Can Ronaldo and Paulo Bento lead Portugal to another major tournament?
Portugal will start their World Cup 2014 Qualification on Friday when they take on a Luxembourg side that is ranked 106th. An impressive run at Euro 2012 has helped Portugal reach the fourth spot in the FIFA ranking, but they will need to avoid complacency in their next match.
In Group F, Luxembourg and Portugal will compete against Azerbaijan, Israel, Northern Ireland and Russia for a place in the upcoming World Cup, which will take place in Brazil. Unfortunately for Luxembourg, they have never qualified for a major international competition, so they will have a lot to prove.
Euro 2012 qualifying was a disappointment for Luxembourg as they only managed four points from a possible 30. A scoreless draw at home against Belarus and a 2-1 victory at home against Albania was all they could put together in Group D with France, Bosnia and Romania, apart from the two previously mentioned.
It has been a completely different story for Portugal, who has enjoyed success as of late, but they still continue to come up short in regards to silverware. Having Cristiano Ronaldo in his prime will give the Portuguese a very good chance of success, but the Real Madrid forward isn’t going to be able to do it on his own.
Their first match on Friday will bring back bad memories of the way they started their Euro 2012 qualification under then-manager Carlos Queiroz. If not for a late surge under Paulo Bento, Portugal could well have been watching Euro 2012 from their living room.
Complacency will be a keyword for Paulo Bento leading up to their match against Luxembourg.
Will Portugal struggle to break down Luxembourg?
“It’s fundamental to start our qualification in the best way possible. The goal is to earn six points in our first two matches.”
“To come in first place we can’t facilitate because no match is already won and we just need to prove why we are favorites.”
With new faces such as Ruben Amorim, Pizzi and even Eder, the Portuguese will be out to not only claim a victory but some players will have something to prove.
Realistically speaking, Portugal will be expected to defeat Luxembourg with some ease considering the significant difference in talent and experience, but as Paulo Bento said, no match is already won.
The hosts will almost certainly opt for a very defensive approach with everyone behind the ball, looking to defend in numbers and frustrate the Portuguese. Ronaldo will be a key figure on offense as he always is, so it will be interesting to see if they choose to double team him or if they will prefer to stay in a defensive zone.
A convincing win and performance is expected of Portugal with a great opportunity for some of the younger and newer players to get a feel for international football. Anything other than a victory for Portugal will be a major disappointment as well as a significant setback.
Will Portugal be able to avoid a poor start like the one they had in the Euro 2012 Qualifying Stage?