João Moutinho said Portugal would need to do their sums if, as happened, they lost their Group B opener. But, warns Andy Brassell, when they meet Denmark the equation is simple.
In Portugal's first press conference on Polish soil pre-UEFA EURO 2012, João Moutinho was confident of beating Germany, but conceded there was a plan B for Group B. "If we don't manage it," the midfielder said, "then we'll do the sums later on." After a highly creditable performance against Joachim Löw's side in Lviv on Saturday failed to yield tangible reward, it's almost that time.
With Denmark's surprise win against the Netherlands polarising the section, Portugal's own encounter with the Danes on Wednesday's return to Lviv has become crucial. The final match, against the Netherlands in Kharkiv, carries less trepidation: Portugal have lost just once in ten meetings with the Dutch, knocking them out of UEFA EURO 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
If Portugal lose on Wednesday, however, that would become an irrelevance, but the psychological effect of historical precedent can be overemphasised. The Selecção das Quinas hold an overall edge over Denmark, having won seven and lost three of the countries' 12 match-ups, though recent games have seen Denmark develop into a bogey team.
Morten Olsen's side beat Portugal to first place in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2012, following up an identical result on the way to the 2010 World Cup. In that latter campaign Denmark conjured the sort of near-miracle that does weigh on minds, coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the 89th minute at the Estádio José Alvalade to win 3-2 courtesy of Daniel Jensen's piledriver.
Coach Paulo Bento's first fixture in charge yielded perhaps the best display of UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying, with Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo running rings around Denmark in a 3-1 triumph at the Estádio do Dragão. Yet an equally emphatic showing by the hosts (2-1 victors) in the return at Copenhagen's Parken – which sealed qualification – has not been forgotten.
Results may have sharpened the importance of Wednesday's match but even if Olsen's men were widely seen as outsiders in this tightest of groups, Portugal have never considered taking them lightly.