Europeans Portugal will be looking to go one step further in South Africa as they attempt to improve upon their semi-final appearance of four years ago.
While Chelsea’s Deco has long provided the creative spark for his nation many feel in light of his advancing years the Portuguese are in need of fresh impetus.
It is hoped that Zenit St. Petersburg midfielder Danny Miguel Alves could provide the youthfulness and forward thinking that could be missing from Carlos Queiroz’s engine room.
A nimble and fleet-footed attacker, 26-year-old Miguel has the ability to beat players with ease with a sudden burst of pace and change of direction. He could certainly provide a flair alternative to the likes of Raul Meireles, Tiago, Miguel Veloso and Pedro Mendes with Portugal likely to line-up with three men in midfield.
Although Miguel was raised in Venezuela he was born into a Portuguese family and therefore qualified to play for the country of his parent’s nationality.
Miguel though did start his professional career in Portugal, firstly with Maritimo and then Sporting Lisbon. Appearances were limited though and a move to Russia re-invigorated his career, Dynamo Moscow were the beneficiaries in 2005 where Miguel became player of the season in his first campaign.
After three years in Moscow his performances were such that Zenit St. Petersburg smashed the existing transfer record in the Russian league to purchase Miguel for £24m.
His debut came against Manchester United in the European Super Cup, Miguel excelled and scored, helping Zenit to lift the trophy. Subsequently Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz has been unable to ignore the playmaker and made him part of his 23-man squad for South Africa.
While Miguel might not start the tournament in the first XI for Portugal, a less than favourable contribution from the fading Deco could see Miguel thrust into the limelight.
Serbia, many people’s dark horses in South Africa, finished top of a qualifying group that contained France.
If the newly-formed nation are to progress through the group stage and beyond it’s likely that wideman Milos Krasic will be highly influential, having been the only Serbian player to appear in all 10 of their qualifying matches.
A right-sided winger, Krasic’s strengths lie in running and dribbling with the ball, using his pace to get past defenders. His playing style, along with his appearance (sporting long, blonde hair), has been likened to that of former Czech international Pavel Nedved.
While Krasic can certainly bamboozle defenders with his trickery, his enthusiasm and work rate have been crucial factors in making him one of the most sought-after players across Europe.
The 25-year-old was a crucial part of CSKA Moscow’s run to the Champions League quarter-finals, scoring four goals in nine games (including a goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United). His domestic form has also been impressive, and the winger has been praised for adding goals to his game with 10 to his name across 09/10 for CSKA.
Although his country will be hoping that Krasic can add to his international tally with only two goals from 30 caps so far.
With only a year left on his current deal at CSKA though a promising World Cup could mean Europe’s top clubs come calling. Krasic himself has earmarked the Premier League as a possible destination.
“Anyone would be interested in playing in England as it is the most challenging league in the world,” he said.
With six years in Russia under his belt and an impressive trophy hall to boot following numerous league and cup wins, Krasic could find it difficult to resist the lure of playing in Europe next season with a number of top Italian clubs also reportedly interested.