Portugal’s journey to South Africa 2010 was full of ups and downs. Recording four draws and a defeat in their ten matches in Group A, they finished second behind section winners Sweden, which sent them into a two-leg play-off against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Narrow 1-0 wins home and away were all they needed, however, to check into the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the fifth time.
FIFA World Cup finals history
It was not until England 1966 that the Portuguese made their world finals debut, yet as entrances go it could hardly have been more impressive. Spearheaded by the irrepressible Eusebio, Portugal’s golden generation knocked out Brazil en route to the semi-finals, where they came up just short against the host nation. Their next appearance came at Mexico 1986, where they went out in the group phase, the same fate that surprisingly befell Luis Figo and Co at Korea/Japan 2002. It was an entirely different story at Germany 2006, where Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side, inspired by the in-form trio of Cristiano Ronaldo, Figo and Deco, surged to fourth place. Less impressive was their campaign at South Africa, where they laboured into the last 16 before being beaten by eventual champions Spain.
The current crop
Since replacing Carlos Quieroz, coach Paulo Bento has gradually been imposing his style and winning over Portugal’s demanding fans. Yet, as was the case on the road to South Africa, their form in the UEFA EURO 2012 qualification competition was somewhat inconsistent, although they eventually reached the tournament via the play-offs. Bento has also made wholesale changes to the team, with only eight members of the 23-man squad that travelled to South Africa appearing in the Group H game against Norway. One thing that has not changed, however, is the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to the side.
The key players
While Ronaldo is their go-to man, the new-look Seleção das Quinas do have a very talented core of players to support him, among them young full-back Fabio Coentrao, who excelled in last year’s world finals, Manchester United forward Nani, Liverpool midfielder Raul Meireles, and the abrasive Real Madrid centre-half Pepe.
Coach: Paulo Bento
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup England 1966 (Third place), FIFA U-20 World Cup Saudi Arabia 1989, Portugal 1991 (Winners), FIFA U-17 World Cup Scotland 1989 (Third place)
Former stars: Eusebio, Rui Costa, Luis Figo