Euro 2012 Tactical Breakdown: What to Expect from Portugal
As the 2012 European Championships come ever closer, Bleacher Report continues it's extensive, in-depth coverage of the teams involved.
Here, we will have a look at Portugal in order to ascertain how they'll play, who their key players are what makes them tick.
Head coach Paulo Bento has made big strides during his short tenure so far, securing qualification to the tournament in dramatic fashion—a 6-2 away win against Bosnia and Herzegovina sealed their passage.
Anything was going to better than Carlos Queiroz's reign, but Bento made one critical observation and took advantage of it—make Cristiano Ronaldo happy, see your team prosper.
Here's how Portugal will likely line up for their first game against Germany on June 9 in Lviv.
People throw the phrase "4-3-3" around, but Paulo Bento employs one of the purest versions of this formation you'll see in football.
He plays a genuine front three—the likes of which we've seen from FC Porto over the last decade or so—with devastating results. The graphic implies how Portugal may look when on the attack.
In the 2010 World Cup, Fabio Coentrao stole the headlines and was Portugal's best player. He was allowed to maraud up and down the left side of the pitch and caught the eye on many occasions.
This stifled Ronaldo, but Bento has found a way to utilise them both and for this reason, a lot of the excitement happens down Portugal's left side.
Ronaldo has the ability to stretch defences, taking them down the line and widening the gaps between players or cutting inside with deadly effect.
Quite often, you'll see sides hit a "brick wall" of sorts when they enter the final third, but that's not the case when you've got Ronaldo performing as he is.
He attracts double-, sometimes triple-coverage. His team can take advantage of this and create overloads in the central areas—particularly on the edge of the penalty box.
Raul Meireles, Carlos Martins and Ruben Micael were all able to score in this fashion during the qualifying and friendly campaigns.
Portugal play a relatively high line which is susceptible to pacey attacks.
Under Carlos Queiroz, they managed to concede four against Cyprus with the long ball simply killing them. Bento has repaired some of this damage, but a quick, incisive attack would see the flat-footed Bruno Alves and Pepe in trouble.
They do have an insurance policy, as Miguel Veloso—or whoever sits deep in the midfield—is able to cover for the marauding full-backs, but you get the impression a few perfect diagonals from a Xabi Alonso-esque player could open them right up.
In their warm-up friendly against Macedonia, they were stretched multiple times by an extremely average opposing attack.
If you run at Portugal, they will struggle.
The key to Portugal's success is Cristiano Ronaldo. That sounds obvious, but his positioning and movement reshapes the entire team at times.
Which striker will start for Portugal?
Portugal play a 4-3-3, but at times look a lop-sided 4-4-2 or even a 4-5-1. Bento has found the key to winning in allowing Ronaldo freedom, happiness and opportunity to express himself.
He will be hoping his faith will be rewarded with silverware.
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