Facts & figures: Portugal

Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Portugal: World Cup record:

Previous appearances in finals: Four

Best performance: 3rd place 1966

Coach: Carlos Queiroz

Resigned as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Manchester United in July 2008 for a second stint as Portugal coach, having previously failed to qualify the side for the 1994 World Cup. Queiroz's tactics and selections attracted criticism during Portugal's poor start to qualifying, but a late surge ensured a berth at the finals and brought some relief.

Key players:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid). Age: 24. Winger.

The world's most expensive player missed Portugal's last three matches through injury and did not score in any of the qualifiers before that, but will be a major threat if he can bring his profilic goalscoring, tricky runs and deadly free kicks at club level to the national side again.

Liedson (Sporting). Age: 32. Forward.

Scored a crucial equaliser against Denmark in September on his debut shortly after obtaining Portuguese nationality. A natural poacher, he could be the goalscorer Portugal needs.

Pepe (Real Madrid). Age: 26. Midfielder.

Moved up by Queiroz to midfield from his normal defence spot at Real Madrid, Pepe improved with every match and now plays a key role protecting the back four, as seen in the playoff against Bosnia.

FIFA world ranking November 2009: 5

How they qualified: A home defeat to Denmark and three consecutive draws left Portugal with an uphill task, but a last-gasp win in Albania proved a turning point. Portugal won the final three group games to book a playoff spot and then qualified by beating Bosnia with a 2-0 aggregate score.

Prospects: Have momentum and possess enormous talent, but prospects will depend on whether Queiroz can bring out the best of Ronaldo, solve a problem at the left-back position and deploy Liedson successfully to end Portugal's long-standing finishing weaknesses.