Portugal may have been handed perhaps the toughest UEFA EURO 2012 group possible in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands but leading them out as captain will be perhaps the most celebrated player in the whole final tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Real Madrid CF forward spoke to UEFA.com ahead of Saturday's opener in Lviv against the team that ousted them in the quarter-finals four years ago – Germany. He said that although Portugal did not have the smoothest qualification, they do have huge potential under the guidance of Paulo Bento.
UEFA.com: How have the team developed since losing in the 2008 quarter-finals?
Cristiano Ronaldo: It has been a positive development. Portugal have had many changes in the last few years in terms of players, and also of coaches. It has been quite a positive evolution. We've evolved [and] we have always been in the final stages of the big tournaments, so therefore it's a positive balance.
UEFA.com: You had a bit of a struggle in qualifying, why was that?
Ronaldo: It was a bit to do with changing many players. We didn't know each other very well; there were players who had hardly been with the national team, and then it is more difficult to create a team. Apart from that we also didn't start as well as we wanted to, but then, when Paulo Bento took over the team, he did a great job, we were able to play much better, and the results have shown that. We won almost all our matches, and we got to the play-offs, where we played very well. We deserve to be in these finals.
UEFA.com: Bento is still a young coach, how has it been under him?
Ronaldo: I think that the coaches who make a mark are the ones with a personality, those who trust in their work, in what they have done, and trust in their team. He has a lot of trust in himself, in his team, in his players. He trusts them with his life, as it's said, and we also trust him because if the coach is good for us we also have to be good for him. I think the age hasn't anything to do with that. There are coaches of 60 or 70 years of age who maybe don't have the capacity of a coach of 40; that's very relative, but I think the balance is positive, and Portugal are on the right track with these players and this coach as well.
UEFA.com: Looking at the first match against Germany, is there a certain desire for revenge due to the 2008 quarter-final?
I don't like using that term 'revenge' in football, because it's simply a football match, it isn't a war. We want to win, which is obvious, because we want to start the European Championship well, and we know that Germany are a great team, they have had great results in recent competitions. So they're opponents who we respect a lot, but we also have our potential, we have our strengths, and we will do everything to start on the right foot.
UEFA.com: In Portugal people are cautious about your chances due to the draw but you are optimistic...
Ronaldo: We know that we are in the most difficult group of the European Championship, but it isn't anything to regret, because you can't change it, and we have known it for months. So therefore we have to be prepared. We don't have any other option – we have to face these countries, who are Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. They will be extremely difficult matches, but I think Portugal will do a good job, and we will progress to the next phase.
UEFA.com: Do you feel extra pressure as captain?
Ronaldo: No, because I have already been captain many times.
It can't put me under extra pressure, because it isn't an armband that will change my way of thinking. This squad is very easy to deal with, very friendly, very united, and so therefore it's easier to wear the captain's armband.
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