Portugal have started the finals in far better shape than when they finished runners-up two years ago but Pedro Cary believes their route from here on in will be much tougher.
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Portugal's 4-1 defeat of Azerbaijan in their UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 Group D debut on Wednesday showed how determined Jorge Braz's men are to go one better than when they lost the final two years ago to Spain.
They never looked back after scoring two early goals in the Arena Zagreb and could well be through to the quarter-finals before Sunday's game against Serbia should Aca Kovačević's side not lose to Azerbaijan tonight. That would be in contrast to 2010, when Portugal only scraped through the group stage on goal difference after drawing with Belarus and losing to Spain, but defender Pedro Cary knows their potential route if they make the knockouts will be much trickier this time.
"This will be a very different European Championship for us because if we get through the group stage then we will meet tough opponents," Cary told UEFA.com. "We want to finish top of our group but we already know that we will probably have to face Russia or Italy in the quarter-finals, not to mention the fact that we will have Spain waiting for us in the semi-finals. It will be the opposite of 2010, when we faced a good but somewhat inexperienced Serbian team and then Azerbaijan, who had just arrived at the highest level."
Cary's side are unbeaten in their last 19 matches, a run which includes two draws against Spain and another pair against Italy, and seem up for the job following their convincing opening display. "On Thursday we had a meeting and we mentioned the fact we had never beaten Azerbaijan and we had never even won on our debut in a European Championship," the Sporting Clube de Portugal player said. "Those are positive points for us. Our responsibility in this tournament is huge but I do believe that will only benefit our growth as players."
Coach Braz said Portugal's organisation was the difference against Azerbaijan and Cary could not agree more, while also adding another crucial ingredient for their success. "We kept our concentration for the entire game and that is often the key to victory," the 27-year-old said. "We were organised and we want to stay on that path.
"We are one of the best teams in the world and it is our job to train and play the best we can so we can please those who like to see us play. We will try to do just that against Serbia on Sunday but I'm sure it will be a difficult match. They have a lot of individual quality, even more than Azerbaijan. It won't be easy to stop them but I'm sure we will succeed and hopefully with another good display."