WORLD CUP 2014: Can Portugal last the distance?

After another glittering season in Liga BBVA, when discussing Portugal’s chances in this Summer’s World Cup, all eyes turn to former Manchester United man Cristiano Ronaldo. Unquestionably their greatest threat going forward, CR7 will certainly look to silence any critics and prove his worth on the biggest stage in world football as opposed to simply performing at club level. Inevitably one man can only do so much and therefore his Portuguese teammates will need to provide support in all areas of the pitch to allow Ronaldo to play his game so successfully. For Madrid, the reason why Ronaldo has been able to blossom is largely down to the depth in all areas that Madrid have. When they perform, a Ronaldo performs. Yet when they find themselves in some difficulty in which they encountered against cross city rivals Atletico Madrid, Ronaldo’s influence is somewhat limited.

Therefore I suppose we must ask ourselves, do Portugal have the necessary depth of talented players to allow Ronaldo to shine? Personally, I believe they do. With the wealth of experience at the back from Pepe, Coentrao and Bruno Alves replicated in all areas with Nani and Helder Postiga being no strangers to World Cup football, Portugal can apply a delicate mix of such experience with one or two standout young performers from the Primeira Liga with the likes of Rafa and William Carvalho expected to play integral parts for Portugal most likely off the substitute bench.

The surprise omission of an inform Quaresma may live to haunt Paulo Bento and his side because as we all remember, most memorably from both the 2006/202 tournaments, Quaresma on a good day can be almost unplayable and a real force to be reckoned with. However question marks over his commitment and enthusiasm whether it be domestically or at an international level have ultimately plagued his career and it is these inconsistencies and doubts which have therefore led to his removal as Bento’s squad was reduced from 30 to 23 players earlier this month.

Portugal, who roll into this summer’s competition after an easy 5-1 friendly victory against the Republic of Ireland will be hoping that Ronaldo and co can prove their worth throughout the competition and progress from a tough group where they will face the 2010 surprise package Ghana, the ever present USA and one of the clear favourites to lift the coveted trophy, Germany. Their opening tie against Joachim Low’s German side will determine who has the better likelihood of progressing as group winners in Brazil and unquestionably, a Portuguese win against a very strong German side would certainly raise expectations sky high throughout the country.

All things considered, I believe that with the squad they have and the various stars who compete all over Europe, there really is no reason why on paper they shouldn’t comfortably succeed and progress into the round of 16. However if Ronaldo doesn’t perform or the squad around him fails to play to the level necessary, they may struggle. Portugal will look to youth in times of difficulty as they no longer have a Pauleta or Deco who they can rely on and either Ghana or the USA could capitalise on their inexperience and youthful ways and cause an upset this summer.

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