Semi-finalists last time around there is a distinct lack of optimism surrounding Carlos Queiroz’s side for the 2010 competition.
Drawn in a qualifying group with Denmark and Sweden as the major threats, Portugal qualified through the Play Offs after three successive scoreless draws against Albania and Sweden, twice.
It is this lack of goals that worry the Portugal fans. Cristiano Ronaldo has failed to replicate his scintillating form at club level for his country and though Liedson has made an impressive start to international football with three goals in seven caps, there is a feeling that if Captain Ronaldo isn’t scoring, no one else will be either.
Creating chances surely won’t be a problem for Queiroz’s side. With Deco, Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Simao and Nani all potentially playing in the same side, if should lead to some very exciting football.
Portugal have played a 4-3-3 formation in the last three major tournaments, so don’t expect a change this time around.
With two marauding wingers in Ronaldo and former Manchester United teammate Nani, the full-backs don’t have the creative license they would have in other teams. Left exposed by the lack of width in midfield, the job of Paulo Ferreira and Miguel will be to defend and make sure that the team holds it’s shape.
The Seleccao das Quinas have always had an impressive array of attacking talent, and they appear to be solid in defence with Bruno Alves and Ricardo Carvalho joining the aforementioned duo, playing in front of Eduardo.
They key game for Portugal will be their opening match with the Ivory Coast, seemingly their rivals to finish behind Brazil. If Queiroz and his charges can get three points from that game, then qualifying should be a formality. It is what lies beyond that worries the fans.
Carlos Queiroz has coached Manchester United, managed Real Madrid, South Africa and is currently in his second spell in charge of his home nation. He wasn’t a popular appointment and fans still don’t believe he is the man to lead them into a major tournament. He will have to harness the undoubted individual talent of his players if they look to at least replicate the semi-final display of 2006.
There is no doubt Portugal have a talented group of players, which makes it even more impressive that Ronaldo stands out as the major talent. The Real Madrid man has been one of the World’s best players in recent years and enjoyed an impressive debut season in La Liga, despite being out-shone by Lionel Messi. If Portugal are to enjoy any success this year, Ronaldo will have to start scoring the goals that have proved, recently, so elusive on the international stage.
Drawn along with Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea, the Seleccao das Quinas certainly have a tough task. Their first game against Sven Goran Erikson’s men will be the litmus test of their tournament. Second Round exit.