Monday is a must-win for Portugal
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
JOHANNESBURG - There is only one goal for Portugal on Monday: Beat North Korea.
Miss the opportunity and the task to advance from the Group of Death comes down to having to beat Brazil in your final match. That isn't the kind of future that doesn't looks particularly promising.
Portugal tied its first game in Group G 0-0 with the Ivory Coast. It was a performance that lacked conviction or inspiration.
The only great chance it had came off a Cristiano Ronaldo shot. It was the only time Ronaldo was really in evidence. After the first 20 minutes, he disappeared and his teammates did little to bring him into the game.
Portugal can't afford another indifferent performance. North Korea proved in its 2-1 loss to Brazil that it can make things difficult for any team.
Beautiful play is not a necessity for North Korea. It wants to remain in the game.
Breaking them down will not be easy.
It will most likely take a solid individual effort to open up the game and the most obvious person to cleave a defence open.
But he must show more involvement. Yes, Ronaldo was frustrated against the Ivory Coast because he didn't see a lot of service and didn't think the referee protected him enough. Ronaldo tuned out.
If Ronaldo isn't ready to play, it will make things a lot easier for the North Korean defence.
Portugal may also have to deal with the loss of key midfielder Deco. He missed training with a hip injury.
As it was, Deco didn't produce much in the opener either, but Portugal doesn't have an abundance of creative talent in the midfield.
"In an opening game, you take fewer risks. You don't throw everything into attack,"
Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz said. "The second game will be much more straightforward: We have to make things happen ... we have to win to give ourselves a chance of progressing."
Queiroz has been criticized for making the team more conservative.
Liedson, a striker with Portugal, says Quieroz has told them to attack.
"We've been working hard on our scoring this week. We have to start putting the ball in the net," Liedson said "Queiroz has been focusing on that."
Like some of the other top nations at this World Cup, Portugal needs to put in a good game. It would help their confidence.
But if the Portuguese win, they will have earned it.
"We know how North Korea will play," said Raul Meireles. "We know they'll put 10 men behind the ball, but we are working very hard to make sure we can break through this barrier. Defensively, all the teams here are strong and the games have been evenly contested. We have to wait for the right moment, when they open up a gap, so we can take advantage and score a goal."
The bottom is far simpler. It can be explained in one word: Ronaldo.
Ronaldo can lift a team to greater heights when he's at his best.
But if he plays as he did against the Ivory Coast -- drifting out of the play, not getting involved -- Portugal will reflect that as well.