5 Key Decisions for Portugal Ahead of Euro 2016 Qualification

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

5 Key Decisions for Portugal Ahead of Euro 2016 Qualification

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    The dust is still to settle on the catastrophe that was Portugal's trip to Brazil.

    With high expectations come big disappointments, and the supporters are far from pleased with the team's performance at the 2014 World Cup.

    Having reached the semi-finals at Euro 2012, the team were expected to at least make the quarter-finals behind an even better Cristiano Ronaldo this summer.

    Their failure to progress from the group stages has not been taken lightly, and the direction of the national side is under serious scrutiny.

    Here are five decisions which need to be addressed ahead of Euro 2016 qualification. 

Should Paulo Bento Be Sacked?

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    It wasn't just the results that weren't up to scratch.

    After all, one win, one draw and a defeat was enough for the USA to progress.

    It wasn't even the 30-minute capitulation against the Germans.

    The team was wrong and the tactics weren't flexible enough. Paulo Bento looked out of his depth.

    That might seem a little harsh given he guided them to within a few penalty kicks of the European Championship final a few years ago.

    In any case, the team's struggle to qualify for the tournament was clearly a warning sign, but in May the Portuguese FA decided to renew his contract for another two years anyway.

    They are unlikely to let him go given the situation, but they will be wondering why they were so keen to tie him down to a new deal before the tournament. 

What to Do with Ronaldo?

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    For Real Madrid last term, Cristiano Ronaldo played both wide left in a 4-3-3 and as a striker in a 4-4-2 system.

    When on the left, he cuts inside. That space is then vacated by Angel di Maria from the central midfield zone.

    There were times when Raul Meireles did move across, but as Di Maria is a natural left-winger, the balance is maintained much better at Madrid.

    The Portuguese left-back was constantly exposed when attacked by the opposition, and without Ronaldo tracking back, it was an obvious weak point.

    With injuries to Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga, they were also clearly struggling up front.

    Eder played over an hour of every game at striker, but didn't register a goal.

    Ronaldo can't be in two places at once, so Bento has to decide where's best for him to contribute without it impacting negatively on the team. 

Why Are There so Many Injury Problems?

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    It was a continual theme ahead of the World Cup, with a number of the world's top players struggling with injury concerns.

    Cristiano Ronaldo was joined by Luis Suarez, Neymar, Diego Costa and others in trying to recover in a ridiculously short period of time.

    The risk of causing long-term damage was always there, and it could in part be put down to the huge amount of matches the best players have to undertake.

    However, with Pepe perhaps the exception, it's not the same for the rest of the Portuguese side.

    Is it down to the training regime or conditioning techniques? Could Bento's fitness experts have done more in preparation for the tournament?

    Portugal certainly didn't need any help in underestimating their competition, but the injuries really did take a toll on the side. 

Which of the Experienced Players Should Stay?

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    Over half the squad was 28 or older and only three players were under 26, according to WhoScored.com.

    Ricardo Costa was the oldest at 33, which means that all the players could make the European Championships if playing up to the required standard.

    However, some look older than their years and should be cast aside for the best young players coming through.

    It's not about simply assessing the poor performers and swapping them over. The arriving players have to be an upgrade. 

How Do You Get the Best out of Joao Moutinho?

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    It would be unfair to single out the Monaco midfielder as having a bad tournament. After all, there were others who were much worse within the Portuguese ranks.

    However, while at times he looked sharp, there were moments when the game seemed to pass him by.

    He has the ability to dictate the team's play, and the feeling is that Moutinho has not been used properly by Bento until now.

    The team setup needs to get the most out of the best players.

    In this case, Ronaldo and Moutinho in particular.