GROUP G
Portugal

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

This is Portugal’s sixth World Cup, and the second time that they rock up with the world’s best player among their number (Eusébio in 1966, Ronaldo in 2014).

Comparisons will naturally be made between these two sporting giants, but CR7 seems destined to smash every record that the Black Panther has set: he’s already Portugal’s top goal scorer. Now he just needs to lead his team to better the third place achieved by Eusébio & Co in 1966. Ronaldo is at the peak of his powers and at the end of his best personal season ever. If the rest of the team can help harness his A-game, they have a chance.

THE DREAM

Watching Ronaldo raise an average team into a winning one, negotiate a tricky group – and then raise the trophy at the Maracanã. Ever since ‘Blattergate’, both team and fans have utterly united around Ronaldo, who at 29 will never get a better chance to do something incredible on the international stage. Getting one over Leo Messi’s Argentina, or the Spain side that bested them 1-0 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa along the way, would make matters even sweeter.

THE NIGHTMARE

Elimination at the group stage. It could happen, too: defeat in the opener against Germany wouldn’t leave much room for error, cranking up the pressure for the games against Ghana and USA.

The lack of natural-born goalscorers (beyond the obvious one) and less intense matches against theoretically weaker opponents are two of the reasons that Portugal regularly find themselves in the play-offs to qualify for big tournaments.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

SCARE THE KIDS: RAUL MEIRELES

With his towering Mohawk hairdo and fierce lumberjack beard, he’s the player we’d least like to encounter down a Rio back alley.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

ANNOY THE LOCALS: PEPE

The feisty defender could have represented the Selecao: the centre back was born in Maceio, but chose to seek a career in Europe after encountering a “lack of recognition” at home. After Diego Costa, he’s the deserter Brazil could have most benefited from this time around.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

BECOME A BREAKOUT STAR: WILLIAM CARVALHO

Young defensive midfielder Carvalho has the talent to become one the tournament’s biggest hits and is bound to attract suitors from across Europe. CR7 did pretty well at Old Trafford; Carvalho has been mooted as one of Manchester United’s summer targets.

DID YOU KNOW?

Portugal’s best WORLD CUP SHOWING was in 1966: THEY FINISHED THIRD AND Eusébio won the award for Best Player. After that, Portugal qualifIED ONCE in EIGHT ATTEMPTS.

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United around Ronaldo, who at 29 knows it's now or not likely, Portugal will aim to hit the knockouts at speed and go deep into July.