Through the quarterfinals of the 2012 European Championship, Portugal have exceeded expectations. They weren’t expected to get out of the Group of Death, but an impressive performance against the Dutch allowed them to do so. Then, the Portuguese romped past an unimpressive Czech side that was overmatched without midfield maestro Tomas Rosicky.
In their five games, Portugal have played organized defense and impressive offense. They have surprised in their effectiveness and have to be considered to have a chance in their semifinal against Spain.
The team with the best player always has an advantage. Ronaldo is really the only person in the tournament capable of winning a game by himself. After struggling a bit in his first two games, he has improved tremendously and he created chance after chance against the Czech Republic. Since he has begun to find the back of the net, the danger he presents has increased tremendously.
Spain and Germany have been more impressive, but both were considered favorites entering the tournament. On the other hand, Portugal were picked by many to be eliminated in the group stage. Much of that was a product of the group, of course, but Portugal—and Ronaldo himself—have a history of disappointing at major tournaments.
Despite playing for Manchester United, Nani has never gotten the recognition his talent deserves. He has a reputation for flopping, but his wide play and delivery in Euro 2012 has been fantastic. He has provided a balance on the other side of the field from Ronaldo, and his set pieces have given Ronaldo a chance to demonstrate his aerial ability.
Portugal’s distributor in the midfield has made a name for himself. He isn’t as well known as some others because he plays for Porto, but his composure on the ball has caused observers to take note. He has allowed Nani and Ronaldo to press forward and put pressure on opposing defenses, while his chemistry with Miguel Veloso has been obvious and important.