After losing to Germany, Portugal sit tied with the Netherlands at the bottom of Group B. But with two games remaining in the group stages, the Portuguese have much to look forward to.
Ronaldo has a reputation for disappointing at major tournaments, and certainly he was not the most impressive figure on the pitch in Lviv. But the rest of the Portuguese attack force looked promising, particularly once Hélder Postiga was removed for Nélson Oliveira and Varela came on in place of Raul Meireles.
Nani was particularly threatening down the right-hand side, with several runs in which he utilized his pace to break through the German back four. His delivery on corner kicks was also tremendous, as he whipped corner after corner into the center of the German defense.
On the left side, Fábio Coentrão had a few more runs that broke down Germany’s midfield. That type of pace and skill from a left back is dangerous, particularly when Portugal face the Netherlands and shaky right back Gregory van der Wiel.
If Coentrão can link up with João Moutinho and Ronaldo, the left side will be as dangerous as Nani and Joao Pereira were on the right side.
In the last 15 minutes or so, much of the game took place deep within the German half. Portugal had several opportunities, but were let down by a lack of clinical finishing. For a side with proven goal scorers, that would be expected to remedy itself.
In addition, Portugal were unusually disciplined in defense. The knock on them has generally been that they show a lot of flair going forward but fail to defend with adequate effort. The back four and Rui Patricio were excellent, getting undone only by a Mario Gomez header on a deflected cross.
Unlike the Netherlands-Denmark game, it wasn’t a case of Germany missing on chances; rather, the Portuguese were able to remain disciplined and tackle strongly.
This performance bodes well for the remaining two group games. Ronaldo is coming off of one of the greatest goal-scoring seasons ever, so his form clearly indicates that he should be more productive than he was against Germany.
Portugal’s defensive effort bodes well for the matchup with Denmark, as the Danes are a solid but relatively unspectacular side. They present a danger, but the Portuguese performance put in behind the ball is a good sign.
The same holds true for the game vs. the Netherlands. The Dutch are a fantastic offensive team, but lack the stability defensively of Denmark or even Germany.
It will be tough for Portugal to keep the ball out of the back of the net, but the dribbling skill of Ronaldo and Nani, combined with the quick movements of Moutinho and whoever plays up top, might be enough for Portugal to outscore the Dutch.
Zero points is a disappointing result for Portugal, but the effort has to be heartening. In the last quarter of the game, the midfielders and forwards linked up nicely, creating some fantastic chances.
If Varela or Nani put home their chances late—or if Pepe’s shot at the end of the first half finds the back of the net—we are talking about an entirely different situation in Group B.
Portugal will need results in each of the next two games, but the performance put in against Germany certainly indicates they will be in a good position to do so.