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Nani not ready to abandon Portugal hope

Portugal winger Nani is confident that his side are "capable of winning matches against big teams" as they set out to claim their first Group B points versus Denmark in Lviv.

Nani not ready to abandon Portugal hope
Nani not ready to abandon Portugal hope ©UEFA.com

As the scorer of Portugal's only goal in their last four matches, one might expect Nani to be feeling a little extra pressure ahead of Wednesday's crucial Group B meeting with Denmark. Yet the winger has retained faith in a side that he believes is "evolving", and says Portugal are at UEFA EURO 2012 for the long haul despite their opening 1-0 loss to Germany.

"The team showed that we have quality," he explained, "and that we are capable of winning matches against big teams like Germany. We're a bit disappointed because we deserved better than a defeat, but we are confident because we still have two matches left."

Looking to "take inspiration from the past", the Manchester United FC wide man is confident that Portugal's run to the UEFA EURO 2004 final can serve as a blueprint for continued progress, with that campaign having also commenced with a reverse – inflicted by eventual winners Greece.

"In the match [against Germany] we improved in comparison to the ones before," he said. "I hope that the same thing will happen in the next game and that we get to the final and look at that one and say: 'Yes, we've improved a lot compared to the match against Germany and we're very satisfied.'"

For the moment, Nani's thoughts dare not travel beyond the game in Lviv against Denmark, opponents who have given Portugal much recent difficulty – but against whom Nani scored a sizzling double in coach Paulo Bento's first match at the helm, a 3-1 qualifying win in October 2010.

The 25-year-old knows Morten Olsen's men carry their own forward threat, however, enthusing over counterpart Michael Krohn-Dehli's excellent winner against the Netherlands on Saturday. "Their attack is their main strength," he warned. "They attack well. Usually when we play against them, they create a lot of danger from high balls, but we will be ready to control their strong points."

One of the four other 'captains' appointed pre-tournament by Bento to back up armband-holder Cristiano Ronaldo, Nani is one of the senior figures in the set-up and is relishing the responsibility. Describing Bento's appointment as "a change for the better", the winger also sees the arrival of his former Sporting Clube de Portugal coach as crucial in refreshing the squad.

"There are some very young players who have been getting a chance now, and who have shown great character and dedication," he said. "They have evolved under the guidance of the more experienced players and the coach. We are on the right track and the team will be stronger in the future."

Not that Nani has any wish to see the present curtailed, having missed out on the 2010 FIFA World Cup through injury, and he told UEFA.com he wants "to make up for lost time". His main hope for UEFA EURO 2012, quite naturally, is "to enjoy it as much as possible" – and for as long as possible.

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