Euro 2012 focus on Portugal: Ronaldo must shine for 2004 runners-up to progress from ‘group of death’
After losing out on home soil eight years ago, Portugal find themselves placed in the so-called ‘group of death’.
In recent years, Portuguese players have made an assault on the top European clubs, winning numerous honours along the way.
The catalyst for this must surely be Jose Mourinho’s short but sweet reign at Porto, where he led the Portuguese side to European glory. The rest is history as the Special One made his way to Stamford Bridge, taking his top stars with him.
As other clubs and managers saw with envy the success Mourinho was having, they too turned their attention to Portugal, as a hot bed of up-and-coming talent. Fast forward several years and what we have is a country with a national side in its prime.
No longer are the Portuguese reliant upon just one or two special talents, a la Rui Costa and Luis Figo. Instead, they’re a side flush with star names and million-pound price tags.
Star Man: Cristiano Ronaldo
Former Ballon d’Or winner and Real Madrid golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo, will be Portugal’s man to watch this summer. Arguably, second only to Lionel Messi in terms of footballing ability, Ronaldo has proven season upon season why he’s such a unique talent.
A revelation during his time in the Premier League with Manchester United, the 27-year-old has taken La Liga by storm this term, netting 63 times in all competitions for Jose Mourinho’s side. After narrowly missing out on the European Golden Shoe, he will be looking to make an impact in Poland and the Ukraine to reaffirm his push for a second Ballon d’Or.
Rising Star: Nelson Oliveira
20-year-old Benfica starlet Nelson Oliveira is looking to establish himself as a lynchpin of the Portuguese national side, following an impressive season for Benfica.
The youngster has courted the attention of Barcelona and will hope an impressive tournament will be enough for a dream move to the Nou Camp where great things will await.
Manager: Paulo Bento
The Portuguese national team have seen a changing of the guard on the management side of things as well as on the field.
Former player Paulo Bento has landed the top honour for any man proud of his country: manager of the national team. After enjoying relative success in his thus far short management career, the 42-year-old Bento will be hoping youth can overcome experience, come Euro 2012.
He will surely draw upon his experience of coaching some of his current squad such as Nani and Joao Moutinho during his time at Sporting Lisbon, in an effort to get the best out of this talented Portuguese side. After the 4-0 thrashing of Spain a couple of years ago, he will have the belief necessary to go all the way.
The Portuguese have enough quality throughout their side to beat anyone on the day. They’ll need to rely on the more experienced heads such as Ronaldo and Pepe to lead by example and play with the winning mentality they’re accustomed to.
It will be no mean feat for them to escape from the ‘group of death’, however, should they do so they’ll have every confidence in going forth and winning the Championship. With the heartache of the Euro 2004 final defeat to Greece on home soil still relatively fresh in the memory, the Portuguese will feel only victory can put that nightmare to rest.