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Friday, March 16, 2012

EURO 2012 PREVIEW - PORTUGAL



EUROS HISTORY – Best Result : Runners-Up ‘04
                            Worst Result : Quarter Finals ’08, ‘96

FIXTURES – 9 June 2012                 Arena Lviv, Lviv                                 v Germany
               13 June 2012               Arena Lviv, Lviv                                 v Denmark
              17 June 2012                Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv            v Netherlands

MANAGER – Paulo Bento

CAPTAIN – Cristiano Ronaldo

TEAM PROFILE –

Exclusive t-shirts had already been printed a night before the EURO 2004 finals in Lisbon to celebrate the triumph that was to take place the next day when an extremely talented Portuguese side blessed with experience and youth alike were to face the underdogs Greece. A triumph that would mark the beginning of a golden era in Portuguese football that had begun by a FC Porto side managed by some man by the name of Jose Mourinho who had won the champions league finals at Gelsenkirchen only more than a month back. It was quite an exciting time to be a seleccao supporter, the team sat on the cusp of greatness blessed with an individual talent that would go on to become one of its most prodigal sons in the years to come.

What happened later was as we say is history. It was a painful defeat by the slenderest of margins 1-0. But those who saw the players on the pitch that night at the Estadio Da Luz knew that this team would be going places in the years to come. Managed by the then World Cup Winning Brazilian coach in Luiz Felipe Scolari, the team came fourth in the next edition of the FIFA WC’06 in Germany. By then that young attacking dribbler from 2004, Cristiano Ronaldo had already become an household in the world football, playing for Manchester United, wearing the prestigious no.7 and on his way to winning the Ballon D’or in the time to come.

But the journey has not been rosy for this team in recent years. Its 8 yrs now since that magical summer of ’04, the players that played the final then have retired [Figo, Carvalho(internationally)] or are in relative obscurity [Deco, Ricardo]. Others players have taken up the mantle, they now have Joao Moutinho who pulls the strings from midfield, a fine dribbler in Nani who loves taking a player on before putting the ball into the box. Carvalho may have gone, but they have an efficient albeit eccentric hothead in Pepe at the heart of their defense. Real Madrid man, the versatile flying wingback Fabio Coentrao along with Joao Periera and Rolando complete the back line.

Currently managed by Paulo bento who had been no slouch himself during his playing days, there seems to be an attacking threat to the team to balance their defensive play, a shortcoming that was so painfully felt during the last World Championships in South Africa as a Carlos Querioz side although rock solid defensively failed to make any inroads on the attacking front and were sent packing by the eventual winners Spain in the last 16.

Lack of goals is still a big concern for Seleccao. The team does not boast of a decent centre forward who can share some of the goal scoring burden that the rock solid shoulders of CR7 carry every time he steps on to the turf wearing his national colors adorned by that armband bearing a big C on it. There have been signs of optimism lately, as the team has stepped up gears when it really matters, the hammering of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the play-offs being one such case, where they hammered the visitors 6-2 at home after playing out a stalemate away in the first leg.

Being drawn in the group of death along with Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, Getting out of the group stages in itself will be a very big achievement. Their tournament records have been very impressive, never have they failed to make it from the group stages. Having technically blessed players and a strong defensive base will hold them in good stead when they face Germany in the Lviv Arena in the first of their group B encounters.

The fortunes of the team completely depend on the form of Cristiano Ronaldo, having previously endured a goal scoring drought of 16 months in the buildup to the FIFA WC ‘10, Ronaldo has then led this team admirably, topping the goal scoring charts for his team with 7 during the qualifying stages. His big game mettle and ability to step up will be tested to the limits when he will lead out his team in this year’s championships. Currently in the form of his life with La Liga title firmly in sights and a Champions League date at the Allianz Arena in Munich also in the distant picture, Ronaldo sits on the cusp of greatness. Winning the title and leading this team to championship glory in July and surely Ronaldo will take away the Ballon D’or away from Messi after finally performing on one stage where even the little enigma has struggled.


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