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Portugal punch above their weight

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012, 9.18CET
Portugal were tipped for a short stay in Poland and Ukraine, but Paulo Bento's side exceeded expectations, and but for a bit more attacking bite, might have been finalists.
by Andy Brassell
from Opalenica

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Published: Thursday 28 June 2012, 9.18CET

Portugal punch above their weight

Portugal were tipped for a short stay in Poland and Ukraine, but Paulo Bento's side exceeded expectations, and but for a bit more attacking bite, might have been finalists.

Drawn alongside Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark in UEFA EURO 2012's 'group of death', Portugal were not expected to match Group B's trio of former European champions. However, after emerging from that tough pool in impressive style, Paulo Bento's squad showed they were full of character, confidence and ability.

In a nutshell
Finishing. There was some concern at home that Portugal came to the finals having scored just once in three games in 2012, a fear accentuated by drawing a blank in the first game with Germany. Bento's side were fortunate not to be punished for missing a raft of opportunities in the wins against Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, but they failed to take their chances in the 90 minutes against holders Spain.

High point
Overall, the outlook is positive. Cristiano Ronaldo now closely resembles the prolific marksman he is for Real Madrid CF, and the defence is far more solid than it was in Switzerland and Austria four years ago. Bento has created a stable unit of players that trust him and each other, underlined by the fact that he only changed his first XI once, bringing in Hugo Almeida for the injured Hélder Postiga in the semi-final.

Key man
From the opening match with Germany, when he sent Ronaldo scampering clear on goal with a delightful through ball, João Moutinho's passing was visionary and perfectly executed. The cross for Ronaldo's winner and the tackle and snap he showed against Spain, highlighted how he has become a complete midfield player – the "true star of Portugal", as his FC Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa described him this week. He didn't make the squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but it is hard to imagine a Portugal team without him now.

Hope for the future
Blessed with a seemingly endless supply of world-class wingers, Portugal have been looking for a centre-forward equivalent for years. It appears that they may have found him in Nélson Oliveira. The 21-year-old has only made two Liga starts for SL Benfica, but showed in the first game against Germany that he is not cowed by the big stage. Powerful and intelligent, watching his development promises to be exciting.

Vital statistic
Despite scoring six goals in the tournament overall, five of those came in the games against Denmark and the Netherlands – Portugal scored just once in their other three games.

Final word
"We showed enormous strength and endeavour. We always believed in our group, grew in confidence game by game and that's how we ended up where we did. I think that the Portuguese people can be proud of us."
Nani, reflecting shortly after the semi-final exit to Spain.

Last updated: 05/12/13 4.31CET

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