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Portugal Struggles to Make World Cup Finals - 2002-05-09


Portugal makes its third World Cup appearance when the tournament kicks off in South Korea and Japan. As VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, Portugal is a team that was severely tested in qualifying and has the potential do well at the World Cup.

Portugal emerged from arguably one of the most difficult qualifying groups in Europe which included Ireland and the Netherlands. Portugal went undefeated in qualifying, scoring a European best - with 33 goals - and is now ranked fifth in the world.

Three players accounted for nearly two-thirds of those goals, as Pedro Pauleta scored eight, Nuno Gomes netted seven and Luis Figo had six. Despite the impressive play, international football (soccer) commentator Derek Rae says Portugal's World Cup draw is favorable.

"There might just be a fragile side to them. They qualified, of course, from a very difficult group that also contained Holland and the Republic of Ireland, and it was nip and tuck all the way," he explains. "But they managed to get out of that group. And I think they are very happy with the draw. I do not think from their point of view it could have gone much better, given they are not a seeded team."

Portugal plays in Group D which includes co-host South Korea, the United States and Poland. Rae says the competition beyond the first round might favor Portugal.

"They are in the half of the draw that is, let us say, a bit kinder. They are not going to come up against England or Argentina or France in the round of 16 or at the quarterfinal stage. So that would give them some hope. But the big problem is they might actually come up against Italy, and I do not know if they would welcome that," he says.

Portugal placed third in the 1966 World Cup and 17th in 1986.

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