Patience is the key for coach Paulo Bento as his Portugal side look to avoid a slip-up at home to Iceland and maintain their precarious position atop UEFA EURO 2012 Group H.
If Portugal win their last two games, they are certain to finish first in the section and qualify directly for the finals in Poland and Ukraine. However, since they meet second-ranked Denmark – one of two teams level with them on 13 points at the Group H summit – in next Tuesday's campaign finale, Bento's men know that six points are no formality.
The first maximum haul must come on Friday against an Iceland side who were defeated 3-1 when the countries met in Reykjavik last October. Yet while the Porto rematch appears to be a nailed-on home victory, Bento is taking nothing for granted, particularly with Denmark in action in Cyprus on the same day. Meanwhile third-placed Norway, with just one fixture remaining, sign off at home to the Cypriots on Tuesday.
"Iceland have only four points, all taken against Cyprus, but they lost just 1-0 in Denmark and Norway," the coach said. "We have a lot of respect for Iceland, we know they will cause us problems."
If the temptation may be to focus already on the Denmark fixture in Copenhagen, Bento wants to make sure his team get the job done at the Estádio do Dragão first. "We have 90 minutes to win the match," the former Sporting Clube de Portugal boss said. "
We need to win, that's all that matters. We must create a good attacking dynamic and stop our opponents from hurting us, but we must be patient to do that."
Injuries to Fábio Coentrão, Sílvio Pereira and Hugo Almeida have also slightly weakened Portugal's hand, but the 42-year-old Bento, once a midfielder with Vitória SC, SL Benfica, Real Oviedo and Sporting, said: "We are only thinking about the players we have. They are working very well and we are very pleased. We are optimistic, confident and we know what we have to do."
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