Euro 2016: Portugal relying on Ronaldo once again
A place in the second round may not be beyond Portugal but Ronaldo can only do so much
The extent to which the Portuguese relied on Ronaldo last time around was pretty remarkable and though he wasn’t quite up to the task of hauling them through the group stages in Brazil, they appear to have little option but to do it all again. Their performance at the World Cup and subsequent defeat by Albania first time out in the qualifiers prompted a regime change and while results have certainly improved under Fernando Santos there is only so much he can do when the defence has to be built around veterans like Ricardo Carvalho and Pepe. Joao Moutinho will be on hand again along, quite possibly, with Nani. William Carvalho, the country’s hottest property a couple of years ago, has regained a bit of form towards the end of the club season but it still seems to come down to the boy from the Bernabeu who is himself 31 these days and tends to play as a striker for his country. Having failed to win this tournament back in 2004 when they had everything bar a goalscorer, they can’t hope to make much an impact when that is about all they have. Still, a place in the second round may well not be beyond them.
How they qualified:
Manager: Fernando Santos.
Santos is as big a name in Portuguese management as there is having managed all three of the top clubs – Benfica, Porto and Sporting Lisbon – before taking the national team role. His appointment came on the back of leading Greece to the knockout stages at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, proving his ability on the international stage in the process.
Star man: Cristiano Ronaldo.
There is a criticism levelled at Cristiano Ronaldo that Portugal and Real Madrid often suffer because everything has to centre around him. But when teams play without him, as Real Madrid did in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, it is plain to see why the world still revolves around Ronnie. Now 31, Ronaldo remains a physical freak and a goal-scoring machine. The fleet-footed running of old is long gone but he is now near enough the perfect forward and the perfect athlete. His Real Madrid record is simply staggering and any chance Portugal have this summer hinges on their best player and one of the greatest to have played the game.
One to watch: Renato Sanches.
After rejecting Manchester United for Bayern Munich just last month it is clear that the 18-year-old Sanches is thought of very highly. Despite being at such a young age the midfielder has already made 24 appearances for Benfica and could take Europe by storm this summer.
Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Dínamo Zagreb), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Patrício (Sporting CP),
Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Sporting CP), André Gomes (Valencia), Danilo Pereira (Porto), João Mário (Sporting CP), João Moutinho (Monaco), Rafa Silva (Braga), Renato Sanches (Benfica), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), William Carvalho (Sporting CP).
Forwards: Éder (Lille), Nani (Fenerbahçe), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid).
What President Trump says...
“I don’t have time to talk about Portugal. Far as I’m concerned, Portuguese people are the same as Spanish, but with worse wine.”