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Portugal World Cup soccer team in scoring slump

Portugal, despite boasting A-list players including Cristiano Ronaldo, needs to start scoring if it is to succeed in the Cup.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo controls the ball during a World Cup qualifying match against Albania in Braga, Portugal on October 15, 2008. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters)

Portugal World Cup Team Statistics: Group G

Status: Advances to round 2, knocked out quarterfinals

World Ranking: 3

World Cuo 2010 results: 1-1-2

Total goals scored: 7

Total goals scored against: 1

Portugal World Cup Schedule: June 15 - Ivory Coast (0-0 draw); June 21 - North Korea (7-0 win); June 25 - Brazil (0-0 draw), June 29 - Spain (0-1 loss).

Portugal World Cup Soccer 2010

While most European nations confront deep divides along regional, religious, or ethnic lines, Portugal remains one of the continent’s most homogeneous countries. Its historic divide centers on soccer: Benifica, Sporting or FC Porto.

For the big tourneys, however, the three tribes unite and national pride swells. Flags hang from virtually every window for the duration of Portugal’s World Cup stand. This World Cup resonates even more than usual because of Portugal’s first-round match with its former colony, Brazil.

Read all of GlobalPost's World Cup 2010 coverage

The two haven’t clashed at the Cup since 1966 when, led by the legendary Eusebio, Portugal ousted Pele’s Brazil from the competition. Reeling from the economic slump, Portugal dreams of the balm of victory, but after recent disappointments — most notably, defeat at home in the 2004 Euro finals — expects heartbreak instead.

Portugal World Cup History: Though blessed with A-list talents through the years, Portugal has only played in four World Cups. However, it reached the semis in both 1966 and 2006.

Portugal World Cup Conventional Wisdom: Fans' expectations are a bit muted after Portugal, despite its number three in the world ranking, barely scraped into the finals. The Portuguese are notoriously fatalistic and their team’s fate may have been sealed when it was drawn into a group with Brazil and African power Ivory Coast.

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Portugal World Cup Team Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Queiroz, who spent years as Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man at Manchester United, is highly respected as both a master tactician and a steadying bench presence. He guided two Portuguese youth teams to World Cup titles, but hasn’t replicated that success at the senior level. With Queiroz at the helm, South Africa bounced out of the 2002 World Cup after the first round and Portugal struggled through 2010 qualification.

Portugal World Cup Team Strength: While the touted offense never found its rhythm during qualification, the defense stepped up and proved to be rock-solid, allowing only five goals in a dozen games.

Portugal World Cup Team Weakness: The team’s scoring woes had fans citing a host of problems — questionable fitness, sluggish work habits, bad decision-making around the net — that crippled the attack. But the biggest concern was Cristiano Ronaldo’s scoring slump.

Portugal World Cup Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Of the handful of superstars in the tournament, nobody looks and acts the part better than Ronaldo. Strong, swift, brash and handsome, Ronaldo, still just 25 years old, has cut a swath through Europe, first with Manchester United (he was World Player of the Year in 2008) and now with Real Madrid.

He is a proven scorer at the highest levels; in World Cup '06 qualifying he scored seven goals, then banged in another eight in qualifying for the 2008 Euros. Yet Ronaldo failed to score a single goal in World Cup ’10 qualifying. Nagging injuries and roughhouse defensive tactics don’t quite explain the slump — especially after Ronaldo averaged almost a goal a game this season for Real Madrid. Portugal needs him to rediscover that scoring touch team in order to dominate on attack.

 


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