After achieving only 6 points in 5 games, Portugal face serious danger of not classifying to the World Cup next year. From bad coach leadership to poor form of top players, there are many explanations for what can be the worst result of the national team in the decade.
Felipão’s Era and Carlos Queiroz
After winning the World Cup 2002 with the Brazilian Team, Luiz Felipe Scolari (a.k.a. Felipão/Big Phil), assumed the Portugal National Team, and started a six-year campaign that would be revolutionary to the Portuguese Team.
In the words of lost of Portuguese fans, Felipão’s work “brought back the passion of the Portuguese people with their national team”, something that didn’t happen since World Cup 1966, when Eusebio leaded the team to the third place.
(Big Phil: missed by every fans but Chelsea’s)
The results of National Team weren’t good since that time, too: in Big Phil’s charge Portugal achieve the second place in Euro 2004 and the fourth place in World Cup 2006. More than that, with the help of Luis Figo, C. Ronaldo, Ricardo Carvalho, Simão, and others, Portugal became a competitive team, that gave hope and proud to the Portuguese.
But after the elimination on the quarter-finals of Euro 2008, Big Phil decided to leave Portuguese command, and Carlos Queiroz, at time Sir Alex Ferguson assistant manager, was chose to fill the role of Portugal National Team Coach. Even being one of the most capacitated men to the job, Queiroz could not follow Felipão’s results, at least until now, which bring us to Portugal’s results in World Cup 2010 Qualification.
World Cup 2010 Qualification
These are the results of Group 1:
As said before, Portugal face serious danger of not qualify to World Cup 2010. Six points in five games make then 7 points behind the 1st and 2nd place. Not only that, Sweden has one game less than Portugal, and which can take Portugal to the fourth place.
This position also makes it hard for Portugal to achieve the second place playoffs, since all second places that would be classified now have better results.
These are the games Portugal already made:
Malta 0x4 Portugal
Portugal 2×3 Denmark
Sweden 0x0 Portugal
Portugal 0x0 Albania
Portugal 0x0 Sweden
The retrospect shows that Portugal’s position can be credited to the poor home streak: two points in three matches. Summed to that, the defeat against Denmark took out the chance of catching up the first place and qualifies directly to the World Cup. The draws against Sweden were bad for both teams, bud worst for Portugal: if Sweden overtakes Portugal in its sixth game, there will be no way of Portugal being the first place if both teams have equals results in the following games.
Portugal table is:
Albania x Portugal
Denmark x Portugal
Hungary x Portugal
Portugal x Hungary
Portugal x Malta
For now on, all Portugal games will be decisive. And, if Portugal’s home retrospect isn’t good, the team will have to play well away to achieve the points it needs.
Portugal’s table has some strong points for the future of the team:
1) Portugal can achieve six points against Albania and Malta, which Denmark and Hungary can’t, since these teams have already played against Albania and Malta (Hungary have already made all games, and Denmark will play Albania away).
2) Portugal will play Hungary twice, which could reduce the distance between them to only one point, or, at the time they face against, Portugal can overtake Hungary and fight for the second place, since Portugal has one game less than the Hungarians.
To me, the most dangerous enemy to Portugal is Sweden. Even being tied with Portugal, the team has one game less and an easier table:
Sweden x Denmark
Sweden x Malta
Hungary x Sweden
Malta x Sweden
Denmark x Sweden
Albania x Sweden
Sweden will play Malta twice and Albania once, and if manage to get the 9 points, Portugal will have no easy life to overtake Sweden, Hungary and Denmark.
Portugal must hope that Sweden and Denmark loses as many points they can, with two draws. And that is the Portugal’s biggest problem: even with good results, Portugal may depend on others results, which may not happen. And not only in its group, but also in the other groups.
(C. Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic: can they both be on the next World Cup?)
Will Queiroz make the players play all they can?
I’ve started this post talking about Felipão because, to me, the main reason that Portugal can have the results is because Queiroz can’t motivate Portugal team as Big Phil did.
Portugal has the best players of the teams in its group, to no mention C. Ronaldo. And it’s well know that Big Phil is better motivator that tactician. The Felipão’s revolution sure was based on Portugal strength of will, which is missing in the World Cup Qualification. Summed to that, I don’t think there’s lots of ways to change Portugal team tactically, so Queiroz will have to find other ways to improve Portugal’s game.
I’m pointing this because lack of motivation is the problem of Brazilian Team until today. Since Felipão left, neither Parreira nor Dunga managed to motivate Brazilian players, and that’s why the team is so unstable.
Queiroz has to work not only for his job, but to not let the Scolari’s Reovlution ends, and Portuguese people forget about their national team again.
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