Portugal

For all you grid iron lovin’, ice hockey playin’ North Americans who bitch about soccer being boring, defensive and uneventful I suggest you take a leap of faith and watch a couple of World Cup matches featuring Portugal this year. They are the St. Louis Rams of international football, or possibly the Colorado Avalanche of a few years ago. Simply put, they are an offensive powerhouse and thoroughly entertaining.

One thing is certain, the Portugese will win more games 3–2 than 1–0. They are loaded with offensively gifted midfielders and forwards, like reigning FIFA Footballer of the Year Luis Figo as well as world-class talents like Pauleta, Nuno Gomes, Sergio Conceicao and Manuel Rui Costa. While the back end of the European squad is average at best, goalkeeper Vitor Baia, a stand out in the club’s third place finish in Euro 2000, has recovered from a severe knee injury and should be able to keep them in any game.

The Portugese are a good bet to make some noise this time out, even make it to the finals. While they will have to get by teams like Italy, Germany and Croatia to get there, don’t be too surprised to see Figo et al playing for global bragging rights in Yokohama June 30.

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