World Cup 2014 Preview: Ronaldo seeks Portugal success

By The Sports NetworkMay 31, 2014 at 6:26 PM
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Portugal will head to Brazil for this summer's World Cup with its hope of success resting squarely on the shoulders of one man: Cristiano Ronaldo.

The current FIFA Ballon d'Or holder has achieved just about everything a professional soccer player can: Champions League titles, league trophies, domestic cups, scoring titles and countless individual accolades. But the most glaring omission is success with his national team.

Ronaldo broke out on the international stage in Euro 2004 when he guided his nation to the final, only to lose on home soil to Greece.

It is the closest he has gotten to winning a trophy with Portugal, which also finished third in Euro 2012 and fourth in the 2006 World Cup. But at the age of 29, this summer's World Cup may be Ronaldo's best - and final - chance to lead Portugal to glory in a major tournament.

He's in the right vein of form to achieve success this summer as he is coming off another impressive season with Real Madrid. Ronaldo finished the La Liga campaign as top-scorer with 31 league goals while his 17 Champions League goals guided the club to a 10th European title, which culminated in an extra- time victory over Atletico Madrid on May 24.

But at the same time, there are a few minor injury concerns surrounding Ronaldo, who faded down the final months of the season through a myriad of ailments. His status for the Champions League final was in question due to a hamstring problem, but he was able to win the fitness battle and play the full match.

The state of Ronaldo's health is justifiably a major area of concern given the lack of support in the Portuguese team.

Nani is one of Portugal's better attacking options, but he was oft-injured this season and struggled to break into the Manchester United team even when healthy.

Helder Postiga is one of the team's only options for a pure striker, but his poor form this season saw him split time between Valencia in La Liga and Lazio in Serie A.

Besides Ronaldo, Portugal's greatest strength lies in the center of the pitch.

Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles will need to stay involved in breaking up the opposition's attacking efforts in order to spring Portugal's counterattacks, and then transition into attack in order to provide positional support to Ronaldo.

One player to keep an eye on is William Carvalho, who earned his first cap with the Portuguese national team in its pivotal playoff qualifier against Sweden in November. He is a holding midfielder in the mold of Yaya Toure, and his exploits for Sporting Lisbon throughout the season helped warrant a spot on the squad.

[SportsNetwork.com]

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