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Portuguese legend believes Queiroz and Ronaldo will escape group...

Portugal legend Paulo Sousa has backed his countrymen to overcome their recent poor form and progress to the latter stages of the World Cup - despite their over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sousa, who was a member of Portugal’s ‘Golden Generation’ which won the FIFA World Youth Championship under current national team boss Carlos Queiroz in 1989, believes that Portugal will actually benefit from being in the same group as Brazil - who he tips to lift the trophy - as well as the Ivory Coast and North Korea.

“I’m glad Brazil are in our group, because we can pass together and it can help us to pass, also, and then we can have them again at the end of the World Cup," the 39-year-old said, speaking exclusively to Goal.com.
 
"Ivory Coast are a strong team, with a great coach in my former boss [at Benfica] Sven-Goran Eriksson, and are always a threat. But I think Portugal and Brazil can get through.
 
“I think Brazil are favourites to win the World Cup, along with Spain who are very strong, as we saw when they won the European Championship. Argentina, Germany, Italy, Holland and England, who have improved so much under Fabio Capello, are also strong teams.

"Brazil and Spain are favourites, but for me, it’s more Brazil than Spain.

“I think Portugal are capable of beating everyone, and they need to believe in that."

Portugal have been in erratic form throughout the build-up to the tournament, and Sousa, now manager at Swansea City, puts this down to the Portuguese FA not laying new foundations as their golden generation came to an end.

“Portugal struggled so much in their qualifying group because if you don’t anticipate the end of one generation, like in my opinion we haven’t done in the national team, we stop investing in our basis," he said.

"We can see it, for example, the last four or five years we don’t have one national team in the final phases of European Cups, Under-17, Under-19, World Cups.
 
“I think the change of generation hasn’t been prepared for. In the same way, we suffered with a new coach, a new coach who knows that.

"We [Queiroz and the World Youth Cup winners] started the process of the development of Portuguese football 20 years ago, he returned, and we needed to complete a completely new team. It’s not easy."
 

With or without you | Portugal have made the World Cup without Ronaldo starring


The onus is on Real Madrid star Ronaldo to lift his team, despite having not scored or provided an assist in any of their qualifiers in reaching South Africa.

Sousa believes that if others share the workload, Ronaldo's talent will shine through on the world stage.

He added: “Ronaldo is a very important player for us. He has been the best in the world and is someone who helps us to improve.
 
“But a team can’t wait and expect to get results from one player. It needs to be the team to help the players and not the players to help the team.
 
“However, it’s true that we got the qualification in the play-off games, winning twice, without Cristiano Ronaldo. It means a lot.
 
“I don’t think expectations of Ronaldo are too high, because he’s the most pricey player in the world, he has been the best player in the world, and the expectations are at the same level for what he needs to do.

"He doesn’t feel this pressure because he also loves this kind of pressure, in my opinion. He has the quality to go above all this pressure and all these expectations.”
 
Controversially, Portugal have recruited to their ranks another Brazilian-born player in Sporting Lisbon’s Liedson, who Sousa believes answers Portugal’s traditional need for top strikers.
 
“Liedson is someone who can help us, a different player from what we have," Sousa noted.

"We have some difference with mobility and more target men like Hugo Almeida of Werder Bremen who has improved a lot in Germany.
 
“I think it’s the right thing for players like Liedson to become naturalised Portuguese when they are identified already with the country, and he can help the country to progress. I think it’s the right thing.

"France won the World Cup with how many African players? If they bring things we don’t have, to improve our game, of course it’s well received.”

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