WORLD CUP HISTORY: South Africa will only be Portugal’s fifth World Cup, but the highly-skilled squad will be making their third straight appearance. Third place winners in 1966 and fourth place winners four years ago in Germany, Portugal has plenty of World Cup pedigree in a relatively short history at the tournament.
QUALIFICATION: Portuguese fans didn’t have fun following their country’s qualification campaign. Just one win in their first five matches put intense pressure on Carlos Queiroz. Fortunately, a dramatic turnaround ensued that saw Portugal outscore their final three opponents 8-0, resulting in a second place finish behind Denmark. In the playoffs against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Portugal prevailed 2-0 even without their key man.
KEY PLAYER: Cristiano Ronaldo. A team with world-class talent throughout their lineup is headed by Ronaldo. The $140 million man was overshadowed by Lionel Messi this past season in Spain, but there is no doubt he is neck and neck with the Argentine as the world’s best player. A brilliant debut season at Real Madrid showed once again he can do it all, but he hasn’t been able to replicate that form for his country. Going scoreless in qualifying, Ronaldo will be very dangerous if can find his game.
EXPECTATIONS: For a team with so much pedigree, the only senior-level tournament Portugal has ever won is the SkyDome Cup held in Toronto in 1995. You can be forgiven if you’re not familiar with it. Portugal is all set to make another run at a meaningful trophy, but first they must navigate the Group of Death. Brazil is always a favourite, and Ivory Coast is most pundits’ pick as the best team from Africa. In a group that could go down to goal differential, the match against North Korea could be a crucial one.