It was certainly a tumultuous qualifying campaign for Portugal who sacked their then manager Carlos Queiroz right at the beginning of qualification, in favour of Paulo Bento. For the second time in the past two tournaments, Portugal failed to qualify automatically as group winners and instead had to endure the play-offs, where they were pitted against Bosnia.
Portugal ended up in the play-offs having finished behind Denmark in their qualifying group – a draw which was needed in their final group game against the Danes end in a 2-1 defeat. In the play-offs, after a 0-0 draw away to Bosnia, but qualification was achieved after an emphatic display at home in a 6-2 win at home.
Bento’s transition to national team coach hasn’t been without controversy, not to mention unrest in the camp behind the scenes with the manager reportedly clashing with the likes of Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho, both of whom have been purged from the international set-up since.
The likes of Nani, Ronaldo and Helder Postiga will need to be on fire if Portugal are to stand any chance of progressing to the knock-out stages. In particular, their captain and talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo will need to replicate his form and goals that fired Real Madrid to the La Liga title this season. Between them, Nani, Ronaldo and Postiga scored 17 of Portugal’s 27 goals on the way to Poland-Ukraine. However, an almost full strength Portuguese side drew 0-0 with Macedonia on Saturday, with Ronaldo, Postiga both starting and Nani coming on a substitute.
Bento, at 42 will be the youngest coach at Euro 2012 and he will want his side to qualify for the knock-out stages at the very least. Portugal have never failed to progress from the group stages of a European Championship. On every occasion that they have qualified, they have at least progressed to the knock-out stages: three quarter final appearances, two semi-final appearances and on final appearance in 2004 when they finished runners-up to Greece – so no pressure in keeping that impeccable group stages record in this “Group of Death”.
Fixtures: Portugal vs. Germany (June, 9th), Portugal vs. Denmark (June, 13th) and Portugal vs. Holland (June, 17th)