Hugo Almeida may not quite fit the stereotype of a Portuguese centre-forward, but there is no doubt that he is the kind of player that fans have been waiting to see in the national team for a long time. Tall and strong, dominant in the air and with a powerful shot, the Werder Bremen striker is one of the most potent weapons in coach Carlos Queiroz’s armoury.
For generations, Portuguese football has been founded on the principles of sound technique and a short passing game that eschews the muscular, direct approach favoured by other sides. Almeida, however, gives them another dimension and will undoubtedly prove to be a very useful option during the tournament.
The striker’s own journey to South Africa has not been without its difficulties, however. He rose through the ranks at FC Porto, making his debut for the former European champions at the tender age of 19. But opportunities were hard to come by at the Estadio das Antas, and Almeida ended up going out on loan. He returned to his parent club in time to score two memorable goals; firstly, he found the net in the first game at the new Estadio do Dragao, and in the equally palatial surroundings of the San Siro, he fired in a magnificent free-kick from distance in a UEFA Champions League encounter against Inter Milan.
In 2006/07 another loan spell followed, this time with Bundesliga club Werder Bremen. A solid debut season brought the offer of a permanent deal, and the powerful attacker penned a four-year deal the following season.
At international level, Almeida starred for his country at the UEFA Under-21 European Championships in 2006 and 2007. He made his debut for the senior side in 2004, and has bagged six goals in 24 full appearances.