Portugal need more than Cristiano Ronaldo to flourish at FIFA World Cup

Jun 07 2014, 17:41 IST
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SummaryPortugal's troubles in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers have shown that they will need a lot more than an on-song Cristiano Ronaldo to mount a serious challenge in Brazil.

Portugal's troubles in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers have shown that they will need a lot more than an on-song Cristiano Ronaldo to mount a serious challenge in Brazil.

Although they can beat any team on their day, Portugal are prone to unexplained lapses and can be chronically wasteful in attack.

Portugal reached Brazil in style with Ronaldo netting all their goals over the two legs of a memorable 4-2 aggregate playoff win over Sweden.

But that performance masked a difficult qualification campaign in which they were held to unexpected draws by Northern Ireland and Israel and forced into the drama of a two-leg playoff after losing Group F's top spot to Russia.

It could have been even worse had Ronaldo not dug them out of a hole in the match away to Northern Ireland, scoring a second-half hat-trick in a 4-2 win after they had trailed 2-1 and been reduced to 10 men.

"We certainly had an inconsistent campaign. If that wasn't the case, we wouldn't have had to contest a playoff," said coach Paulo Bento.

"Even though we lost one of the games against Russia, we put in two good performances, but there were three other matches in which we didn't play so well."

Worryingly for Portugal, Ronaldo has suffered some nagging minor injuries in the run-up to the World Cup and was rested for their friendly against Greece in Lisbon and Portugal's training sessions after complaining of muscular pain in his left thigh.

After years of basing their game around a playmaker, firstly Rui Costa and then Deco, Portugal have changed their style to try and get the best out of Ronaldo.

Although they traditionally play a possession game, under Bento they have started to mix this with long passes into space for Ronaldo and Nani to run on to.

After Ronaldo, midfielder Joao Moutinho has become the most influential player in the team. The Monaco player is part of a fluid three-man midfield triangle which dictates the pace, tirelessly recovering balls and delivering pinpoint passes.

Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao are two energetic fullbacks who like to burst forward and, in Pepe and Bruno Alves, they have a fiery, intense pair of centre backs, sometimes too much so.

A big concern is the centre forward position where Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida have been less than clinical.

The highly unpredictable Ricardo Quaresma would have been an interesting alternative, but was overlooked by Bento, the third World Cup in

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