[WORLD CUP 2014: Portugal]
When you think of USA-Portugal, it means one thing: June 5, 2002, Suwon, the opening game of the 2002 World Cup. Portugal came in as one
of the favorites, but it was the USA 3-0 after 36 minutes, and Bruce Arena
's boys hung on for a 3-2 win. For the USA, it marked its only victory over a European
team since England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil. For Portugal, unprepared after a pre-tournament jaunt to Macau, it was an international embarrassment it won't want to let happen again. USA-Portugal:
June 22, 3 p.m. ET, Manaus
Portugal, with a population of only 10.5 million, is the most successful of Europe’s smaller
“We were semifinalists at Euro 2000 and at the 2006 World Cup," says Coach Paulo Bento
, "while we reached the final of Euro 2004.
Given the size of our country and the number of players we can pick from, it’s very positive.”
Portugal has qualified for every European Championship and World Cup since 2000.
Even the Netherlands, which Portugal knocked out of three of the last four major tournaments, is 60 percent larger.
Others may have more depth, but no one else has Cristiano Ronaldo
, who scored all four goals in Portugal’s 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden in the playoff series that clinched a spot in Brazil. Ronaldo’s
hat trick in Stockholm went down as one of 2013’s greatest individual performances.
Ronaldo was enough to get Portugal through the playoffs, but he'll need help from other players
like Real Madrid's Pepe
and Fabio Coentrao
and Manchester United's Nani
if it is
to go far in Brazil.
“There will be times when an individual turns one game or another,” Paulo Bento says, "but over the course of a World Cup, a European Cup or a domestic
championship, the best teams will win." Possible 23 Goalkeepers:
Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo
(Braga), Beto (Sevilla). Defenders:
Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Ricardo Costa
(Valencia), Luis Neto (Zenit St. Petersburg), Andre Almeida (Benfica). Midfielders:
Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Nani (Man. United), Joao Moutinho
(Monaco), Bruma (Galatasaray), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Josue (Porto), Ruben Micael (Braga), William Carvalho (Sporting). Forwards:
(Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Valencia), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Silvestre Varela (Porto), Eder (Braga).