with lighting-quick reflexes and a mysterious ability to set up attacks.
The team, its fans and the entire country of Portugal will be praying that Ronaldo will be back to his ’08 FIFA World Player of the Year form, so he can again wreak havoc on opponents from virtually any spot on the pitch. Set pieces, headers, strikes from 30-yards out—it doesn’t matter, Ronaldo will find the back of the net.
Key Matchup: Portugal vs. Brazil
I have already picked Portugal to lose a close game against Côte d’Ivoire, but this is the game Selecção das Quinas will turn it around. They match up well against the Brazilian side, and Ronaldo is one player who can make a difference. He’ll bring his country back into the hunt for second place in the group. The game will have more flair and finesse than any first round matchup.
In the world’s most-watched football showcase, Ronaldo will break out of his funk and erupt. His club form will come to life on the international stage, and he’ll lead Selecção das Quinas to a W against Brazil and into the knockout round.
Related link: World Cup 2010 Countdown