Portugal - Northern Ireland Preview: Ronaldo looks to mark 100th cap with a return to winning ways
The Real Madrid winger will bring up a century of appearances for his country on Tuesday evening as Paulo Bento's side aim to bounce back from a disappointing defeat to Russia
By Alec Fenn
Pereira, Pepe, Alves, Lopes
Nani, Moutinho, Veloso, Micael, Ronaldo
Hughes, McGivern, McAuley, Cathcart
Evans, Baird, Davis, McCourt
But with A Seleccao slipping to a 1-0 defeat to Russia last Friday there can surely be no better time to face Paulo Bento’s side and spoil Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th cap celebrations.
That defeat leaves Portugal second in Group F, while a 1-1 draw with Luxembourg saw Northern Ireland pick up their first point in qualification and lift them into fourth spot by virtue of goal difference.
You have to go back to 2005 for the last time the two sides met and on that occasion an own goal from Stephen Craigan and a Warren Feeney strike meant both sides took a share of the spoils.
A repeat of that result would seem unlikely with the Green and Whites on a miserable run of one win in their last 10 games, but having inflicted a jaw-dropping 3-2 victory over Portugal’s great Iberian rivals Spain five years ago, it would be foolish to write off Michael O’Neill’s side before a ball has been kicked.
Fabio Coentrao misses the game with a groin injury, while Alex Bruce and Grant McCann have pulled out of the Northern Ireland squad with groin and knee injuries respectively, adding to a lengthy injury list which also includes Joe Dudgeon, Shane Ferguson, Martin Paterson, James McPake and Chris Brunt.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Cristiano Ronaldo is set to win his 100th cap for Portugal at just 27-years-old.
Paulo Bento's side currently sit in second spot in Group F with six points from their opening three World Cup 2014 qualifiers.
- Portugal have scored 40 per cent of their goals in qualification between the 75th and 90th minute.
Northern Ireland have one just one in their last 10 matches - a 2-0 victory over the Faroe Islands in August 2011.
David Healy is Northern Ireland's all-time leading goalscorer with 35 goals in 93 appearances.
- Michael O'Neill is still searching for his first victory in charge of the Green and Whites, since taking over in December 2011.
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Top 3 Predictions
Portugal 3-0 Northern Ireland
- 22.64 %
Portugal 4-0 Northern Ireland
- 15.29 %
Portugal 2-0 Northern Ireland
- 10.65 %
|World Cup 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||Sep 6, 2013||Northern Ireland 2 - Portugal 4|
|World Cup 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||Oct 16, 2012||Portugal 1 - Northern Ireland 1|
|Nov 19, 2013||Sweden 2 - Portugal 3||WCQE|
|Nov 15, 2013||Portugal 1 - Sweden 0||WCQE|
|Oct 15, 2013||Portugal 3 - Luxembourg 0||WCQE|
|Oct 11, 2013||Portugal 1 - Israel 1||WCQE|
|Sep 11, 2013||Brazil 3 - Portugal 1||FR|