Portugal power to deny Danes
Group of death or not, an opening-match defeat is enough to back any nation into a corner. Portugal may not have been banking on beating Germany last Saturday but as a consequence of that 1-0 loss they have little room for error against the Danes in Lviv on Wednesday.
It is not quite win or bust for Paulo Bento’s side, but it’s not far off, and with that in mind we expect them to play to their strengths and attack. They showed occasional glimpses of potential against Germany but for the most part were content to retreat, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani deployed on the counter-attack. Against the second-favourites for the tournament, it was no wonder that those two stars of the side were restricted, but we imagine the roles will be reversed this time around.
It would make little sense for Denmark to alter their approach significantly after surprising Holland, despite the confidence gleaned from their 1-0 success. And that ought to see Portugal’s attacking moves originating from higher up the pitch, with Raul Meireles closer to Ronaldo and Nani, players better used to performing for the favourites, not the underdogs, as they were on Saturday.
But this time we don’t think Morten Olsen’s men can be trusted to hold out for another 90 minutes in the face of severe pressure. Their victory against the Dutch was certainly creditable but it was not without fortune. While they may be tempted to dig in with the hope of securing a draw, a result which would leave them well-placed ahead of the final fixtures, it would be a dangerous approach in the face of a side drinking in the last-chance saloon.
And with Portugal’s need greater, as well as the striking potential of their attacking duo, we fancy them to pick up the win they need. However, their suspect defence leads us to swerve the match-win market, in which they are still available at odds against with some bookmakers, in favour of a win not to nil.
Bento was forced to make stopping Germany his priority but that was a ploy made to measure and not one his team would appear suited to. They shipped 12 goals in eight qualifying matches, more than any other side at the finals, as well as two more in the play-offs against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five of those 12 came in Carlos Quieroz’s two games in charge, but under replacement Bento they conceded four times in their two clashes with Iceland and three in their two games against… Denmark.
The Danes won the group, taking the final match 2-1, with Michael Krohn-Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner netting for the hosts, and Ronaldo replying late on, having lost 3-1 in Portugal earlier in the campaign. The sides are well-acquainted, but this is a different situation entirely. With the Portuguese going for broke there will be opportunities for Denmark to test the irascible Pepe and his central defensive partner Bruno Alves, both of whom are liable to roam.
Portugal won not to nil in five of their ten qualifiers (including play-offs) and at 7/2 we reckon it’s worth an investment again as they battle to blow Group B wide open.
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