Monday, September 07, 2009

World Cup 2010 Qualifying: Ronaldo's plight is not as bad as it looks

Hands up who would like to see Cristiano Ronaldo not go to the World Cup? Quite a few? The majority? Such is the measure of the World Footballer Of The Year's vilification that there must be a significant number of football fans who would love it if he didn't make it to South Africa. Love it!

On the other hand, Ronaldo is one of the best players in the whole world. Why would you not want to see him playing on the ultimate stage? And yet that is precisely what could happen to both him and his Portugal team mates. In fact, if it weren't for a last minute equaliser from Liedson against Denmark last Saturday, they would be out by now. So how on Earth did a team with their pedigree found themselves find themselves so close to oblivion?

Well, the presence of the goalscorer Liedson in the side illustrates part of the problems faced by coach Carlos Queiroz.

Liedson is a Brazilian like Deco. Only unlike Deco, the 31-year-old has only recently become naturalised. His selection for the Portuguese team has attracted understandable controversy. Critics argue that the Sporting Lisbon striker is a ringer and the only reason he is in the team is because is of their appalling goalscoring record and absence of a native international class striker. In the last six matches played in their World Cup qualifying campaign, Portugal have scored just six goals. Three of those games (including a bore draw against whipping boys Albania) yielded none. It is that run that places the Portuguese in their current parlous position.

However, it is is not by any means the end of Portugal's World Cup dream. When you look at their results so far (see below), they have only lost once and that was to group leaders Denmark. Their next two games are against second placed Hungary who are in an entirely false position. The Magyars occupy that spot by virtue of the fact that they have played easy opposition in Albania and Malta twice. After that, Portugal face the Maltese at home. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Ronaldo and his team mates could walk away with maximum points. That's still enough to win Group 1 (although very unlikely) and more than enough to claim a play-off place, especially when you consider that Sweden and Denmark have to play each other.

Of course this won't make up for the deficiencies in their squad. Questions remain about the midfield and Queiroz' selection policy. however, the other way of looking at it would be that Portugal are unbeaten in five with a favourable run in. We may yet see Cristiano Ronaldo in South Africa next year. Whether that's a good thing or not I'll leave you to decide.

Portugal's World Cup Qualifying results so far:

Sep 6 2008 (W) Malta 0 - 4 Portugal
Sep 10 2008 (L) Portugal 2 - 3 Denmark
Oct 11 2008 (D) Sweden 0 - 0 Portugal
Oct 15 2008 (D) Portugal 0 - 0 Albania
Mar 28 2009 (D) Portugal 0 - 0 Sweden
Jun 6 2009 (W) Albania 1 - 2 Portugal
Sep 5 2009 (D) Denmark 1 - 1 Portugal

Remaining fixtures:

Sep 9 2009: Hungary v Portugal
Oct 9 2009: Portugal v Hungary
Oct 13 2009: Portugal v Malta


Phil said...

If Sweden beat Malta and Albania they'll have 18 points, which means that a draw in the Sweden vs Denmark game will all but eliminate Portugal and they certainly have form on that score (see Euro 2004!)

And don't forget, nothing is certain if you can't beat Albania at home!

redduffman said...

For sure Phil. Sweden have the best chance over Portugal and Hungary. But I wouldn't want to predict the outcome of their Denamark game. It's going to be an exciting climax to the group.

P Shaw said...

And also in euro 2004 Sweden and Denmark played out a draw which made sure both of them progressed from the group stage and Italy didn't, so they have played out draws before.

redduffman said...

Hmmm. If I recall it was the Italians who suggested that Sweden and Denmark contrived the draw, no one else. Had it been a 0-0 I might think that they had a case but it finished 2-2!.

Also, given the intense rivalry between the two teams I doubt they are capable of arranging a result. Remember when they met in a Euro 2008 qualifier?

Phil said...

I believe it had to be a 2-2 because of the Head-to-Head results as they both needed a bigger draw than they got vs the Italians.

As for slapping the referee =]


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