Nuno Gomes: Favourites, dark horses and tips for the top
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
In his first UEFA EURO 2020 column, the 2004 finalist makes the case for Portugal but warns that the holders need to make a strong start.
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I am backing Portugal to win EURO 2020. I have to back my country, who are among the favourites alongside France and Germany. England, Italy and Belgium are all outside bets, capable of springing a surprise.
The first game against Hungary could be crucial for Portugal. The result of the other group match between Germany and France has an impact, but it is important to start with a win. Hungary are underdogs but we must beware of their bite.
They have good players and it will be a difficult match for Portugal. Hungary are playing at home, with the support of their fans. It is in Portugal's hands, though: they should win this game and then go into battle against Germany with three points under their belts.
The players who will light up the finals
The competition always witnesses great individual performances. I hope the best ends up being a Portuguese player. It could be Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappé and Kevin De Bruyne are also leading candidates.
Ronaldo could also be in the running to end up as tournament top scorer. Then there's Romelu Lukaku and the returning Karim Benzema, who may get plenty of opportunities – their teams create a lot of chances. Robert Lewandowski is still my favourite for the golden boot.
The Cristiano Ronaldo factor
Cristiano is always a plus. He is still at the top of his game, physically and mentally, and all of Portugal hopes he will be the Cristiano we know. He can help Portugal win games. I hope he doesn't have any niggling injuries. If he is fit, he will always stand out in our team.
The man is ageless. We, as forwards, always want to avoid defences featuring players with his class. He is aggressive when it comes to defending his goal but also has excellent positioning and tactical awareness, the result of all his experience. He is one of the best centre-backs in the world, even at 38. He is a very important piece of our defensive line.
What it takes to reach the final
It takes a combination of factors, including a little luck. You need a balanced squad, with all players aware of their tasks on and off the pitch. You can't have a good EURO with just 11 players. You need quality players to bring off the bench.
Everyone counts at a EURO, and you must keep the guys not playing much motivated. It's important to think about the next game and not the ones beyond that because from the group stage it's a knockout stage, and you have to go into every match as if it were a final.
If I could have played with one current player it would be...
I've played with some, including the best of them all: Cristiano Ronaldo! From Portugal, I would have liked to play with João Félix and Bernardo Silva. As a striker, I would be well served by those two. I would also like to have played with Mbappé and N'Golo Kanté.