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Portugal's wingers take centre stage

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012, 14.19CET
Portugal are not in the best of form going into UEFA EURO 2012 but, says team reporter Andy Brassell, their enviable phalanx of wingers are busy providing cause for hope.
by Andy Brassell
from Opalenica
Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012, 14.19CET

Portugal's wingers take centre stage

Portugal are not in the best of form going into UEFA EURO 2012 but, says team reporter Andy Brassell, their enviable phalanx of wingers are busy providing cause for hope.

Portugal have stepped up preparations for Saturday's opening UEFA EURO 2012 match against Germany, with just two days to go until they depart for Lviv. As the group strolled out to train on the top pitch they saved the best to last, with winger Nani the final player to jog onto the field.

The Manchester United FC wide man worked away from the rest of the squad, but Paulo Bento must be pleased just to see him back. Many winced at the force with which Nani thudded down onto the turf as Saturday's friendly against Turkey came to a close. Until today, he hadn't been seen on the training pitch since.


Nani training on Wednesday

His value is clear. As Nani's former Sporting Clube de Portugal team-mate João Moutinho pointed out yesterday, Portugal struggled to capitalise on their possession against Turkey, but Nani showed the way. His goal, cutting inside and blasting in, demonstrated that Portugal have power on the right to compare with that provided by Cristiano Ronaldo on the left.

You can't escape the importance of wingers in the recent history of Portuguese football. Huge images of Portugal stars from past major championships are plastered on the walls of the media centre, including Luís Figo, Portugal's most capped player, and Ronaldo – like Nani, both products of the esteemed Sporting academy.


Cristiano Ronaldo showed no ill-effects of his knock

In his spell at the Estádio José Alvalade, László Bölöni brought Ronaldo and another wing wonder, Ricardo Quaresma, into the first team and was rewarded with the 2002 league title. Bölöni used to marvel at the insouciant pair, who he claimed competed every day to invent a new trick. The former club-mates came together in yesterday's practice match, with the captain causing a scare as he limped away after performing a perfect sliding tackle on Quaresma.

Ronaldo had recovered for today's session, and the pair will hope to combine again as they did at UEFA EURO 2008, when Ronaldo laid on a goal for Quaresma in the 3-1 win against the Czech Republic in Geneva.

Last updated: 26/06/12 5.34CET

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