The effervescent forward would be in the conversation for the greatest player ever if his career had not coincided with that of Lionel Messi. The Portuguese has nevertheless been better than his rival for the last year and a half or so, and he does more for his country, as the dynamo of a snappy attack, than the little Argentinian does.
Action Images / ReutersRAFAEL MARCHANTE
In their first trip to the World Cup in 1966, Portugal leaned on Eusébio to reach the last four. It proved an aberration rather than a regular course of action, with just one more World Cup trip booked until 2002. The emergence of a deeper and stronger crop of players marshaled by Fernando Couto, Rui Costa, Luis Figo and Pauleta guided the country onto the proper path and paved the way for the success to come. A fourth-place finish in Germany in 2006 marked the high point, but the Portuguese have not missed a major tournament in this century.
Getty ImagesHulton Archive
Portugal and the United States will meet in their second group stage game. The very thought of facing Ronaldo – or Nani – should give the American backs sleepless nights. But the game is ever so crucial for both teams. Because neither can count on getting a result against Germany – the first game for Portugal and the last for the United States -- and Ghana are nearly as tricky an opponent. So both teams will need to get a result from this contest, and probably a win. Should the Americans devise some kind of novel way of stopping Ronaldo, however, or at least curb his effectiveness somewhat, they might just be able to pull off the upset.
AFP/Getty ImagesJONATHAN NACKSTRAND
How they got here
The kind draw in Group F placed importance on two factors: emerging from the pair of matches against Russia with four points and taking care of business against the lesser sides in the group. Portugal failed on both counts by merely holding serve against the Russians and throwing away points against Israel twice and Northern Ireland once. Those missteps condemned the Portuguese to a difficult playoff against Sweden, but Ronaldo somehow bested Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a thrilling 3-2 second leg triumph in Solna to seal a trip to Brazil.
Action ImagesCarl Recine
Difficult. Germany, Ghana and the United States isn’t a group that any team would have hoped for. And since the Portuguese are so strong in their own right, this makes Group G the tournament’s other group of death. Germany is one of Europe’s strongest teams; Ghana is the same in Africa. The USA, meanwhile, upset Portugal 3-2 the last time they met in a World Cup, in 2002.
AFP/Getty ImagesNELSON ALMEIDA
Round of 16 prospects
Manageable. The strongest team Portugal could face is Belgium, which shares Group H with Algeria, Russia and South Korea. That’s a team they should be able to beat. And any of the other opponents should be quite easy to discard.
Action ImagesAlex Morton
Ronaldo's brilliance ensures Portugal enters this tournament with hope of a deep run through the knockout stages. Portugal boss Paulo Bento has resources at his disposal with a strong back four and João Moutinho in midfield, but the dearth of alternatives in the final third and the uncertainty about Rui Patricio between the sticks creates some cause for concern. The end product could see Portugal match those fourth-place finishes from 1966 and 2006 with Ronaldo in irrepressible form, but a quarterfinal exit represents perhaps a more likely scenario.