Having taken the badge of ‘Perennial Underachievers’ from Spain, Portugal find themselves in the Group of Death at Euro 2012. Famous for producing some of the best players in the world from generation to generation, the nation and its stars have yet to make a mark on the international front. Their best ever performance at a UEFA European Championship came in 2004, when they made the finals only to be shocked by the underdogs who had already shocked them on the opening day of the same tournament – Greece. However, with a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks, the current Portuguese squad might have something up their sleeves this summer.
After troubled beginnings at the qualifying campaign, the Federation of Portuguese Football fired Carlos Queiroz after just two games and hired Paulo Bento as coach of the National Team. A good run of results saw a change in fortune as Portugal managed to finish joint second in the group, behind Denmark. They qualified as group runners-up by virtue of a better goal difference than Norway, and beat Bosnia and Herzegovina in the play-offs to progress to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
There is no doubt that Ronaldo is singled out as their main threat. But the industrious legs of Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho in midfield have convinced Bento to go for a more dynamic approach. Bruno Alves and Pepe make for a physically strong partnership in defence and the speed of Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira on either side give them extra attacking options – this Portugal team has an abundance of flair and attacking options.
The Selecção das Quinas will, however, look to Cristiano to provide inspiration and lead the line by example. ‘Captain Fantastic’ is entering his peak years and is expected to take the tournament by storm. The dribbling skills of Nani might help take the limelight off of Ronaldo and increase his productivity, while the goal-poaching skills of Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida are sure to come in handy. Can Ronaldo deliver at the Championship and end the nation’s trophy drought? A question only time will answer.