MUCH will depend on how Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, performs in Brazil.


Outright odds: 22/1

To win group: 5/2

To qualify: 4/11


Full squad: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Andre Almeida (Benfica), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Neto (Zenit St Petersburg), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Rafa (Braga), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Braga), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg).

Manager: Paulo Bento

World Cup record: Third (1966), Fourth (2006), Last 16 (2010).

How they qualified (most recent first): Second to Russia in Group B, therefore sent to a play-off with Sweden which they won 4-2 on aggregate, all four goals scored by Cristiano Ronaldo.

v Sweden (away) 3-2 (HT 0-0) Ronaldo 50, 77, 79

v Sweden (home) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ronaldo 82

v Luxembourg (home) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Varela 30, Nani 36, Postiga 78

v Israel (home) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Costa 28

v Northern Ireland (away) 4-2 (HT 1-1) Alves 21, Ronaldo 68, 77, 83

v Russia (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Postiga 9

v Azerbaijan (away) 2-0 (HT 0-0) Alves 63, Almeida 79

v Israel (away) 3-3 (HT 1-2) Alves 2, Postiga 72, Coentrao 90+3

v Northern Ireland (home) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Postiga 79

v Russia (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)

v Azerbaijan (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Varela 63, Postiga 85, Alves 88

v Luxembourg (away) 2-1 (HT 1-1) Ronaldo 28, Postiga 54

Goalscorers: Bruno Alves and Cristiano Ronaldo each contributed four goals in the group, before Ronaldo made clear his importance to the team with four further strikes across the two play-off games with Sweden.

Half-time/full-time: Slow starts can perhaps explain why Portugal needed a play-off to reach the World Cup. In each of their first six games, they either trailed or went in level at the break. In game seven they led against Russia and held onto that advantage and they did so against Luxembourg, too, but given the lack of depth to their group it's fair to say Portugal were at their most disappointing before half-time.

Clean sheets: Portugal kept four clean sheets, three of them at home, but twice failed to keep out Northern Ireland and also went behind early against Luxembourg in their very first game.

Win to nil: In a nod to where their strengths lie, Portugal won each time they kept a clean sheet.

Cards: Portugal's group games averaged a very high 4.6 cards per game but this owes largely to an ill-tempered affair with Northern Ireland, in which there were three dismissals. In eight of their 10 group matches, Portugal were awarded either one or two cards to show that, in the main, they have a strong disciplinary record, one which continued into the play-offs where they received three yellows across the two games.

Other competitive internationals: None. The last continental championship in Europe - in 2012 - saw Portugal reach the semis, losing only to eventual champions Spain on penalties.

Build-up (most recent first): Portugal's first-half struggles have continued in their post-qualifying friendlies. Ronaldo also showed his importance again - scoring twice against Cameroon and then missing the recent clash with Greece; a game which saw Portugal fail to find the target.

v Greece (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Cameroon (home) 5-1 (HT 1-1) Ronaldo 21, 83, Meireles 66, Coentrao 67, Edinho 77


Team verdict: Much will depend on how Ronaldo, the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, performs in Brazil.

He showed just what a difference he can make in Portugal's play-off victory over Sweden.

That's a worry for me, as is the trend for slow starts in games - something worth noting when it comes to match bets.

On the plus side, Portugal have been consistent tournament performers for the past decade, finishing runners-up at Euro 2004 and making the semis at both the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012 (eventual champions Spain edged them out on penalties there).

They can also consider themselves slightly unlucky to run into Spain in the last 16 of the last World Cup.

The most likely outcome for the Portuguese is that they again find one side just a bit too good in the latter stages.