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Portugal wary of playing it safe in Denmark

Published: Sunday 9 October 2011, 15.23CET
Paulo Bento has banished thoughts of settling for a draw on Tuesday despite his Portugal side heading to Denmark needing only a point to secure top spot in Group H.
by Andy Brassell & Peter Bruun
Portugal wary of playing it safe in Denmark
Portugal celebrate their win against Iceland ©Getty Images
Published: Sunday 9 October 2011, 15.23CET

Portugal wary of playing it safe in Denmark

Paulo Bento has banished thoughts of settling for a draw on Tuesday despite his Portugal side heading to Denmark needing only a point to secure top spot in Group H.

Paulo Bento insists thoughts of settling for a draw will be far from his mind on Tuesday as his Portugal side visit Denmark knowing a point would keep them top of Group H and secure an automatic place at UEFA EURO 2012.

Bento's charges maintained their grip on the section thanks to a thrilling 5-3 defeat of Iceland on Friday, after Denmark had triumphed 4-1 in Cyprus, and they must now avoid defeat in Copenhagen to seal their passage to Poland and Ukraine. The 42-year-old has no intention of playing things safe at Parken Stadion, however. "I never plan to draw or lose," said Bento. "Portugal will play with two possible results that would allow us to finish in first place, but the priority is to win. We go there with the aim of a sixth [successive] victory in the group."

The former Sporting Clube de Portugal coach took over at the start of that run and can pride himself on having made the best start of any Portugal boss down the years, but he is more concerned with ironing out the defensive issues that allowed Iceland to score three goals in Porto. "We lacked a bit of aggression, particularly at set plays," he said. "In the little time that we have, we need to work on being aggressive and on our positioning in order to get rid of this weakness."

Forward Hélder Postiga also hopes Portugal can learn from their mistakes as they prepare to meet Denmark. "We started the second half badly and conceded three bad goals from set pieces," he said. "That game can serve as a warning. Denmark are a great team with important players in big leagues across the world. They're a real candidate to qualify – but so are we and even more so. We'll have to be at our best."

In the opposition camp, attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen feels Denmark can draw confidence from past results against their Iberian rivals. Although they lost 3-1 in Portugal last October, they won 3-2 in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Lisbon before drawing the return 1-1, having won a 2006 friendly 4-2 prior to those encounters. "It would be better to avoid the play-offs, but we can only avoid them by getting a win," said the AFC Ajax youngster. "We've done well against Portugal before, though."

Coach Morten Olsen is confident FC Nordsjælland centre-back Andreas Bjelland can fill in for injured defender Daniel Agger, meanwhile. The 23-year-old partnered Simon Kjær on the trip to Cyprus but he can to expect a far more thorough examination from Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. "He's a young man with a lot of self-confidence and he has every reason to feel confident," said Olsen. "He may not have played against players like Nani and Ronaldo before, but he played against similarly fast players for his club team against Sporting in the Europa League."

Last updated: 09/12/12 9.32CET

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