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World Cup 2014: Twelve Picks for an Investor's Dream Team

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One dozen top FIFA World Cup teams profiled: What are their chances in Brazil? What's the top stock in each market?

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Portugal


World Cup pedigree and prospects: Portugal is appearing in its sixth World Cup, and a third-place finish that the side making its tournament debut in 1966 achieved remains the country's best showing by some distance. Subsequent teams have flattered only to deceive, including a couple of ignominious early exits. This vintage, led by current world Footballer of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo, should progress from a tough group, and can count upon a home-away-from-home atmosphere in Brazil. Portugal enjoyed an excellent Euro 2012 tourney, but aging legs are unlikely to take them beyond the quarterfinals.

Player to watch: In Ronaldo, who was named by his father after Ronald Reagan, Portugal has an incomparable player quite capable of "winning one for the Gipper" all on his own. The forward has a fabulous bag of tricks and is coming off another outstanding season for Europe's club kings Real Madrid. Portugal arrived in Brazil courtesy of a 4-0 aggregate route of Sweden in which Ronaldo grabbed all four goals. Niggling injuries to knee and thigh -- allegedly inflicted by a Ghanaian witch doctor named "Devil of Wednesday" -- may restrict his normally graceful movement.

Famous fútbol feat: Decades of subsequent deprivation have compelled North Koreans to eat grass, but back in '66 they could play a bit on it, too. In a quarterfinal for the ages, the Asian team took a three-goal lead inside 25 minutes, only for Portugal to eventually win an astonishing match 5-3. It did so on the back of four successive strikes from the great Eusébio. Portugal's Mozambique-born striker, who died earlier this year, won the tournament's Golden Boot as top scorer with nine goals. The "Black Pearl" was a true great, and rates just a touch below Pelé in the pantheon.

Economy -- on its toes or down at heel? "Feet first" best described Portugal's precarious financial position only a few years ago. Subsequent improvement has been fitful, and GDP contracted again in the first quarter. On the bright side, it did exit a bailout in May, and Moody's recently raised its sovereign rating to Ba2. That is still firmly in junk territory, however, and the country's net debt remains staggering.

Stock to score with: Portugal Telecom (NYSE:PT), the nation's largest such provider, is an established and liquid name that trades on the Big Board. The company is adding broadband customers, and its pay television unit has performed relatively well. Good growth prospects, especially in Africa, offer investors additional potential.

NEXT PAGE: Spain

No positions in stocks mentioned.
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