LVIV, Ukraine, June 13 – Portugal have yet to win this year but Wednesday’s game against Denmark in Lviv, Ukraine, would be an ideal time to end that run, as they take on the side that beat them to top spot in qualifying.
The Portuguese — finalists in 2004 when they hosted the tournament — opened their Euro 2012 campaign with a far from dishonourable 1-0 defeat to the hands of one of the favourites for the title, Germany.
But with the Danes, champions in 1992, having stunned the Dutch, Paulo Bento’s team know that while a draw would at least give them an outside chance of reaching the last eight, nothing short of victory is required with the Dutch still to play.
Portugal, though, face an uphill battle, with the Danes on the up and having beaten the Selecao 2-1 in the final tournament qualifier in Copenhagen last October, making it three wins from five against the Portuguese, and forcing them to play-off.
Pivotal to them getting something out of the game will be for their captain and one world class player Cristiano Ronaldo to get more involved than he was after yet another disappointing performance for him at this level against the Germans.
In his defence, the 26-year-old Real Madrid superstar does not have the same quality of playing talent supporting him as he had when he first made an impression as a player in the 2004 tournament.
Indeed, one of those players of the so-called “golden generation” of Portuguese players, Luis Figo, sprang to his defence on Sunday and called on Ronaldo’s team-mates to give him the opportunity to display his considerable talents.
“I think the team need to give him the chances to have a good performance,” said the 39-year-old former Real Madrid star.
“The characteristic of Cristiano is to finish, to score, so, if the team don’t produce those kind of opportunities then of course his performance is down.”
Ronaldo for his part believes they should draw on their experience from 2004 when as hosts they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of the unheralded Greeks, who were then to rub salt into their wounds by beating them in the final.
“Now we have to pick ourselves up and continue,” he told uefa.com. “We have to take as an example the team of 2004, when we also started with a defeat, but then reached the final.
“We have been playing well for several games and just haven’t had the luck with our finishing.”
Manchester United star Nani said that he believed the Danes would play for a draw so it was up to him and his team-mates to wear them down.
“The match against Denmark is very important, as we know it is a must-win one for us,” said 25-year-old Nani, who is aiming to make an impression after a low-key performance in the German game.
“Then we would be in a comfortable position and would have our fate in our own hands and then there is the Germany-Holland match just after.
“I don’t think (Denmark) will really go over the top.”
Nani’s prediction may not be far off the mark as with the canny and experienced coach Morten Olsen in charge of the Danes the Portuguese can expect to come up against a well-drilled outfit that relies largely on team spirit to make up for its lack of flair.
Their goalscorer against the Dutch, Michael Krohn-Dehli, typifies this dogged spirit — a journeyman forward who failed to make it in six years in Dutch club football.
He believes they can progress to the last eight with more of the same character.
“We don’t have to win our next two games in order to progress to the last eight. We now have a great opportunity.”