Posts Tagged Portugal

World Cup Preview: Spain vs. Portugal

Two years ago, on this day, Spain beat Germany to break their major tournament jinx and lift the European Championship trophy. Today, they can continue on that tradition and take a very significant step towards breaking their World Cup hex by beating neighbours Portugal. The two teams have met 32 times in international football. Portugal have won just five matches, Spain 15 and there have been 12 draws. However, Spain have only beaten Portugal once in ten matches since 1958 and the last time the two teams met Portugal won 1-0, knocking Spain out of the 2004 Euro in the group stages.

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Ranking: 2

Spain entered the World Cup as favourites for the first time. They have always had a talented, entertaining team but since they always underachieved at major tournaments, no one really ever thought of them as favourites. All that changed however,with their 2008 win at the European Championships and now Spain have to live with the pressure of expectation every time they get on the pitch. It is probably this pressure to perform which saw Spain unable to score against Switzerland and also concede a very sloppy goal which made their last game in the group stages a must-win game. The European champions, however, have gotten over that shock dealt to them by the Swiss and have looked good against Honduras and Chile but that defeat showed other teams how to beat Spain.

Spain manager, Vincente Del Bosque will most likely play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Iker Casillas in goal. Sergio Ramos, Gerrard Pique, Carles Puyol, Joan Capdevilla will form Spain’s back four. Xabi Alonso who sprained his ankle during Spain’s 2-1 win over Chile, will most likely be replaced by Xavi Martinez who will play alongside Sergio Busquets in defensive mid-field. Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and David Villa will make up Spain’s attacking midfield and support Fernando Torres in front.

Portugal have great wingers who pose a massive threat to Spain on the counter and Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevilla will have to be extra sharp today.

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Ranking: 3

Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo. That is all that most people seem to relate with Portugal. Cristiano is definitely one of those players that can change the complexion of any game and since Cristiano hasn’t been extremely effective for his national side, many people wrote off Portugal’s chances. However, Portugal have proved that although they may not play the prettiest of football at times, they have found a way of staying in the competition and getting results. They managed a very good albeit dull draw against Ivory Coast and then held Brazil. Anyone who can keep Brazil from scoring is dangerous in their own way. Portugal have transformed themselves in to a very good defensive side. They are yet to concede a goal in the World Cup and have kept 22 clean sheets in their last 26 matches. Furthermore, they have gone 19 games unbeaten under coach Carlos Queiroz. Portugal’s only weakness it seems is their inability to score goals and that they lack an out and out striker. However, they do have incredibly talented wingers in Cristiano Ronaldo and Simao Sabrosa who can catch any team on the counter. So even though, it seems impossible for any team to keep the very talented Spanish squad from scoring, Portugal just might. Also, if Cristiano Ronaldo can tame the Jabulani, Portugal would have a great advantage from set pieces especially since Iker Casillas and Spain are not the best, at defending set-pieces.

Portugal manager, Carlos Queiroz will most likely play a 4-3-3 formation with Eduardo in goal. Paulo Ferreira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao will form ‘the great wall of Portugal’. Although Deco has recovered from the hip injury that forced him to miss Portugal’s final Group G game against Brazil, he is unlikely to be in the starting line-up as Tiago has done very well so far. Another player sure to miss out is the injured midfielder Danny. Pepe will most likely retain his position in Portugal’s midfield alongside Tiago and Raul Meireles and Portugal’s attack will be lead by Simao Sabrosa and Cristiano Ronaldo playing on the wing on either side of Liedson.

Although, Spain have to be the favourites going in to this match considering the quality they have in their team, Portugal cannot be counted out especially since they have a very good defence and have players that can be lethal on counter-attacks. The match bound to be a very close one and if it goes to extra time, then Portugal will win.

Manager Speak

“Portugal are going to be a very tough side. I take no satisfaction from the fact we’re up against Portugal instead of Brazil. They are both great national teams.”- Vincente Del Bosque, Spain manager

“We want to win this game from the very first minute.” – Carlos Queiroz, Portugal manager

Stars to Watch Out For

Spain: David Villa, Andres Iniesta,Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, Tiago, Simão Sabrosa

Go Figure!

David Villa has scored six goals in six starts at the World Cup and is now the all-time top scorer for Spain at the tournament.

Portugal have failed to score in their last two World Cup knockout matches – 0-0 (aet) against England in the quarter-final and a 1-0 defeat to France in the semi-final in 2006.

Spain have kept clean sheets in 26% of their World Cup games (nine out of 34) since the start of the 1982 tournament

Portugal have conceded just one goal in their last 12 internationals.

Spain were the first team since Hungary in 1986 not to collect a single card in the group stages of a World Cup tournament

If Portugal avoid defeat in this match they will set a new national team record of 20 games unbeaten in all competitions


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World Cup 2010 Group G: Qualification Scenarios

Group G was the toughest of the groups and today’s matches will tell us who survived the ‘Group of Death.’ When a draw throws up such strong teams in a group, it guarantees entertainment. Group G saw the highest number of goals scored with 14 goals coming from 4 matches. However, such a draw also means that the tournament will lose 2 very good teams. In today’s matches, Portugal play their former colony and current group leaders Brazil, in probably the most anticipated game of the group stages. While a gritty North Korea try to keep Ivory Coast at bay (no pun intended).

Today’s Group G Matches: Portugal-Brazil, Korea DPR-Côte d’Ivoire

World Cup 2010 Group G Standings



Goal Difference










Ivory Coast




Korea DPR




How Your Team Can Qualify

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When Brazil manager Carlos Dunga decided to leave out Ronaldinho from the World Cup squad, many felt he had lost his mind. However, so far Dunga has been proved right and Brazil have won both their matches. They played their first match against North Korea and won only by a narrow 2-1 leaving Brazilian fans, the world over, jittery and North Korean fans delirious. The Canarinho toyed with Ivory Coast in their next game, winning 3-0.

Brazil are top of the table in Group G with 6 points and have already qualified for the next round. A draw or a win against Portugal today, sees them go through as winners of Group G.

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Portugal’s first match against Ivory Coast ended in a disappointing score-less draw with both teams cancelling each other out. Their performance led many to question Cristiano Ronaldo’s effectiveness as a captain and Carlos Queiroz’s selection, tactics and his overall ability to manage at the national level. Portugal answered the critics in their next match, by defeating North Korea who had really impressed in their game against Brazil, by a record 7-0. The Navegadores having come off such an incredible win will want to continue their form against Brazil.  The fact that Brazil will be without Kaka who is suspended for today’s match will give Portugal an edge as they try to to knock Brazil off of top spot in Group G.

Portugal currently sit in second position in Group G with 4 points and a magnificent goal difference. To go through to the last 16 as winners of Group G, all Portugal need is a win against Brazil.

To qualify, a draw is enough for Portugal. However, if Portugal lose to Brazil, then they must hope for the North Korea-Ivory Coast match to end in either a win for North Korea or a win for Ivory Coast that still leaves Portugal ahead of Ivory Coast on goal difference.

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Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast along with Ghana are the best African teams at the 2010 World Cup. However, they got very unlucky, first with the draw which saw them paired with Brazil and Portugal and then when their talisman Didier Drogba fractured his arm. They were quite impressive against Portugal in their first match and weren’t very bad against Brazil in their second match. However, Brazil were just sublime in that match and Côte d’Ivoire lost 3-0 to the Samba flair. Unfortunately, the Elephants bad luck continued and Portugal beat North Korea by 7 goals making it very tough for the Ivorians to qualify today.

Ivory Coast are third in group G with one point and there is no way for them to win the group. To qualify, Ivory Coast must win their game against North Korea and hope the Portugal-Brazil match ends in a win for Brazil that leaves Ivory Coast (currently 9 goals behind Portugal on goal difference), ahead of Portugal on goal difference.

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Korea DPR

North Korea played Brazil in their World Cup opener. The match was the biggest possible mismatch in terms of the most recent FIFA rankings at the 2010 World Cup. However, North Korea weren’t humiliated and they managed to contain the Brazilians losing by a narrow 1 goal margin. They even scored against the 5-time World Cup winners. In their next match North Korea lost 7-0 to Portugal. Without taking anything away from the Portuguese performance who were brilliant on the day, the crazy 7-0 scoreline shows just how much effort the North Koreans put into their first game to keep Brazil out. The Asians would have most likely made it to the last 16, had they not been in this very difficult group.

North Korea are fourth in Group G with 0 points and cannot qualify for the last 16.

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World Cup Preview: Portugal vs. North Korea

We are back to Group G aka the ‘Group of Death’. After a disappointing goal-less draw with Ivory Coast in World Cup opening game, Portugal will be keen to get all three points by securing a win against North Korea.  North Korea, on the other hand had the unenviable task of playing Brazil in their World Cup opener. North Korea had been written off even before they kicked the ball and but the Asians made the cynics sit up and take notice when they lost by a narrow 2-1 and putting up an  incredible defensive performance against the South Americans.

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Ranking: 3

Portugal’s hopes lie on Cristiano Ronaldo finding form. He almost scored against Ivory Coast when his long range shot hit the Ivorian goal post and Portugal will be hoping that their captain can break down the stubborn North Korean defense. Despite having very talented players, Portugal have struggled to find a win in their last four matches making it their worst showing at the World Cup ever. An altercation between midfielder and the Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz suggests that everything is not well within the Portuguese squad. They will however, need to forget their differences and play as a team today or else Portugal will go into their final group match against Spain needing a win to qualify. No intelligent football team would want to be in that situation. The Portugal defense made up by the Chelsea duo Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira along with Fabio Cantrao and Bruno Alves will stay on-guard for the North Korean’s quick counter attack. Deco will most likely miss out for the Portuguese with Pedro Mendes, Raul Meireles and Tiago making up the midfield. Carlos Queiroz would want to take more risks against North Korea and play a more attacking 4-3-3 with Simao, Cristiano Ronaldo and Leidson up front.

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North Korea

Ranking: 105

North Korea were unlucky enough to have to play Brazil in their first match but they showed the cynics that they were no pushovers. Not only did they not lose by a huge margin, they also did what only three teams outside of South America and Europe have done, i.e. find the net against Brazil. This feat. must have added to their confidence and the North Korean players would now really believe that they have what it takes to qualify to the last-16  from the group of death.  However, playing Brazil is never a walk in the park. The resilient performance which the North Korean’s put up against Brazil must also have drained them mentally and physically. So, the question remains whether North Korea (who are one of the fittest teams), have the will and the energy to repeat their performance from the first match. North Korea manager, Kim Jong-hun will most likely not make any changes to the team that played against Brazil and will play a defensive 4-4-2. North Korea will look to frustrate the Portuguese and look to attack on the counter through the ‘Asian Wayne Rooney’, Jong Tae-se and AFC Young Player of the Year for 2007 Kim Kum-il.

The last time the two teams met was in 1966 when Portugal made a great comeback after being 3 goals down to win the game 5-3 courtesy the legendary Eusebio. The chances of a similar scoreline today are very slim though Cristiano Ronaldo will surely be looking to follow in the footsteps of his hero, end his 18 month goal drought and lead Portugal
to a much-needed victory. Portugal must focus for 90 minutes or their defense could get caught sleeping on the job and leave us with another draw.

Manager Speak

“It’s an all or nothing game. I have hope that we will make a great game, win and take the three points.” – Carlos Queiroz, Portugal manager

“What we think would be a good result or an achievement that would pass the group phase. That is our main goal. Then afterward, in the round of 16, if we can go further then that would be wonderful. The players realise now that anything is possible.”

Stars to Watch Out For

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao Simbrosa, Liedson

North Korea: Jong Tae-se, Kim Kum-il, Ri Kwang-Chon

Go Figure!

In their last match North Korea became only the third side from outside Europe or South America to score against Brazil at the World Cup.

Portugal have kept a clean sheet in 78.3% of matches under Carlos Queiroz, a higher percentage than any other manager.

North Korea have not won any of their last eight games, losing five of them.

Portugal are on a run of four games without a win at the World Cup, their worst ever in the competition.

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World Cup Preview: Ivory Coast vs. Portugal

Group G  for the 2010 world cup has Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Korea. It has been rightly called the ‘Group of Death’ since it will see at least one and possibly 2 big footballing nations go out without reaching the knockout stages of the tournament. Many believe that there is only one place is up for grabs in this group, since it is impossible to conceive the possibility of favourites Brazil going out in the group stages. Just like it is being taken for granted that Brazil will go through, it is also almost certain in everyone’s minds that Democratic Republic of Korea will surely not go through. So that leaves Ivory Coast and Portugal, the two countries that play each other today to battle out it out for that precious spot in the knockouts that Brazil have available to lose.

Both teams therefore, have everything to play for. It seems almost certain that whoever loses will most probably see their 2010 World Cup campaign come to an end. Ivory Coast are Africa’s best hope to advance further in the competition while were Portugal to lose, the 2010 World Cup would lose one of its major stars in Cristiano Ronaldo. Lets hope the fear of losing doesn’t dictate the game and that we don’t end up with the very likely 1-1 scoreline.

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Ivory Coast

Ranking:  27

Ivory Coast’s manager Sven-Goran Eriksson knows all about the pain of losing to Portugal at the World Cup. He might want to take revenge as last World Cup, the Swede was in-charge of England and lost on penalties to Portugal which subsequently cost him his job. He took up the Ivory Coast job after the Elephants shock exit at the quarter-finals stage in the African Cup of Nations in January. Eriksson says that he has been focused on organisation than revolution and will look to unleash the pace of Solomon Kalou along with the talented Gervinho, who was named as the best African player in the French League last year. The news of  Didier Drogba being allowed to play with a protective cast in today’s match must have renewed confidence in the squad and is a definite boost.

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Ranking: 3

Portugal have had to deal with injuries to key players and an unconvincing qualification run. Their ‘golden-generation’ is now a thing of the past but they do still have the world’s most expensive player and undoubtedly the world’s  most-eye-catching player in Cristiano Ronaldo. He hasn’t been in great for form for his country but everyone is aware of what he can achieve if he hits form which is also like ‘Ketchup‘ I am guessing. The team is managed by Carlos Queiroz, who did get Ronaldo to play at his very best when he was at Manchester United. Another great advantage that Carlos might have because of his time at Manchester United is that he would know Chelsea’s Didier Drogba and Solomon Kalou’s game to a T. Portugal have managed to reach at least the semis in three out of the last five major tournaments and have a team brimming with talent. The defense is strong with Ricardo Carvalho, Bruno Alves and Pepe while going forward Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao and Leidson can be quite a handful. Zenit St. Petersburg’s midfielder Danny Miguel is another player who could make the difference for Portugal.

Manager Speak

“To go through would be a success from a group like that. If we can reach the quarter-final I think everyone should be thinking it’s a great success from an African team, for the Ivory Coast. That’s the first target.”- Sven Goran-Eriksson, Ivory Coast manager

“The semi-final is not our aim, it’s our ambition. We want to get there. To have the ambition to be champions we don’t need to win all our games. We need to be running ahead of Ivory Coast, then North Korea and thenBrazil. That’s how we have to approach it.” – Carlos Queiroz, Portugal manager

Stars to Watch Out For

Ivory Coast: Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure, Solomon Kalou, Gervinho (Gervais Kouassi)

Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Liédson da Silva Muniz, Simão, Alves

Go figure!

Didier Drogba hit six goals in five appearances for Ivory Coast during qualifying.

During qualification for South Africa, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to score or assist a single goal for Portugal in seven appearances.

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The Sorcerer And The Superstar: Wizard Curses Cristiano Ronaldo

Barack Obama has added another amazing achievement to his year by winning the Nobel Peace Prize. What a year it has been for him. If he were a footballer, he would be the guy who won FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, UEFA Club footballer of the Year and had the European Golden Shoe proudly displayed in his ever-growing trophy cabinet. He would be the highest paid footballer in the world. He would be Cristiano Ronaldo! Too bad for Ronaldo that he is not, like Obama, the most powerful and arguably the most respected man in the world.

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Footballers have to get used to seeing frivolous headlines about themselves in the tabloids and learn to either enjoy and revel in the silliness of it all or completely ignore it. Also, they realize soon enough, that the bigger star they become, the more ridiculous the stories get. So when the second-largest Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, broke the news of a Wizard claiming he had been contacted to put on a curse on Cristiano, I am sure the Portuguese superstar smiled his smug smile and patted himself on the back. I mean, could the headline get any sillier?

It turns out ‘Pepe’ – The Wizard is quite the Harry Potter of Football sorcerer. Cristiano Ronaldo joins David Beckham, Carlos Queiroz, Esteban Cambiasso, Brazilian Ronaldo, Iker Casillas, Raul, Cannavaro and Sergio Ramos in the impressive list of people lucky enough to be cursed by our illustrious ‘soccerer.’ But first of all, I’d like to thank you, oh noble Wizard, for thinking us important enough to let us in on your evil plans. It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. Wizards of the past have been downright rude by not even letting us know before they turn our favorite footballers into bats, or even worse vegetables.

The wonderful Wizard also said that he himself had nothing against the star and that he couldn’t violate the Wizard-Client (weirdo) confidentially law and tell us who the client was. He said his client was a “jilted lover”, “non-European” and “a very wealthy heiress from a well-known family”. Hail, thou Sly Sorcerer!

The story has the makings of a movie of the forgotten Bollywood era, which was obsessed with spells and sly serpentine women. And like the pathetic era, this story should have died a fast death in this super-fast information age. Alas, Cristiano picked up an ankle injury playing in the match against Marseille, which his team Real Madrid won 3-0. The wily Wizard was ‘lightening-quick’ to claim credit for the injury but no one really cared. It was only when Cristiano had to miss the next match which Madrid lost and when Portugal haven’t already claimed their spot in the 2010 World Cup, that fans all over the world started to somewhat fear the mighty Wizard’s ways!

Mr. Wizard, I hope you realize that we fans, are always quick to buy into conspiracy theories when our team loses. We never believe that the other team could have played better than ours. As, for Cristiano, he is currently busy replacing David Beckham in the Georgio Armani ads while he recovers from his ankle injury.So Mr. Wizard, enjoy you few moments in the limelight, `coz as soon as our ‘Wing Wizard’ is back to winning ways, you’ll have to go back to searching for hairs off the tail of a red donkey picked in the light of a full moon; or whatever it is you fake Wizards do for kicks.

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Sleepyhead Managers and Star Teams

The shocks just keep coming in. Having calmed my nerves with caffeine (oh yes, it works…thought I’d missed that raised eyebrow, did you?) My ‘roving’ eye went to the group standings table and my heart rate went up (wasn’t the caffeine). I blinked a couple of times (would you get off the caffeine theory already!) but there it was… Denmark were 5 points ahead of Portugal. Portugal have got the likes of Carvalho (had to be a Chelsea players first), Bosingwa (and second), Deco (and third!), Simao, Nuno Gomez, Nani, Ronaldo, Maniche. Players absolutely bursting with football magic. How can they be in danger of not qualifying, they should be top of the group!
So, what is coach Carloz not doing right? I would think he knew everything, having learnt from the very best Sir Alex. Also, in my naievity I assumed that the country coaches didn’t really need to be as good as the club coaches because, they got to pick from players with so much experience. I have changed my view since Fabio Capello worked miracles with the England National Team. To lead such accomplished players has to be even harder because you have to win their respect and boy, it don’t come cheap. Also, I think since players all their lives have been told what to do; they like it that way. They like a coach who tells them what to do ahead of each game and during the half-time break. A coach who has a plan he is convinced will work and asks them to play their part in executing it. The bottom line is that the players appreciate and respect being directed like other proffessionals in any other profession. Take actors for example. ‘Good’ actors always appreciate a director who knows what he is doing and tells them exactly what he wants them to do. Fabio Capello has definitely achieved that with the England squad, which in my opinion, is the hardest lot of players to win over. May be Queroz is taking too laid-back an approach to management, expecting his phenomemally talented lot of players to just do what comes naturally to them. But talent also needs direction. May be he is being too lazy or may be he is one of those who just doesn’t get it.
He needs to take a feather out of the cap of  managers of countries like Ireland and Denmark and Norway who don’t have such talent-loaded teams but manage to get super performances out of average players.  Another manager who could really sit up and pay attention is France’s no.1 romantic… no, not President Sarkozy, okay no.2 romantic Raymond Domenech, who if it’s possible, has an even stronger team than Queiroz, a ‘super-star-studded’ team as compared to Queiroz’s mere ‘star-studded’ team. But, on a serious note, come on you guys, do whatever it is, fix whatever needs to be fixed, because you got some players that deserve to be in South Africa and they got fans who deserve the pleasure of seeing their favorites battle it out for their countries. South Africa is simmering up and getting ready to sparkle!

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