Portugal a decent outside bet for Euro 2012 final
On Sunday evening Portugal qualified for the quarter finals of Euro 2012 by defeating Holland 2-1 in Kharkiv in a very entertaining encounter. This result propelled the Portuguese out of the ‘group of death’ and I believe they are now a decent outside bet for the final.
Portugal have not had the easiest journey in getting to face Czech Republic on Saturday evening in the first Quarter Final of the tournament. Qualification was achieved via a play-off victory against Bosnia-Herzegovina, (6-2 on aggregate), after they finished behind Denmark in Group H. The first few games of that campaign were under the leadership of Carlos Queiroz and were disastrous; a 4-4 draw at home to Cyprus and a 1-0 reverse in Oslo against Norway. Querioz was swiftly relieved of his duties, (a disappointing World Cup in 2010 also contributing a significant amount to the decision), and replaced with Paulo Bento, a former Portugal international defensive midfielder. Bento steadied the ship impressively and only missed out on topping the qualification group after a last game 2-1 defeat away to Denmark.
Upon reaching the finals in Poland and Ukraine, Portugal were very unfortunate to find themselves drawn in group B of the competition, appropriately named the ‘group of death’, consisting as it did of Germany, (3rd in the Fifa World Rankings), Holland, (4th) and Denmark, (9th). Portugal are ranked at a respectable 10th so the nickname attached to the group was well and truly deserved. Pre-tournament talk was of the group being very competitive and entertaining but of the Germans and the Dutch eventually prevailing. Only half of that proved to be the case…
Portugal have played well so far and fully deserve their place in the Quarter Finals. The team is full of pace and the speed at which they counter attack is frightening. Nani and Ronaldo on the wings are two superb outlets once possession is regained by the combative and effective midfield trio of Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso. Full backs Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira push up the left and right side respectively very well and centre backs Pepe and Bruno Alves are very competent centre backs. The team is skilful, passing the ball quickly into feet. There have been questions asked about the overall defensive solidity of the team, (they are yet to keep a clean sheet) and the goalkeeper Rui Patricio has not looked that convincing, looking very ‘flappy’ against Holland especially. Portugal though have one not so secret weapon and that is of course Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world depending on your preference. Ronaldo scored 60 goals in all competitions for Madrid this season, (including an incredible 46 in La Liga alone), dominating games with his powerful and imperious performances playing just behind Karim Benzema. Despite an indifferent first two games, Ronaldo is now coming into his own at Euro 2012, with his performance against Holland outstanding and the best of the competition so far and he capped it off with two well taken goals. A player of Ronaldo’s quality will not stay quite for long and it was almost inevitable that his class would show and that he would help bring Portugal forward as a team.
I think Portugal’s quick football will beat Czech Republic, (who have looked distinctly average and won group A with a negative goal difference) and that will more than likely set up a semi-final showdown with rivals Spain. Portugal should respect their Iberian neighbours of course, but a very convincing 4-0 friendly victory over them in 2010 would surely have bred confidence and shown both the Portuguese players and fans that the tiki-taka style of the world champions can be beat. The nature of knock out football also helps in keeping each game on a knife-edge and I believe if Portugal play with the same attacking potency they have done, the final in Kiev on 1st July is by no means beyond them.