PORTUGAL’S qualification for the World Cup finals has been greeted with more relief than euphoria in Lisbon, which is a sign that expectations have lowered in this footballcrazy country.
Despite doubts concerning who will stand in goal, the Portuguese defence looks fairly solid nowadays. Paulo Ferreira and Miguel are experienced rightbacks, while the muscular Jose Bosingwa is another option down the right. Coach Carlos Queiroz is lucky to have four high-quality centrebacks in Ricardo Carvalho, Bruno Alves, Fernando Miera and Pepe.
Two powerful young midfielders, Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho, have emerged since 2008 while Duda provides class and imagination out on the left. Nonetheless, it is a midfield of muscle rather than of craft and vision.
At least Portugal will be strong down the flanks. Queiroz has four quality wingers at his disposal: Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani and Simao, plus the volatile Ricardo Quaresma, who is out of form and favour.
However, reliable strikers are few and far between – often a Portuguese problem – and a lot depends on Sporting Lisbon veteran Liedson.
The Star: Cristiano Ronaldo (left) has all of the attributes needed to be the personality of the tournament: charisma, star quality, pace, power, vision, imagination – and an uncanny eye for goal.