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Portugal seeking to stop scoring rot

Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012, 14.37CET
With Portugal on a run of one goal in four games, Andy Brassell examines the focus on Hélder Postiga's place in the team and whether 20-year-old Nélson Oliveira is a viable alternative.
by Andy Brassell
from Opalenica
 
 
Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012, 14.37CET

Portugal seeking to stop scoring rot

With Portugal on a run of one goal in four games, Andy Brassell examines the focus on Hélder Postiga's place in the team and whether 20-year-old Nélson Oliveira is a viable alternative.

It has been an inescapable theme of the week. From Sunday lunchtime shooting practice in Opalenica to journalists asking defensive midfielder Miguel Veloso in yesterday's press conference if he might be afforded more licence to break forward against Denmark, the message has been clear – Portugal need goals to get their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign up and running.

It is an uncommon problem for a side who have been given added dynamism since Paulo Bento's appointment in October 2010. Portugal finished as one of the top scorers (pro rata) in qualifying, yet now even the calmest in the camp have started to twitch; Saturday's Group B defeat by Germany stretched the run to one goal in the last four games.

Veloso and his partner in the press conference, Nani (the author of that solitary goal, against Turkey), stoutly defended Hélder Postiga. The 29-year-old filled the centre-forward role against Germany and has scored a very respectable 19 times in 50 internationals.

The focus on the Real Zaragoza forward's place in the team is less a criticism of him and more reflective of a sense of anticipation at the alternative. Nélson Oliveira's bright cameo in the closing stages of the Germany match – as a substitute for Postiga – has prompted a clamour in Portugal for the 20-year-old to be promoted to the XI to face Denmark on Wednesday.

©AFP/Getty Images

Nélson Oliveira added zest to the Portugal attack when he came on

On paper this might seem a gamble. Oliveira has played just a dozen scoreless games in the Liga for SL Benfica. Yet this is half the story. He hit an excellent goal minutes into his UEFA Champions League debut, against FC Zenit St Petersburg, and leads the line with rare authority. Within minutes of his introduction at the weekend, his hold-up play and cross almost created an equaliser for Silvestre Varela.

Nani was also forced to play down suggestions that he could even operate as a No10 in order to open up Denmark, saying he "feels comfortable" wide on the right. Oliveira may look the more daring option, but he is also the most likely.

Last updated: 24/06/12 4.59CET

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