Having qualified for the last two major tournaments through the play-offs, Portugal hope to complete a hat-trick of successes via that route when they play Sweden in what coach Paulo Bento regards as a "very balanced tie".
Portugal overcame Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach both the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012 and, following a second-place finish behind Russia in Group F, host the Blågult on Friday at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica with a place at next summer's global finals at stake.
"Sweden are a quality team, very well-organised and they had a knack of reacting to adversity during qualification," said Bento. "They were losing in the Republic of Ireland [but won 2-1], they were losing 4-0 in Germany [but drew 4-4] and they were losing against Austria [a 2-1 home win]. Therefore, they never give up and will force us to play with very high levels of concentration."
This is the former Sporting Clube de Portugal trainer's second play-off, the 44-year-old having succeeded Carlos Queiroz in September 2010. "There are no favourites," he explained. "They are strong physically, not only at set pieces but also in terms of playing direct football because they have two tall and talented players in attack [Zlatan Ibrahimović and Johan Elmander].
"It will be a very balanced tie, in which we should be constantly focused because any mistake could cost us. The first match is at home so we will try to play well and win."
Bento raised eyebrows with the selection of Sporting defensive midfielder William Carvalho. The 21-year-old is one of two uncapped players in the squad along with Galatasaray AŞ forward Bruma, 19. "His [Carvalho's] call is due to his quality and his performances, but also because of a strategy we could use in one of the matches. The fact he is tall [1.87m] could make him an asset."
Indeed, his height, maturity and passing accuracy could help Portugal counter their physically impressive opponents. Carvalho, who prior to this summer had spent the past 18 months on loan with Belgian First League team Cercle Brugge KSV, is not cowed by the magnitude of the fixtures.
"It's a dream come true and I already feel at home," he said. "I have confidence in my ability. It's normal to be a bit anxious, but I'm not nervous."
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