Impressive defence key to Portugal progress

DURBAN - If, as is often said, good defence does indeed win World Cups then Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz has every reason to be delighted with Friday's goalless stalemate with Brazil that secured their passage to the last 16.

However much the ill-tempered encounter disappointed the thousands in the stadium and millions watching on television, Queiroz paid tribute to the defensive strength that prevented Brazil scoring in a group game for the first time in 32 years.

The world might desire the attacking endeavour that saw Cristiano Ronaldo and his team mates put seven goals past North Korea in their second group match, but for Queiroz the reality of this World Cup sometimes dicates a more combative approach.

"When we play against a team like Brazil, with so many strong, beautiful and fantastic players, you need to be on top of your fighting skills, your concentration, because if you don't do that you don't have chances to win," he said.

Semi-finalists in Germany four years ago, Portugal were considered to have modest expectations at Africa's first World Cup and, having successfully negotiated a tricky group, they next face European champions Spain.

Although Queiroz was unaware of Portugal's next opponents when he spoke after the Durban match, he said enough to suggest their approach to the clash with their Iberian neighbours would be similar to the gameplan for Brazil.

"All teams are very well organised and some of them also have the great advantage of having world class players (who) could be decisive in scoring that winning goal," he said.

"So we have to look at each game in a separate way, in a unique manner."

Portugal are unbeaten since their 6-2 loss to Brazil in November 2008, a friendly Queiroz said had taught his team an object lesson in concentration and commitment they had put into practice on Friday.

They have also conceded goals in only four games out of their last 26, an impressive statistic even if their recent opponents have included Cape Verde, Malta and China.

Queiroz, however often he trots out the statistic, has been around at the top of the game long enough not to put too much faith in such records.

"They might build up our confidence a little bit, but we can't go into the round of 16 simply with reputation and statistics. Our players need to deliver the goods."

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