Stumbling Portugal could find themselves on an early flight home

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After barely scraping through qualifying, ill-prepared Portugal will need to dramatically up their game.

Despite having one of the world’s best players, Cristiano Ronaldo, in their ranks, it is hard to see how Portugal can be overly confident heading to the 2010 Football World Cup.

Portugal took a paltry three points in four games against Denmark and Sweden in qualifying and only a 92nd minute winner against minnows Albania ultimately ensured they made the playoffs.

Ronaldo himself has failed to shine in recent times for Portugal, he has scored just one goal on the International scene since a strike against the Czech Republic at Euro 2008 so perhaps he is one to avoid in the Top Goalscorer market. If Portugal are to progress they surely need Ronaldo replicating his best club form.

However, for all the negativity of qualifying there is something special happening defensively for the Portuguese – they head into May 2010 with six consecutive clean sheets and have conceded just one goal in international football since June 2009.

Simao hit four goals in qualifying and may be crucial in a group in which they will no doubt see the confrontation with the Ivory Coast as all important and it’s hard to call a winner in that game.

If both lose to Brazil and draw with each other, it could well come down to who can score more goals against North Korea and in that respect Portugal look the less likely – they’ve scored just twelve goals in their last ten competitive games.

Portugal have also chosen not to over-exert themselves ahead of heading to South Africa. Since qualifying they have faced just China in a friendly and in the coming weeks face Cape Verde, Cameroon and Mozambique, and the best quality opposition they’ve faced since the start of 2009 has been Denmark and Sweden.

This lack of high profile preparation could be the reason Portugal find themselves heading home at the first stage.

Do you think Portugal will be too much for Ronaldo to carry? Then back them to depart at the first hurdle at 5/4.

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