It could be argued that Portugal's players rarely get the credit they deserve, with the name Cristiano Ronaldo leaping invariably to the forefront whenever talk turns to *A Selecção das Quinas*.
The FIFA Ballon d'Or winner has been a genuine global great for many years now, however there are plenty of other talented players in Paulo Bento’s group. Indeed, look no further than Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team-mates Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, or Monaco’s midfield maestro Joao Moutinho.
With 49 goals in 110 international appearances, Ronaldo’s goalscoring record may be unrivalled. Yet, in Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida, Portugal have two more experienced attacking options for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the latter of whom spent three successful years at German Bundesliga side Werder Bremen before moving to Turkish outfit Besiktas in 2011.
FIFA.comspoke exclusively to Almeida, who has 17 goals in 53 caps for his country, about the upcoming tournament in Brazil, Portugal’s group-stage clash with Germany, and his superstar international team-mate.
FIFA.com: The World Cup in Brazil gets underway in three months’ time. Are you excited?*Hugo Almeida: *Of course! But there is still a long way to go. We still have plenty to do in the league, but the excitement levels are going up day by day.
You have already been to one World Cup. What’s it like to play at such a tournament?It’s completely different to what you usually experience [as a player]. You play against the best national teams in the world – not only from Europe, but also from other continents. That’s an incredible experience!
What was your reaction to the draw?Only quality teams have qualified, so our group is naturally very difficult. We’ll have to see what we can achieve.
As well as USA and Ghana, you’re also up against Germany again…Our record against them in recent tournaments is not that great. I hope we’ll do better this time. It’s definitely an advantage that we’re playing Germany in our first game. If you have to play such a strong opponent at the end of the group stage, it’s much more difficult. For me, it’s special to be playing against Germany, because I still have many friends in Bremen who I haven’t seen for a long time and might be seeing in Brazil. But there are no friends during the game, of course. We have to fight and give everything in order to get our first points on the board.
Speaking of Bremen, your former club are having a few problems at the moment and are fighting relegation…I’ve been following everything and I’m disappointed with Werder’s development in recent years. When I was there, Bremen were fighting for the title. That’s changed now and it makes me sad, but I hope things will start to improve. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Werder.
You’ve been at Besiktas since 2011. What does the future hold for you?We’re currently challenging near the top and are continuing to fight for the title, or a place amongst the top teams in the division. My contract runs out in December and I haven’t made any further plans for next year. You never know what might happen.
Back to the World Cup, who would you say are favourites for the tournament?I wouldn’t say there is one. If I had to name one team, it would be Portugal of course. The teams who have won the World Cup in the past will certainly be trying to do so again – Brazil as hosts, Spain as defending champions. Germany have also come close in recent years and you mustn’t forget Italy.
I love it when I score, because the goal is for the entire country.
Are Portugal capable of winning the World Cup?First of all, we want to get through the group stage. Anything can happen in the knockout rounds. We’re certainly not one of the favourites, but we’re not underdogs either. We have a good team, but we have to prove that on the pitch.
After finishing second behind Russia in the qualifying group, Portugal had to face Sweden in the play-offs. How did the team deal with that disappointment?Games like that are always difficult. It was disappointing for us because we had a good team, but we made several mistakes during our qualifying campaign. We were punished and had to settle for the play-offs, but against Sweden we showed our true class and played good football.
Cristiano Ronaldo almost single-handedly clinched Portugal’s place in Brazil, with four goals against the *Tre Konor. *What’s Ronaldo like as a person?Ronaldo’s a great guy and a very good friend of mine in the national team. We’re always together. He’s a very likeable chap. He’s always asking everyone if everything’s all right. He’s first on the scene if anyone needs help.
You and Helder Postiga are the national team’s most prolific goalscorers behind Ronaldo. How do you see your role in the side?*[Laughs] *That’s a question for the coach. For me, it’s important to be in the squad and to play for my country. I love it when I score, because the goal is for the entire country.
**Your former national coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (2003 to 2008) is now coaching Brazil. What did you make of Scolari?He’s a very good coach who pushes the team on. He likes to have a bit of banter with the team, but he works incredibly hard and leaves nothing to chance. He is definitely capable of leading Brazil to the title.