Euro 2012 guide: Portugal

KEY PLAYER: Christiano Ronaldo
KEY PLAYER: Christiano Ronaldo

QUALIFIED through the play-offs smashing Bosnia 6-2 at home after a shaky start to their qualifying campaign.

Despite being in a very hard group where most would put both Holland and Germany above them, this team certainly possesses the fire power to repeat their progress in Euro 2000 where they qualified from a difficult group featuring England, Germany and Romania.

Coach

Since Paulo Bento took over, at the start of the qualifiers, there has been a much more positive feeling towards the national team after a disappointing exit at the 2010 world cup. At the age of 42 he’ll be the youngest coach in the tournament but will lead with the same drive and spirit that served him well in his playing days as a battling midfielder.

Key player

No surprises here, but if Portugal are to make an impact at Euro 2012 it will be down to captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Playing in the similar role that he does for Real Madrid (where he’s scored 146 goals in 144 games), Ronaldo will hope to be able to decide games by cutting in from the wing to cause damage. Many in Portugal have criticised the forward for not replicating his club form at international level but that seems a little harsh when you consider he scored 7 goals in 8 qualifying games.

One to watch

Labelled as ‘the future’ by Coach Paulo Bento, Benfica’s 20 year old striker Nelson Oliveira was handed his debut in a friendly against Poland in February. While many see his inclusion as a nod to the future, rather than being in the first XI now, Oliveira will be hoping that he can get enough playing time to show off the goal scoring talents that helped Portugal’s Under-20 side reach the 2011 world cup final where he scored 4 goals.

Why they could have a good tournament...

As stated before there’s a positive mood in the camp and Bento seems to be a popular figure amongst the players who may well be able to get the player to give that little bit extra at key moments. In the past Portugal’s problem has been that they haven’t had a finisher but the numbers from qualifying suggest that this is something they don’t have to worry about this time around. Ronaldo got his 7 goals while Nani contributed with 5 and lone striker Helder Postiga scored 5 too.

Why they could have a bad tournament...

While central defence can boast the likes of Pepe and the attack has Ronaldo it’s in midfield that could prove to be their biggest weakness. While Moutinho and Meireles are very capable central midfielders the team still hasn’t managed to find a replacement number 10. This could be a problem in tight games when in the past a Deco or Rui Costa had the potential to provide a little bit of fantasy and creativity.