Klinsmann can repeat 2002 World Cup feat against Portugal
Portugal may have kicked off their ill-fated 2002 World Cup campaign against the US, but despite that noted difference, there are a series of eerie similarities between their start to these finals and the disaster 12 years ago.
Back then the Selecao headed to Japan and South Korea having struggled through qualifying, just pipping Holland and Ireland to a place.
It was a similar story this time around, with Portugal finishing second to Russia in their group after poor results against the likes of Israel before coming through a play-off with Sweden.
In both instances, Portugal headed to the finals as dark horses for the World Cup having reached the semi-finals of the previous European Championships.
In 2002, Portugal also had arguably the best player in the world at the time, Luis Figo, who had already captured the Ballon d’Or two years previous and had just helped Real Madrid to the Champions League.
Fast forward and it’s Cristiano Ronaldo cast in as Figo, having won football’s top individual award as well as another European Cup for Los Blancos.
The pattern doesn’t end there – in 2002 Joao Pinto received a first-half red card for Selecao in their crunch game with South Korea, at one point pushing his head into the referee in an act of sheer stupidity.
Pepe was the Pinto of 2014, needlessly pushing his head into aggravator-in-chief Thomas Muller and promptly receiving his marching orders before the break.
Back in 2002 Portugal also found themselves 3-0 down at the break in their first group game against the US – a pattern that was once again repeated once Muller bagged Germany’s third.
Even their current striking predicament bears some likenesses. Back in 2002, Nuno Gomes – a striker who impressed at the previous European Championships – was forced to play second fiddle to target man Pauleta.
This year the once-reliable Helder Postiga has been forced to watch on from the sidelines while burly lone striker Hugo Almeida leads the line to similarly limited effect.
There is of course one major difference: USA are a lot better this time around, as demonstrated by a win over Ghana – the team that beat them at the last two World Cups – which was not only crucial in terms of picking up points but also in helping the team rid themselves of that albatross.
Back in 2002 the Americans only squeezed through after Portugal fell to a shock 1-0 loss at the hands of South Korea, having lost 3-0 to Poland in their final group fixture.
The two meet next in the group and in reality a draw could be enough to see Jurgen Klinsmann’s team go through, provided they only lose narrowly to Germany in the final group game.
Do that and we could be in for a spot of déjà vu down in Brazil.
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