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World Cup 2014 Guide: Portugal

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Portugal qualified for this tournament after a 4-2 aggregate victory over Sweden in the play-off round, in what was the battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and luckily for Portugal the Real Madrid star came on top as he netted all four goals, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 victory in Sweden. Portugal were forced to play in the play-off as a result of finishing second in their qualifying group behind Russia. Portugal will now face Germany, Ghana and USA in Group G in Brazil, a group in which Portugal will be expecting to progress from. Despite being ranked third in the World by FIFA, the bookmakers make Portugal the joint 7th favourites for the tournament, so Paulo Bento and his captain Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to cause a shock in Brazil by exceeding expectations and going further than the media and bookmakers expect.
Key Players

Pepe – The Real Madrid centre back will be an exceptionally important player for Portugal in Brazil this summer. Along with central defensive partner Bruno Alves, he is the most experienced player for Portugal and this will be key if they are to ensure they progress beyond the groups coming up against three teams that can create chances out of nothing, particularly Germany. Pepe has been known for the odd moment of madness, but despite that he is an important player for Real Madrid and Portugal. Paulo Bento will have to ensure Pepe keeps calm in Brazil, otherwise Portugal could find themselves competing with ten men.

Fabio Coentrao – Another Real Madrid player who will be important in the Portugal defence, Coentrao is an attacking full back as shown by his assist in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich, but he is equally capable of being solid defensively, the reason why he has dislodged Brazilian Marcelo at Real Madrid this season. Coentrao will have to ensure he remains concentrated on his positioning, as running up and down the left-wing could prove difficult in the heat of Brazil. However, his attacking threat will be key for Portugal breaking down the opposition defence.

Joao Moutinho – The Monaco star is the heartbeat in the middle of the park for Portugal and is often underrated by the opposition, which can come at their cost. He provided 8 assists last season for Monaco after moving there from Porto for a combined fee of 70 million euros with James Rodriguez. He is also not shy to have a go himself from distance and will be vital for Portugal to make sure they keep possession of the ball to stop from tiring in the heat. He is also a capable defensive midfielder and is solid in the challenge. At 27 he is going into this tournament at the peak of his abilities and he will be hoping he can return to Monaco in the summer as a World Champion.

Cristiano Ronaldo – The Portugal captain and the current Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo is without a doubt the most important player for Paulo Bento’s side this summer. With 49 goals in 110 caps for Portugal he is the countries all-time leading goal scorer and he will more determined than ever to add to that this summer in Brazil. After finally helping Real Madrid to ‘La Decima’ Ronaldo will hope to add the World Cup, to make up for the heartbreak he suffered in the Euro 2004 final, which Portugal lost to Greece. Since arriving at Real Madrid the former Manchester United player has scored more goals than he has played games and knows that the best way to make sure his name goes down in football folklore is to lead his side to success. At 29 years old Ronaldo will know this is his last World Cup at his physical peak, can he use that as an inspiration to lead his side to the Maracana on July 13th.

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