Portugal Team Of The Decade 2000-2010

As we approach 2010, Goal.com's Luís Mira selects his Portugal best XI from the past decade...
This decade has been one of the best in the history of Portugal, who have participated in every Euro and World Cup competition.

After missing out on the 1998 World Cup, Portugal were a big hit at Euro 2000, sending both England and Germany out of the tournament at the group stages, and defeating Turkey at the quarter-finals before meeting France, whom they lost to following a controversial penalty after an Abel Xavier handball.

Portugal were considered one of the favourites for the 2002 World Cup after their impressive campaign in Belgium and the Netherlands, but they surprisingly crashed out of the tournament in the groups following defeats to the USA and South Korea. After the tournament, Antonio Oliveira resigned as coach, being replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari.

With 'Big Phil', things changed for Portugal, who reached the final of Euro 2004, held in their country, after defeating the likes of Spain and England. Despite being big favourites for the final against Greece, a 1-0 defeat ruined their dream of lifting the trophy at home.

It was the end of an era in Portuguese football: several players of the "Golden Generation" had decided to retire from international football and, domestically, many had left Champions League winners FC Porto to play abroad.

At the 2006 World Cup, Portugal sent England and Holland packing once again, only to suffer a defeat to France following a penalty, whereas at Euro 2008, they exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage after losing 3-2 to Germany.

Things do not look good for Portugal and their head coach, Carlos Queiroz, with the side on the verge of missing out on the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After losing many players that had been crucial for the team's successes, Portugal are finding it very hard to produce adequate replacements for some positions.

Formation: 4-5-1

Ricardo
(2001-present)

The former Sporting goalkeeper, sadly famous for closing his eyes in crossing situations, has played an important role in his national team's success story this decade. He may be weak in dealing with crosses, but he provided one of this decade's most beautiful football moments, when he defended Darius Vassell's penalty after taking his gloves off, and then scored the deciding penalty to send Portugal to the semi-finals of Euro 2004. At the 2006 World Cup, he would once again prove decisive, defending three penalties in the shoot-out against England to send Sven-Goran Eriksson's side packing.



Bosingwa (2007-present)

Bosingwa's introduction into Portugal's duties happened at a time when the national team had two other options available: Paulo Ferreira and Miguel. With the latter unable to impose himself under Luiz Felipe Scolari and the former plagued by injuries, Bosingwa found his space in the squad in 2007, and his attacking attributes, combined with his defensive coolness, have been a breath of fresh air for the Tugas. He played very well at Euro 2008 and it appears that he will grab the right-back position for many years.



Rui Jorge (1994-2003)

On the left side of the defense, though, Portugal have been the polar opposite, struggling to find a quality solution ever since Rui Jorge decided to retire. The former Porto and Sporting defender, who retired from football three years ago, was an important member of the squad at Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002, before losing his place to Nuno Valente at Euro 2004, when he was a 31-year-old footballer. Competent in defensive tasks and qualified to support the attack, Rui Jorge is still missed today at Portugal, who currently have no solid option to occupy this position.

Jorge Andrade (2001-present)

One of the best centre-backs Portugal have had this decade, Jorge Andrade's presence in the heart of the defense has been really missed. He played his first match at senior level for the country in 2001, and became a regular choice until 2006, when a serious injury ruled him out of the World Cup. Although he featured in the qualifiers for Euro 2008, another injury kept him out of the final competition. Currently without a club after seeing his contract with Juventus being cancelled, it is unknown whether 31-year-old Jorge Andrade will ever return to action at a high level. However, his contribution to the national team is undeniable, and his partnership with Ricardo Carvalho is one still worth remembering.



Ricardo Carvalho (2003-present)

The Chelsea defender was one of the many players introduced by Scolari, with Carvalho's first call-up being just in 2003, when he was having a great season with Porto. The 31-year-old has been a regular option ever since, playing for Portugal at Euro 2004 and 2008 and the 2006 World Cup. In six years, Carvalho has made 53 appearances, and he remains the team's most experienced defender following Jorge Andrade's injury problems. The ex-Porto man, who is also Portugal's vice-captain, has saved his side's keepers from trouble many times and he will certainly remain in the starting XI for some more years.



Costinha (1998-2006)

Costinha was lucky enough to arrive at the Portugal national team at a time when Paulo Sousa's career was already nosediving because of his constant injuries. An important member of the squad at Euro 2000, he was omitted from the side's plans at the 2002 World Cup, being called up for Euro 2004 after a great Champions League-winning season with Porto. Despite being without a club in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup, he was included in Scolari's plans for the tournament because of his importance in the squad, having been a regular choice in Germany. He may not have been an eye-catching midfielder, but his presence ahead of the defence was noticeable on many occasions and he certainly did his job as a holding piece.



Cristiano Ronaldo (2003-present)

What to say of that which has been exhaustively talked about for the past years? Cristiano Ronaldo, introduced into Portugal's senior squad in 2003 by the hand of Scolari in a friendly against Kazakhstan, has become such an influential member of the team that it appears to be revolving around him. His technique, dribbling and creativity have given Portugal plenty of reasons to brag about and he has not reached his peak just yet. At the age of 24, Ronaldo has already netted 22 goals for his country, and appears to be en route to succeed Pauleta as Portugal's top scorer.



Luis Figo
(1991-2006)

One of the best Portuguese footballers to ever grace the stage, Luis Figo began his senior international career as an 18-year-old in 1991 against Luxembourg, shortly after helping his side win the FIFA U-20 World Cup. An instrumental piece of the so-called "Golden Generation", Figo was deeply involved in Portugal's success story at Euro 2000 and 2004, having announced his retirement from international football after the competition hosted in his native country. However, he would reverse his decision, helping Portugal reach the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup. A genius in every way, Figo always seemed to be one of the few willing to sacrifice all for the cause during the 15 years he played for country, becoming Portugal's most-capped player.



Rui Costa (1993-2004)

Another shining member of the "Golden Generation", Rui Costa was practically just as important as Figo during his 11 years of duty for his country. His senior international debut came in 1993 in a friendly with Switzerland, three years before he helped Portugal qualify for Euro 1996 with an outstanding goal from outside the area. At Euro 2000, he was a key member of the side that reached the semi-finals of the competition, and four years later, after losing his place in the starting XI to Deco, he came on as a substitute to score on two occasions. Despite being close friends with Figo, he did not follow the former Inter man in returning to international action after Euro 2004. Rui Costa, the third most-capped player of Portugal and their fifth-highest scorer in history, was acknowledged for his perfect passing, which, combined with his constant runs from midfield, made him one of the best providers in the business of the decade.



Deco (2003-present)

As a Brazilian-born player, the introduction of Deco into Portugal's team plans was anything but quiet within the Portuguese people, but everyone quickly forgot about nationality issues when he scored a goal against Brazil on his debut. Since then, he has shown the reason why he was called 'The Magician' during his time with Porto, guiding the team's attack with his impressive passing skills. He has been able to fill Rui Costa's shoes as Portugal's playmaker, although his recent slump in form has also been felt while playing for the national team.



Pauleta (1997-2006)

As the saying goes (one should be made at least), Portugal have not produced a decent striker since Eusebio. And, as such, the Tugas have been forced to make do with striking options that are not exactly worldclass material. Pauleta has been the best of this decade and by the looks of it, he will continue being remembered as the best front-man Portugal have produced in recent times. A great scorer in qualifiers, Pauleta would always struggle to find the net when he was at the big competitions. Nonetheless, he is still Portugal's best scorer in history, and that alone makes his presence on this roster a must.



Ricardo

Bosingwa - Ricardo Carvalho - Jorge Andrade - Rui Jorge

Costinha

Luis Figo - Deco - Rui Costa - Cristiano Ronaldo

 Pauleta

Do you agree with those who made it into the Portugal Team of the Decade 2000-2010? What would be your XI? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think...

Luís Mira, Goal.com