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Euro 2012 Team Preview: Portugal
Portugal came so close to winning the title in 2004 – and in style at that – that they immediately earned the respect of the world right after the tournament. Thing is, they never made it past the quarter-finals in the following European Championship, losing to Germany in the quarters – the twist was that Portugal looked like it was going to avoid Germany in the knockout stages only for the Germans to finish second in their group and booking a QF tie match against the ‘unfortunate’ A Selecção. Ah, the drama of football at its finest!
This year, it’s the same thing again for the Portugal – they are once again on a collision course against their tormentors Germany, only that in this year, they meet as early as the group stages. Even worse for Portugal, they are in a group of death, with the likes of Netherlands and Denmark completing a fatal four of teams looking to outwit and outplay each other out.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who else? With Nani and João Moutinho not as ‘noisy’ as Portugal fans would like them to be, Ronaldo is the lone bright spot for Portugal coming into the tournament. A tally of 60 goals in all competitions last season – 46 goals and 12 assists in the league – is a frenzied attempt to stamp his dominance in the world game. If Ronaldo finally rises to the occasion and lifts his team to the finals this season, he might just be the ‘Samson’ of football; he might just be the world’s best player after all.
Beaten by Denmark in their qualifying group, Portugal was condemned to play a play-off match with Bosnia and Herzegovina just to book a ticket to the Euro this summer. Unconvincing results against Cyprus and Norway led to their failure to dominate the group – Denmark didn’t really beat the Portuguese, the Selecção just didn’t play well.
But it doesn’t matter now, does it? Portugal nevertheless found themselves in Group B the same snakepit Denmark was unfortunately thrown into. With a not-so-convincing form in qualifying and the challenge of playing Holland and Germany early in the tournament, Portugal will surely have a hard time fighting the inevitability of defeat.
Perhaps the only team in the group to not play in a 4-2-3-1, Paulo Bento looks like he is going to field a 4-3-3. It’s a bold move that could reap massive rewards, especially with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani, and Helder Postiga in attack. Postiga can benefit from the attention Ronaldo and Nani will warrant from opposition defenders – not to mention their pace and ability to create chances.
The 4-3-3 – cum 4-3-2-1 as Ronaldo and Nani like to cut inside anyway – also means that Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, and João Moutinho could take the field together. We all know what these three are capable of: an all-action midfield able to move the ball fluently and decisively. They need to work hard together though, given the quality of the midfield their groupmates possess.
They have quality, class, but not form. Confidence will also be a key issue for this side this summer – they haven’t been the same Portugal side they were in 2004. Cristiano Ronaldo will have to play like a madman if he wants the team to start a revolution; lead by example and let other follow in his blaze of glory. He must be careful however, not to alienate his teammates with his often-erratic mood and the knack to completely disappear from the game in the face of pressure.
With their work cut out for them, don’t expect Portugal to get past the group stages that easy. They are at 6/5 to qualify for the knockout stages, 8/13 to be eliminated in the group stages. If Denmark pulls another rabbit out of the hat to outperform Portugal once again – even if they don’t qualify – Portugal could be Group B’s eventual cellar dwellers. They are at 11/4 to finish at the bottom of Group B.
All odds are from Bet365.com (£200 FREE BET!).