Football

Portugal and Ronaldo face Danish Roulette

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Portugal will have to let Ronaldo loose (©GettyImages)
Portugal will have to let Ronaldo loose (©GettyImages).

Portugal meet Denmark today in Group B's second round of fixtures with the two sides having contrasting fortunes.

Not many people would have expected the Danes to go into the game joint top of the group, while their opponents were kicking themselves over the lack of adventure that was largely responsible for their loss to Germany.

The two sides do not meet as strangers, however, and recent years have seen them become entirely familiar with one another.

Qualifying saw the sides drawn together in Group H and Denmark were the eventual group winners – it played out similarly for the World Cup 2010 qualifying two years prior.

The Scandinavians are something of a problem for Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates; they have only managed to win one of the last five meetings between the sides.

Latest FIFA world rankings have highlighted the recent fortunes of the two nations, with Portugal plummeting five places to tenth and Denmark rising a place to ninth.

Portugal's warm up to the tournament smacked of the negativity that was evident against the Germans, which makes you wonder why manager Paulo Bento persists with such a mindset.

Bafflement at this approach was further compounded by how dangerous his side looked after they had conceded Mario Gomez's headed winner, and were forced to go looking for a goal.

Optimism can be found in the fact that Bento's side must start in a similar vein to how they finished on Saturday night, as a defeat would see them exit the tournament and a draw leaves a must win game against Holland in the final round of fixtures.

Portugal's continual disappointments at international tournaments occurs even though they have one of the greatest players ever seen in Ronaldo, and a raft of more than able deputies; Nani, Raul Meireles, Fabio Coentrao are just a few of a very capable squad.

They seem to fail in spite of themselves.

Clarence Seedorf was candid in his criticism of the side following their defeat when he said he was nonplussed as to why Portugal continue to play as they did before conceding, because it has never been successful for them at international tournaments, despite regularly producing exceptionally talented squads.

The Dutch veteran believed they have nothing to lose in trying to win with a greater willingness to attack, as failure would not produce much worse an outcome than what they are accustomed to.

There is some cruel humour in the knowledge that when they are finally forced (and possibly convinced) that taking a more positive attitude into the game will garner greater success, Denmark will be hoping they do just that.

Holland's defeat came about by a lack of sharpness in a number of their key players, some incredible profligacy and the shrewd counter-attacking of Morten Olsen's side.

Faced with technically superior opponents, the Danes retreated to just in front of their area and concentrated on stifling the considerable attacking threat the Dutch possess.

Fortune favoured them as they met a Holland team that were out of sorts, but this should not detract form the impressive way in which they counter-pinched.

Michael Krohn-Dehli's first half winner had elements of fortune, but his finish was slick – he proved to be a constant threat due to his good movement and precise passing, helping to give his defenders moments of respite from the numerous Dutch attacks.

Recent history between them and Portugal will make sure there is an element of uncertainty among the Iberians, and Olsen's men will not fear the prospect of facing Ronaldo.

An unlikely victory over Holland puts the men in red and white in a favourable position, safely placing the onus for any proactivity on the Portuguese, and they will be hoping for a similar outcome.

With the Netherlands meeting Germany later, there is the prospect that two teams could be eliminated by the end of the day.

Joachim Loew's side will approach the fixture in a similar way to the Danish and they have a ferocious ability to counter that, added to the vulnerability of the Dutch defence, making an early exit for Bert van Marwijk's men the likely outcome.

It is plainly obvious what Denmark will set out to do, so Bento will be preparing for it accordingly.

However, it will do little to change what Portugal must do if they want their competition to last past Sunday – attack is the only way they will save themselves.

They have no option other than to unleash Ronaldo and take the game to Denmark, sacrificing some defensive stability.

It may or may not work – Danish Roulette, if you like.

Topics:
European News
Football
Cristiano Ronaldo
Nani
Raul Meireles
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