- Associated Press - Saturday, May 31, 2014

LISBON, Portugal (AP) - 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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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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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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JOAO MOUTINHO

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