Portugal, the perennial underdog | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 04.06.2012
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Portugal, the perennial underdog

Cristiano Ronaldo is the jewel in Portugal's footballing crown, but there are other excellent players, too. Portugal is Germany's first opponent in Group B.

Despite their obvious quality on the pitch, Portugal found it surprisingly hard to qualify for Euro 2012. After a jittery start in the first two qualifying matches, national coach Carlos Queiroz was fired and replaced by former Sporting Lisbon coach Paulo Bento.

His appointment provided a much-needed boost, but it was not enough for a win against Denmark - Portugal lost 2-1 in the decisive match against the Danes. It meant Portugal had to qualify via the playoffs - and they showed what they were capable of with a solid performance against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ronaldo gives a fair amount of credit for that win to coach Bento: "He turned a corner for us, turned the team inside out. He brought a new mindset and fresh blood; that was important."

Bento dropped seasoned players Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Cavalho from the squad, citing lack of discipline.

Portugal players celebrate on top of teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, covered, after he scored the opening goal against Bosnia during their Euro 2012 playoffs second leg match

Ronaldo scored a brace in the playoff match against Bosnia-Herzegovina

Good in attack, keeper lacking

"Portugal can win the Euro," celebrated national player Luis Figo said. However, doubts may be in order here, as the team depends heavily on Ronaldo's performance - if the world's most expensive soccer player is not on top form, the Portuguese find it hard to engineer their game.

That said, there are definitely other talents in the squad: their defense boasts Pepe, central defender at Spanish champions Real Madrid, and full-back Fabio Coentrao, also from Real. Then there is versatile midfielder Raul Meireles from Chelsea. Bento placed him further back to bring more stability to the defensive midfield. Manchester United's Nani will concentrate on scoring goals - the agile striker managed five goals during qualifying for Euro 2012.

Bento is sticking with Portugal's usual fluid, technically accurate combination play. Both full-backs are involved in attack whenever possible.

Portugal's soccer team head coach Paulo Bento

Bento's contract was renewed before the tournament

Ronaldo is given a lot of freedom behind his fellow forwards, plus his powerful kick is dangerous during set pieces.

Portugal's weakness is the goalkeeper - current number one Eduardo is not among the top goalies in the world, especially when it comes to his performance in the penalty box.

Germanya tough opponent

Portugal does not have a stellar record against Germany. They only won three out of 16 matches and lost eight, including the last crucial clash in the quarterfinals of EURO 2008, which Germany won 3-2.

Author: Jens Krepela / ng
Editor: Greg Wiser

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