Finalists at UEFA EURO 2004 and semi-finalists at Germany 2006, Portugal have displayed some dazzling football in recent years, but without ever landing a major prize. Having never progressed beyond the semi-finals of a FIFA World Cup™, A Selecção das Quinas will be aiming to go all the way this time around.
Mozambican-born coach Carlos Queiroz is no stranger to South Africa, and his previous experience as the host nation’s coach could prove invaluable. With talents of players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe and Deco to call upon, Queiroz will know that expectations are sure to be high.
The road to South Africa
Recording only one win from their first five group matches, Portugal quickly went from being group favourites to standing on the cusp of elimination. The second half of qualification brought a spectacular transformation, however, and they scored eight goals without reply in their last four group qualifiers to earn a play-off spot. Despite the absence of Ronaldo, their captain and talisman, for the two-legged tie against Bosnia-Herzegovina, they won home and away to clinch a comfortable 2-0 aggregate victory.
The star players
While fans are rightly excited about the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo’s involvement on football’s biggest stage, the 2008 FIFA World Player played a subdued role in qualification, failing score in any of his seven appearances. Nevertheless, the Real Madrid star is known for his ability to rise to the big occasion and will undoubtedly be one of the men to watch at South Africa 2010.
Yet Portugal are no pushovers at the back. Bruno should bring aggression and aerial ability at both ends of the pitch, while Ricardo Carvalho has plenty of sure-footed experience. Pepe is questionable following a knee injury, and the loss of Jose Bosingwa is also notable. Veteran midfield pair Simao and Deco are also expected to shine.
Having guided the likes of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Fernando Couto to consecutive FIFA World Youth Championship titles in 1989 and 1991, Carlos Queiroz is credited as the mastermind behind Portugal’s ‘Golden Generation’.
At senior level, Queiroz enjoyed great success as assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson, with a 10-month stint in charge of Real Madrid sandwiched in-between his two spells as No2 at Manchester United. Having succeeded Luiz Felipe Scolari after EURO 2008, this is in fact Queiroz’s second term as the senior national team coach. He last coached the senior side from 1991 to 1993, a disappointing period during which he failed to lead them to either EURO 1992 or the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Previous FIFA World Cups
Portugal set the bar incredibly high on their first FIFA World Cup appearance in 1966, walking away with a third-place finish along with a golden boot award for Eusebio. That maiden voyage remains their best performance to date on football’s biggest stage.
After failing to progress past the first stage in 1986 and 2002, Germany 2006 marked a return to FIFA World Cup form for the Portuguese. Undefeated during the group phase, they went on to overcome Netherlands and England en route to the semi-finals, only to lose 1-0 to France and then go down to the hosts in the play-off for third place. South Africa 2010 will be Portugal’s fifth FIFA World Cup appearance.
What they said
"Portugal are candidates for the trophy. We have great players and we made a statement with great pedigree and determination. This is a unique moment," Liedson after eliminating Bosnia-Herzegovina to qualify for South Africa 2010.