Portugal’s passage to South Africa was sealed by a decisive right-footed strike by FC Porto midfielder, Raul Meireles. It was only fitting that Meireles should bag the winner in the second leg of the play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina as the powerful playmaker played more games than any other player in his country’s qualifying campaign.
Meireles rose through the ranks of the national team, missing out on Germany 2006, and making his senior debut in the qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2008. He went on to play in that tournament, but it was not until the qualifying competition for South Africa 2010 got underway that the FC Porto man established himself as a regular in the Portuguese midfield.
He started every one of the equipa das Quinas’ qualifying matches, and it was only in the games against Denmark and Malta that he did not play the full 90 minutes. He racked up a staggering 1043 minutes of competitive action, more than any other player in Carlos Queiroz’s squad, and capped off his hard work with that decisive strike against Bosnia-Herzegovina to take his side to South Africa.
The durable midfielder won the European U-16 Championship with his country in 2000, and went on to play in Portugal’s Olympic side in the 2004 Men's Football Tournament in Athens. He has certainly come a long way from his early days spent in the north of Portugal, initially with Boavista, and then with FC Porto. Meireles joined the then European champions in summer 2004, and quickly made his mark on the team, helping them to three league titles, amongst other successes.