We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.
Appearance: Fifth overall, third consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost in semifinals
Best performance: Semi-finals (1966 and 2006)
The talent is mesmerizing. So why is everyone overlooking Portugal?
Look at this team, and you see great talents like Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao, Liedson, Deco, and Bruno Alves. But where are the results?
They've only advanced beyond the group stage in two World Cups. One of them was 44 years ago. They barely qualified for South Africa, stumbling through their UEFA group and needing a playoff win against Bosnia-Herzegovina just to make it.
Now that they're in South Africa, what should we expect out of Portugal? There is nothing easy about their draw, other than the match with North Korea, which should be a cakewalk. Ivory Coast and Brazil join Portugal in the group, and one of them won't move on.
For Portugal to avoid being "that guy," they're going to need three consistent performances. It's something they're capable of, but haven't always done.
They have a good goalkeeper in Eduardo. Ronaldo might be the best player in the world (Lionel Messi has a stake to this claim, too). Deco and Simao are elite players, and they get plenty of defense from Alves and Duda.
Problem: There is little depth, and there is little reason to think Portugal will perform at their peak as long as they're alive in the tournament.
Then again, we've seen it in other sports, most recently in the NHL. Sometimes, the talented team that barely qualifies for the tournament ends up being very dangerous when they get there. It's a short tournament, and anything can happen, including this very good and entertaining team getting hot at the right time.
June 15 vs. Ivory Coast (Port Elizabeth)
June 21 vs. North Korea (Cape Town)
June 25 vs. Brazil (Durban)