Users declare Portugal most entertaining team
It took just four minutes for Portugal's star-studded attack to stamp their presence on the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
Luis Figo, the country's most-capped player of all time, took on the defender, as we have seen him do so many times before. A subtle change of pace gave him all the room he needed to square the ball for Pauleta and Portugal's all-time leading scorer netted the team's first goal of the finals. From that point on, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men never looked back, and set off on a FIFA World Cup journey that would win them admirers from across the globe.
That first victory, against Angola , laid the foundations for Portugal's success on German soil. Felipão and his team went from strength to strength, displaying the kind of neat, technical football for which the likes of Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Deco are rightly famed. But behind the silk lay steel, as Miguel, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche and others exuded pride, determination and passion in every performance. It is that blend of courage and cunning that has led FIFAworldcup.com readers, in an online poll, to elect Portugal as the Most Entertaining Team presented by Yahoo!
Of course, this tournament marked the swansong of Figo's glittering international career, but the Inter Milan veteran made the most of the opportunity to remind the world that age has not dimmed his brilliance. The evergreen winger made three assists in the tournament, and all his magnificent all-around displays lacked was a goal.
As any coach will tell you, one man does not make a team, and the fulminating Figo was not the only star in Scolari's constellation. Maniche was a player reborn, his all-action style and keen eye for goal bringing back memories of his dazzling displays at UEFA EURO 2004. The midfielder was his country's leading scorer in the finals with two goals, both of which were outstanding in their execution.
Up front, the Portuguese had one of the tournament's most exciting, and most controversial attackers. Cristiano Ronaldo's blistering pace and unpredictability gave defenders nightmares and helped the flying winger to second place in the Gillette Best Young Player award. But his crowd-pleasing style brought him in for some rough treatment from opponents, and his supposed tendency to go to ground easily made him a target for media disapproval.
The 21 year-old starlet was not easily fazed, however, and he responded to the boo-boys in the way he knows best, producing some of his most mesmerising performances in the latter stages of the competition. Germany 2006 should be the first of many FIFA World Cup finals for a player whose confidence and charisma mark him out for future greatness.