Euro 2000: lost in semi-finals.
2002 World Cup: failed to advance past group stage.
2004 Summer Olympics: failed to advance past group stage. Euro 2004: as host country, lost in final to Greece.
2006 World Cup: lost in semi-finals, then lost to Germany in third place match for fourth-place finish.
Euro 2008: lost in quarterfinals.
Noticing a pattern?
The past decade has been both kind and cruel to Portugal. On the one hand, it has seen them qualify for every major international tournament -- in fact, they are one of just five teams to play in every World Cup and Euro Cup since 2000. However, the ultimate goal -- hoisting the trophy at the end -- has eluded them; a fourth-place and a runners-up finish are the closest they have come to winning the World Cup and Euro, respectively.
Portugal will be making their fifth World Cup appearance in South Africa, and just like the three squads before them, the 2010 edition will be trying to match the success of that debut team that finished third, some 44 years ago. If the Selecção das Quinas are to find success in South Africa, Carlos Queiroz's squad will have to give a better showing than what they displayed in qualifying. But that is easier said than done, of course, especially when playing in the Group of Death. If Portugal cannot find the same form that they had in 2006 and 2008, then it could be a quick return home.
How They Got Here
After struggling through the first half of qualifying, Portugal righted the ship in the second half and avoided a near disastrous result by winning their final three matches to earn a playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina (Denmark won the group -- Group 1 in UEFA's qualifying -- finishing just one point ahead of Portugal).
Portugal took wins in both of their matches with Bosnia and Herzegovina to win 2-0 in aggregate and punch their ticket to South Africa.
How They've Fared Before
South Africa will mark Portugal's fifth appearance at the World Cup. The Selecção das Quinas made their debut in 1966, when they finished third -- still their best Cup showing ever -- and then didn't qualify again until 1986, when they promptly exited in the first round. Portugal was back in 2002 (another Cup in which they failed to get past the group stage), and again in 2006, when they finished fourth in Germany.
Portugal's qualification for South Africa easily makes it their most successful decade ever: the Selecção das Quinas have qualified for every edition of the World Cup and Euro Cup (Euro 2000, World Cup 2002, Euro 2004, World Cup 2006, Euro 2008, and World Cup 2010), an accomplishment they share with only four other teams: Spain, Italy, Germany, and France.
Players To Watch
Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, is not only one of Portugal's stars to watch, but is one of the most exciting players in all of the 2010 World Cup. While he failed to score in any of his seven appearances in his team's qualifying, the captain is still one of the world's best at changing the pace and outcome of any match.
Pepe will be one to watch in the Portuguese midfield, if only to see how he responds following surgery for a torn ACL suffered in December. Deco, paired with Simao in the midfield, is expected to help Portugal as well. While their scorers get most of the attention, the Selecção das Quinas are no slouch on the back end, where Bruno and Ricardo Carvalho will provide aggression and experience.
How Far They Can Get
Portugal will be looking to continue their "Golden Generation" with a repeat appearance in the semi-finals, but that may be wishful thinking. In fact, just advancing past their group would be an accomplishment -- the Selecção das Quinas was drawn into the dreaded Group of Death. With Brazil the strong favorites to win Group G, Portugal will have to battle Korea DPR and to a greater extent, Côte d'Ivoire, just to earn the runner-up position and a spot in the quarter-finals, where they would likely face Spain.
|June 15||Cote d'Ivoire||Port Elizabeth|
|June 21||Korea DPR||Cape Town|
|Fernandes, Daniel||26||2||0||Iraklis (Israel)|
|Alves, Bruno||28||29||5||Porto (Portugal)|
|Carvalho, Ricardo||32||61||4||Chelsea (England)|
|Coentrao, Fabio||22||2||0||Benfica (Portugal)|
|Costa, Ricardo||29||7||0||Valencia (Portugal)|
|Ferreira, Paulo||31||60||0||Chelsea (England)|
|Pepe||27||24||2||Real Madrid (Spain)|
|Ze Castro||27||1||0||Depotivo La Coruna (Spain)|
|Danny||26||9||1||Zenit Saint Petersburg (Russia)|
|Mendes, Pedro||31||6||0||Sporting CP (Portugal)|
|Miereles, Rual||27||32||2||Porto (Portugal)|
|Tiago||29||50||1||Atletico Madrid (Spain)|
|Veloso, Miguel||24||11||1||Sporting CP (Portugal)|
|Almeida, Hugo||26||25||7||Werder Bremen (Germany)|
|Liedson||32||8||3||Sporting CP (Portugal)|
|Nani||23||35||6||Manchester United (England)|
|Ronaldo, Cristiano||25||70||22||Real Madrid (Spain)|
|Simao||30||79||21||Atletico Madrid (Spain)|
* - age as of June 11, 2010
Ryan Hudson is an editor at SB Nation and will be contributing to SB Nation Soccer throughout the 2010 World Cup.
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