Team Profile: Then-host nation Portugal came within a whisker of lifting the trophy at Euro 2004, when they were beaten 1-0 by the tournament’s 100-1 outsiders Greece – a scar in the nation’s collective memory that has failed to heal, as subsequent major championship campaigns have ended with earlier eliminations. At the 2006 World Cup they were inspired by in-form trio Figo, Ronaldo and Deco but had to settle for fourth. Two years later, they lost to Germany in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008, despite being widely touted as favourites, while their World Cup campaign in South Africa saw largely laboured performances and defeat to Spain in the last 16. Still, these are admirable results considering Portugal’s relatively small size, and in Cristiano Ronaldo – deemed the second-best player in the world after Messi – they have plenty of firepower. Group B is arguably the toughest, however, with Holland and Germany both expecting to progress to the quarter-finals.
Coach: Paulo Bento
The former defensive midfielder enjoyed a successful career as a player, winning the Portuguese double with Sporting Lisbon in 2002 shortly before retiring, and his good fortune seems to have continued into his days as a coach. Now aged 42, Bento took over as manager of the Portuguese national side in 2010, after considerable achievements at the helm of Sporting Lisbon – not least helping bring the likes of Nani, João Moutinho and Miguel Veloso through the club’s youth academy. In 2008, he was even linked with becoming Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s new assistant.
Player to watch: Cristiano Ronaldo
He would no doubt claim the title of ‘best player on the planet’ for himself, but, officially at least, Ronaldo still plays second fiddle to Argentinian wunderkind Lionel Messi. Not that the rest of the Portuguese squad would complain, relying on the former Manchester United winger’s speed, dribbling, creativity, shooting, set-pieces, headers and assists to propel them through the upcoming tournament. The 2011-12 season has proven good practice, too, with Ronaldo breaking the record for hat-tricks in La Liga and finding the net more than 40 times.
FIFA World Ranking: 5
UEFA Euro Ranking: 5
Number of Euro appearances: 13
Previous best: Finalists in 2004
Qualification: Runners-up in Group H – 27 goals scored, 14 goals against, 79 attempts on target, 81 corners
Form (qualifying): DLWWWWWWDW
Fixtures: June 9 vs. Germany; June 13 vs. Denmark; June 17 vs. Netherlands