The contenders: Portugal
Our profiles of FIFA's top-ranked teams continues with the team that has the most expensive player in the world and a coach that used to ply his trade in the MLS.
Before jumping into our top 3, if you want to read some of our previous team profiles, check out: 9) France | 8) England | 7) Argentina | 6) Germany | 5) Italy | 4) Netherlands
For right now, it's time to take a serious look at:
Group: G - North Korea, Ivory Coast, Brazil
World Cup history: 0 titles; Spain's neighbor has had similar troubles at the World Cup, having only qualified for the tournament four previous times. It finished fourth in 2006.
5 key players: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eduardo (FC Braga), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Deco (Chelsea), Liedson (Sporting)
>> Read about Ronaldo and other players to watch at the 2010 World Cup
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Outlook: The "Group of Death" awaits Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portugese, who will have to find a way to collect points against either Brazil or the Ivory Coast if it wants to advance out of the first round. It's a tough task for any team, let alone one that just lost it's second-best player. Nani, a devastatingly creative midfield winger for Manchester United, was supposed to start on the opposite side of Ronaldo, but has been ruled out of the World Cup with a bruised collarbone.
On the other wing, of course, is Ronaldo, FIFA's 2008 World Player of the Year and a runner-up a year ago. The debate of the current top player is up for grabs between Leo Messi, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo, but the latter's explosiveness on the ball is perhaps superior than the other two. On the attack, Brazilian-born Liedson may be the lone center striker up front with Ronaldo pushing forward down the right flank.
Defensive midfielder Pepe, who is recovering from a serious knee injury, will help out Raul Meireles in a holding role to allow the veteran Deco to generate the offense through the middle. A sturdy back line that includes Ricardo Carvalho and Bruno Alves centrally is good enough to lead this team out of the group stage.
Despite a talented bunch, there's hesitancy with putting much faith in Portugal because of its struggles to qualify and an embarrasing 0-0 draw May 24 with the 114th-ranked Cape Verde Islands. Plus, a hard-earned second-place finish in this group only means an encounter with Spain in the Round of 16.
Prediction: The injury to Didier Drogba certainly helps Portugal, which is a must-watch team in a must-watch group. Despite the Nani injury, I'm predicting six points and advancement.
Goalkeepers: Eduardo (FC Braga), Beto (FC Porto), Daniel Fernandes (Iraklis)
Defenders: Duda (Malaga), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Miguel Brito (Valencia), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Rolando (FC Porto), Fabio Coentrao (Benfica), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Lille)
Midfielders: Deco (Chelsea), Tiago (Atletico Madrid), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), Pedro Mendes (Sporting), Miguel Veloso (Sporting Lisbon), Ruben Amorim (Benfica)
Forwards: Simao Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen), Danny (Zenit St. Petersburg), Liedson (Sporting Lisbon)