Dark horses Portugal look to go one step further than they did in 2004

Reaching the quarter-finals past the “Group of death” was deemed as a near impossible task for the Portuguese not because they themselves are a bad side but because they faced competition from two of the best teams in the world, Germany and Holland who are currently ranked third and fourth respectively.

 Portugal played a decent game against highly fancied Germans in their opening fixture and were unlucky as they failed to convert some good chances. However they somehow managed to keep their qualification hopes alive after they beat Denmark 3-2 despite a howler or two by their captain Cristiano Ronaldo who was criticized for the obvious reasons.

But the Real Madrid superstar had some other plans as he led his squad from the front, scoring a wonderful brace and knocking the Dutch out of the competition, but the credit should not be given to him alone as all players appear to have stepped up in order to lessen the burden on their captain.

While in the Premier League Nani had a mixed campaign at Old Trafford as he started strongly only to be kept out of the starting eleven by an impressive Antonio Valencia in the later stages of the season but in the first two games of the Euros where Ronaldo, so shamefully failed to deliver Nani was the main attacking outlet for his team.

The midfield was a major source of concern for the side as the trio of Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso had enjoyed mixed campaigns but the players have proved the critics wrong with some strong displays against the world class engines of Germany and Holland.

Pepe who scored the first goal for the Portuguese in the competition seems to have formed a formidable partnership with Bruno Alves with the pair rarely caught out of position against the Dutch, only to beaten by that wonderful strike from Van der Vaart. Fabio Coentrao has also shown as to why Real Madrid paid the millions for him with some wonderful attacking displays while Perriera has also done well on the opposite wing.

Coach Paul Bento would certainly be hoping that Cristiano Roanldo and others will build on their recent success against the Dutch and try to go one step better than the team of 2004 but standing in their way are the Czechs who would themselves like to spoil the party after emerging as victors from a group that consisted of Russia and the hosts Poland.

But with Portugal no more the one man team that many people referred to them as, before the start of the tournament and all with their players raising their game Portugal can surely cause a few upsets as they try to capture their first piece of silverware.

– by Pranav Agarwal

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