Portugal has long been admired for producing talented players, and their flair has earned them the tag of “the Brazilians of Europe.”

But Portugal heads to the World Cup still looking for its champagne moment after coming up short at past tournaments. The Portuguese lost in the final at the 2004 European Championship and in the semifinals at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Here are five players to watch:
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Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo kicks a ball toward the goal during training June 4, 2014 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Portugal made a stop in the US for training and warm up games on their way to brazil for the World Cup. (DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo kicks a ball toward the goal during training June 4, 2014 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Portugal made a stop in the US for training and warm up games on their way to brazil for the World Cup. (DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

CRISTIANO RONALDO

Along with Lionel Messi and Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world-class stars expected to light up the tournament.
Since his debut at 18 in 2003, Ronaldo has grown into the Portuguese team’s dominant figure. Now 29, he will arguably be at the peak of his international career in Brazil.

Ronaldo has been in deadly form in front of goal. This season, he became Portugal’s all-time leading scorer and has also surpassed Real Madrid great Ferenc Puskas’ mark of 242 goals for the Spanish club.
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Portugal's defender Pepe warms up during a training session at Praia del Rey, near Obidos on May 29, 2014 during the training camp Portugal is holding in preparation for the upcoming WC 2014 in Brazil.  AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG

Portugal’s defender Pepe warms up during a training session at Praia del Rey, near Obidos on May 29, 2014 during the training camp Portugal is holding in preparation for the upcoming WC 2014 in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG

PEPE

Portugal and Brazil are bound by centuries of history, family ties and a shared language. While Brazilian talent at European clubs is a common sight, Portugal has turned to its one-time colony for the national team, too, as many Brazilian players are entitled to dual nationality.

Pepe is one of them, and has made 57 appearances since his 2007 debut. The 31-year-old Real Madrid defender is a mainstay who can also add muscle to the midfield.

Before him on the list of Brazilian-born Portugal players were midfielder Deco, who appeared 75 times for Portugal, starting out under Luiz Felipe Scolari _ another Brazilian and Portugal’s longest-serving coach, between 2003 and 2008 _ and Liedson, a striker who made 15 appearances.
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Portugal's midfielder Joao Moutinho eyes the ball during a training session at Praia del Rey, near Obidos, on May 28, 2014. Portugal is holding a training camp in preparation for the upcoming WC 2014 in Brazil.  AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG

Portugal’s midfielder Joao Moutinho eyes the ball during a training session at Praia del Rey, near Obidos, on May 28, 2014. Portugal is holding a training camp in preparation for the upcoming WC 2014 in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/ FRANCISCO LEONG

JOAO MOUTINHO

Monaco midfielder Joao Moutinho keeps a low profile, but his vision, expert passing and high work rate have made him the focal point of Portugal’s attacking moves.

Moutinho has made 66 appearances since 2005, though in Brazil he will be looking to build on his meagre two-goal tally.

He produced a standout performance in Portugal’s semifinal match at the 2012 European Championship before missing the target in a penalty shootout that gave Spain victory.
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Portugal's Nani attends a news conference June 3, 2014 in Florham Park, New Jersey. The team will be training a the New York Jets training facility during a stop on their way to the World Cup in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT

Portugal’s Nani attends a news conference June 3, 2014 in Florham Park, New Jersey. The team will be training a the New York Jets training facility during a stop on their way to the World Cup in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/DON EMMERT

NANI

Manchester United winger Nani has had a miserable time over the past year due to injuries and poor form. The World Cup offers him the stage for a comeback.

Nani’s peak form at his Premier League club came in the 2010-11 season when his teammates voted him their player of the season. Hopes were high that Portugal had discovered another Cristiano Ronaldo.

But since then Nani has faded, and he didn’t find the net for 16 months up to October’s qualifier against Luxembourg when he stood in for Ronaldo as team captain.
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Greece's midfielder Giorgos Karagounis  (R) vies with Portugal's midfielder William Carvalho (L) during the friendly football match Portugal vs Greece at the Jamor National stadium in Oeiras on the outskirts of Lisbon on May 31, 2014 held in preparation for the World Cup Championship 2014 in Brazil.  AFP PHOTO/ PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA

Greece’s midfielder Giorgos Karagounis (R) vies with Portugal’s midfielder William Carvalho (L) during the friendly football match Portugal vs Greece at the Jamor National stadium in Oeiras on the outskirts of Lisbon on May 31, 2014 held in preparation for the World Cup Championship 2014 in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/ PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA

WILLIAM CARVALHO

Defensive midfielder William Carvalho is regarded as one of Portugal’s promising newcomers.

Carvalho was named the Portuguese league’s player of the month for three straight months between October and December. In November, he made his first two national team appearances, coming on as a substitute in a tense playoff match against Sweden and impressing with his composure.

Like Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, he is a product of Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy.

Carvalho, who will be 22 at the World Cup, is highly regarded for his powerful physique and heading skills, impressive readingof the game, and speed at tipping play from defence to attack.

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