Fake Eric Cantona

How far will Portugal go in World Cup 2014

Created on Mar. 27, 2014 10:15 AM EST

In 2010, the world witnessed an Iberian battle between Spain and Portugal. Portugal, then managed by Queiroz, fielded what appeared to be a 9-0-1 formation, with Ronaldo as a lone striker. And while this bus parking strategy could have helped a team like Chelsea take the Champions League in 2012, it did not work out so well for Portugal in stopping Spain from their quest to the take the World Cup that year. 

Queiroz long gone, replaced by Paolo Bento, will offer a different display of football; an actual display of football. Less cautious, one would hope. At the same time, consider that Portugal was given trouble by Israel both home and away, and that they almost did not make it into World Cup 2014. They made it because Cristiano Ronaldo willed them into the tournament with his hat-trick. 

Cristiano Ronaldo is a much better player now than in 2006 or 2010. His skill level has escaped the charts. He has singlehandedly willed his Real Madrid team into top table positions for years. Where would Madrid be with Ronaldo? On the shoulders of Bale? Not when Bale's production is primarily a result of Ronaldo.

Portugal does not boast a superstar filled national team. Many of the players lack international exposure. Well known players such as Pepe or Coentrao aren't that good. Nani has struggled on a, to be fair, struggling Manchester United. 

It will be interesting to see Moutinho on the big stage. This is a player who could have gone to any big team, but landed in Monaco for about €25 million in fees. He has been a leader everywhere he plays. Moutinho would be Ronaldo's Xabi Alonso on the national team, setting up passes from deep. Expect to see him primarily in the anchor role, although he is comfortable anywhere in the midfield. He has very good stamina still, and will likely play all minutes possible. And these are a lot of words for a player who has a low key style, and won't be scoring the winning goal. But as a support for Ronaldo, in moving the ball proficiently up the field, he will be critical.

Portugal are no longer inexperienced on the big stage. The butterflies of the Euro 2004 final against Greece are long gone. The disappointments of 2006 and 2010 are history. Cristiano Ronaldo is now forged, polished, and sharpened to a surgical level. As the Ballon d'Or recipient, he has not only been recognized for being the best player in the world, but he has a reputation to protect. Portugal have what it takes to move past their group, but their group will not simply fall over for them. Germany, Ghana, and the USA all have the potential to move to the group of 16. If Portugal manages to make it past the group stage, expect them in the quarterfinals, easily beating Belgium or Russia. However, with their depth and talent, it would be hard to see them moving further. 
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