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Portuguese hoping to ‘surprise the world’

The Portugal World Cup squad

Portuguese hoping to ‘surprise the world’

After tackling themselves to a virtual standstill against the full time Fijians last Sunday night, Wales will now turn their attention to beating the part-time, Pool C minnows of Portugal.

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The last time the two teams met was in 1994 when the current interim CEO at the Welsh Rugby Union Nigel Walker scored a record equaling four tries in a 102-11 victory in Lisbon.
That was in a World Cup qualifying game the year before the game turned professional. Now the Wales players earn hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, but little or nothing has changed to Os Lobos.
For the majority of the Portuguese squad, playing at the World Cup in France is for the love of the game, not the money.
The group of part-times and amateurs can’t wait to mix it with the best teams in the world and their captain, the very accomplished centre Tomas Appleton, is a bit of a throw-back to the early years of the competition when every team turned up with ‘a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker’ in their squad.
A dentist who is studying to become a doctor, the contrast between him and the captain of the Portuguese football team, Cristiano Ronaldo, couldn’t be more stark.
In 2023, Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo once again became the world’s highest-paid athlete following his move to Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr, with the 38-year-old earning £108.7m over the year. His contract with Al Nassr is reportedly worth more than £176.5m per year.
The 54-times capped Appleton has had to take three months off work to prepare for the World Cup with no pay. The cost is immaterial to him compared to the joy of playing for his country at a World Cup.
“We just want to make the people we love proud of our efforts. If I can go to sleep at night after every World Cup game knowing we have done that, then I’ll be happy,” said the 30-year-old with more than 50 caps for his country.
“I’m a dentist who is just finishing my medicine degree. We started training on 26 June, and I blocked my work schedule then. I’ll be losing money by going to the World Cup.
“I was 15 the last time we qualified for the World Cup and I can remember watching the team then. At that time, they were the biggest idols that we had as rugby kids.
“We got a lot of inspiration from that generation, and we are so proud we can get the chance to do it all again. I started to play when I was six-years-old and we all realise that in order to grow the rugby community in Portugal we need to produce a new group of idols.
“The people of Portugal want to see a team that performs well and wins – that’s how to inspire young players to take up the game.”

Their seven try, 46-20 victory over the USA in Faro earlier last month was a great way for the team to give their fans a taste of what they hope is going to come in France. The Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, even turned up to watch his first rugby match and went into the dressing after the game to address his team.
Obviously intoxicated by the scintillating seven try destruction of the American Eagles, the president told Appleton and his players he felt they could beat both Australia and Wales and qualify out of their Pool.
“When we manage to get quality ball, it is the way we want to play. The president is really confident and if the Portuguese people don’t have trust in us, then we won’t get anywhere,” said Appleton.
“It is really important for them to have our back. Having the support from the president and our people is very important and makes us very happy.
“We just want to enjoy ourselves and show the world what we are capable of. We know we aren’t the favourites in our Pool, we struggled just to get to the World Cup, but now we want to show what we can do – we want to surprise the world.”

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Portuguese hoping to ‘surprise the world’