If you watched their opening Group B game with Germany there is a simple answer – No.
A 1-0 defeat to a German side, widely tipped to become the next European Champions, is no embarrassment. However, their performance was one to forget if you can recall Portugal’s run to the final back in 2004, where the hosts were ultimately beaten by Greece in the final.
The Portugal side is known for attacking flair and style, especially from a midfield that has boasted the likes of Luis Figo, Paulo Sousa and Rui Costa in the last decade. That style of football was abandoned by Head Coach Paulo Bento in the 1-0 defeat to Germany in favour of a defensive approach, with the aim of frustrating the Germans and leaving the opportunity to snatch a winner on the counter-attack or from set pieces.
This tactic can compared with Roy Hodgson’s defensive ploy to limit France to frustrate France, which arguably paid off in a 1-1 draw. As you may be aware, England’s goal came from a set piece and Portugal came within inches of doing similar in the closing stages of the first-half.
Pepe’s strike against the crossbar, along with a mis-hit Nani cross against the woodwork, was the closest Portugal would come to finding a breakthrough and they were eventually undone by a superb Mario Gomez header to leave Portugal bottom of Group B after the first set of fixtures.
A noticeable flaw in the Portuguese defensive plan was a lack of aerial threat to get on the end of crosses and set pieces, at 5 ft 11 Helder Postiga does not strike fear into the hearts of the opposition defence. Nor does he carry an impressive goal tally, unlike Cristiano Ronaldo, who notched 46 goals in La Liga alone and 60 goals in total.
Ronaldo was rarely involved and when he did receive the ball, he was often surrounded by a German defence unlikely to be troubled by one man.
However, Portugal can take some encouragement from the performance of Fabio Coentrao, who ran his heart out on the left-wing to no avail. The versatile Real Madrid player was let down by a lack of numbers in the box and therefore nobody was there to meet any of his teasing crosses.
If Portugal are to progress past the Group Stages, they must come out of their shell and perform as we know they can. Portugal have Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the second best player in the world and the best in this tournament, and yet they have not tapped into any of his potential.
You cannot afford to disregard talent and Ronaldo could be the lynchpin, or least a key component, to a successful national team aiming to keep up with the early pace setters, which could give them an outside chance of rectifying their 2004 final woes.
All stats and images from 4-4-2′s StatsZone app.
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