Por: Inside The World Cup
Which Portugal player has a famous footballing ancestry in Brazil, which mild-mannered striker lost his head in the heat of an Istanbul derby, and who can be recognised by his beard?
This article is part of the Guardian’s World Cup 2014 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between 32 of the best media organisations from the countries who have qualified for the finals in Brazil. theguardian.com is running previews from four countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 12 June.
This will be a special tournament for Bruno Alves since he comes from a Brazilian family. The central defender was born in Portugal but his father Washington is from Brazil and used to play for Flamengo. In 1974, Washington Alves accepted the proposal to play for Varzim in the Portuguese championship and has remained in the country ever since. The uncle of Bruno Alves, named Geraldo, was also a rising star at Flamengo, playing at the same time as Zico, a very close friend. Nicknamed The Whistler, because he had the strange habit of whistling while dribbling past opponents, Geraldo Alves died tragically at just 22 years old during a hospital operation.
In 2010, the former president of Sporting Lisbon called João Moutinho a “rotten apple”, after selling the midfielder to Porto for €11m (£8.9m). José Eduardo Bettencourt claimed that Moutinho was forcing a way out of the club where he had made his name. The player ended up being a brilliant signing for Porto and, three years later, was sold to Monaco for €25m (£20.2m). Sporting earned almost €5m from this deal. “Sporting should be very happy. We were able to buy a ‘rotten apple’ for €11m and sold it for €25m,” joked the president of Porto, Pinto da Costa, after the protest of the Lions of Lisbon, who claimed that the deal was made for a higher value.
The tall and powerful striker has been a regular scorer in Turkish football with Besiktas, and doesn’t usually lose his temper. Butin December 2013 he went a little mad when a fan of Kasimpasa entered the field and decided to kick Manuel Fernandes, another Portuguese player for Besiktas. The home team immediately surrounded the fan in question but that didn’t prevent Hugo Almeida from getting his own back, and he kicked the fan while he was laid on the ground. For that, the striker was sent off.
In 2008, the goalkeeper was having a great season at Leixoes and the press were debating a possible starting place in the Portugal team. Jorge Jesus, now the coach of Benfica, ended up saying that only goalkeepers taller than 1.83m (Beto is 1.80m) can make it to the top. “I read what he said, I respect the opinion but I want to prove in the field that that is not true,” said Beto, who didn’t let the statement unsettle him and continues to show his value. This season, he was brilliant at Sevilla and got the team to the final of Europa League, where his side faced Benfica, coached by Jorge Jesus. Beto saved two penalties in the shootout to give Sevilla the trophy and perhaps prove a point to Jesus.
The Fenerbahçe midfielder continues to show a unique sense of style. He has countless tattoos on his body and, since arriving in Turkey, has embraced the national beard custom. Nowadays, Meireles opts for a Mohican hairstyle (perhaps due to his progressive lack of hair) and a lumberjack style beard. He is easily spotted on the pitch.
The central defender celebrated his 33rd birthday on 16 May and is on his way to a third World Cup. That record, never achieved before in Portuguese Football, is at reach for only two players: Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Costa. The first is the big star of the team but Ricardo was always seen as a reliable backup. In fact, since February of 2005, the defender has played only 17 times for Portugal. In World Cup 2010, nevertheless, Carlos Queiroz decided to place Ricardo on the right side of the defence, to face Brazil and Spain. In the second game, the natural central defender was sent off and Portugal went home. Now, he is the captain of Valencia in Spain. And in Brazil, one can expect Ricardo Costa to be on the bench, once again.