A player could be forgiven for sulking a bit after sitting on the bench for two games on the world's biggest stage, but Portugal defender Paulo Ferreira is not that kind of man. After playing the full 90 minutes of the opener with Côte d'Ivoire at right-back, he was sacrificed for tactical reasons for the team's next two outings. "We have top players in many different positions, and you have to be ready to play from the start or come in off the bench," the Chelsea defender told FIFA.com after sitting out the entire 0-0 draw with Brazil. Coach and master tactician Carlos Queiroz instead opted for Ricardo Costa – considered a better aerial threat than Ferreira.
In the second Group C contest, the former Real Madrid boss and one-time assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, opted for Miguel on the right side of defence, knowing his side needed goals after the stalemate with the Ivorians. Ferreira, a more traditional defensive wide man, found himself on the outside looking in again. "It's the best problem a manager can have, to have multiple options in many different positions," said 31-year-old Ferreira. "We have been getting a lot of production out of the guys who are starting and also from the guys who are coming on off the bench." Ferreira is eager to point out the importance of team spirit and the competition for places – especially at a FIFA World Cup™.
You need options if you want to go far in a World Cup. Football is not about 11 guys anymore.
"We are all as one in the team," said the former Porto man, who is not a guaranteed starter at club level with English champions Chelsea either, where he plays alongside his national team-mate Ricardo Carvalho. "If I don’t start a game then I get myself ready mentally to come off the bench if needed and do what I can to help the team." Queiroz has made the maximum three substitutions in all three of Portugal's games so far, and has used three different starting line-ups in their unbeaten run through the group stage. It is a point that is not lost on the Chelsea man. "You need options if you want to go far in a World Cup. Football is not about 11 guys anymore."
Now up against Iberian neighbours and European champions Spain in the Round of 16, Portugal will need every bit of their depth if they are to progress to the quarter-final stage for the second consecutive time at a FIFA World Cup. While Cristiano Ronaldo hogs the headlines, having won Budweiser Man of the Match honours in all three games to date, it is the team unity that Ferreira sees as the vital component. "We're playing some good, sound games here in South Africa," he said after the highly tactical 0-0 draw with Brazil that saw them finish the so-called Group of Death as runners-up. "Up until this point our spirit as a team has been carrying us, and we are all focused on the same objective.
"As any other team playing here, our first goal was to get out of the group stage, and we’ve managed that," added Ferreira, a member of the Portugal side that reached the semi-finals four years ago in Germany. "Now it doesn't matter who you meet, because one mistake, one lapse can put you out, and every team that remains is there for a reason." Surely hoping to get back into the coach's starting 11, Ferreira is ready for the call should his boss need to shuffle his tactical pack yet again. "I am ready to play for my country," he said, "whatever the situation."