Tag: Euro 2012

A look at our rivals: Portugal

Willem van Hanegem, Louis van Gaal, Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola… they all said at some stage in their career: “I don’t care who we play, what their tactics are or what they do… We play our own game. And we won’t change it for the sake of our opponents…”

As if playing Germany isn’t enough, Holland is also up against a recent blood rival, Portugal.

They were too smart for us in the 2002 World Cup campaign ( or was Louis van Gaal maybe so dumb???) and in 2004, they blocked us in the Euros in Portugal. Two years later we played them in what is debatable the most shameful match ever ( I think the rigged West-Germany vs Austria in 1982 was worse, by the way)…

That World Cup 2006 game, with all those yellows and reds, and what would be the seed game for the Van Basten vs Bommel / Nistel rift.

That Portugal! They made it through and would eventually be stopped in the semi finals. Two years before, they made it to the finals of “their” Euros and got beaten by Greece. There still is justice, I’d say. I remember I didn’t watch that game as I couldn’t stand seeing them lift the trophy and when I received the text messages claiming Greece won it and simply didn’t believe it.

So we meet again. And this time, we will win it. Statistically, that is what has to happen. Too bad for C Ronaldo, Nani and Meireles but Portugal is going home.

Their first big trophy will have to wait.

In 1984, Portugal did collect a lot of fans when the sympatico team lost against France in a sizzling semi finals. And 12 years of drought followed. In 1996, they finally re-emerged as they reached the quarter finals and the semis even in 2000 in Holland. With their golden generation of Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Joao Pinto and Fernando Couto….

This time around, they almost missed the Euros completely as they only got one point from their first two qualification games. Manager Paulo Bento took over from Carlos Queiroz and since that event, Portugal won 5 games in a row. They had to play a play-off match but won it convincingly ( 6-2 over Bosnia Herzegovina). They may not longer have a sympathetic sttriker like Eusebio was in 1966, but the annoying C Ronaldo and Nani must assuredly are highly capable forwards. With strongholders Meireles and Moutinho in midfield and butchers Pepe and creative Coentrao in defense, Portugal might be a dark horse.

The team manager
Paulo Bento was a Jan Wouters like midfielder. Strong, focused and tough. He played 35 international games and was part of the group that made it to the semis in 2000. Bento started as youth coach at Sporting and coached the seniors to two national cups and two super cups. He took over from Queiroz in 2010 and found his winning ways with the national team. In November 2010, his Portugal beat reigning World and Euro champs Spain, 4-0.


The Skipper
Cristiano Ronaldo might be an annoy

ing brat, he’s also highly talented. He played a key part in Portugal’s qualification campaign with seven goals. The former Man U star made his debut in the 2004 Portugal team amd won the UEFA Football player of the year award in 2008. In that year he received the band for Portugal.

The Goalie
Rui Patricio was third choice in 2008 but made his way to the top spot under Bento this year. The tall goalie played for Portugal in that Spain game ( 4-0) but had to wait a year before he was granted the starting berth.


Defensive Rock

The Brazil born defender almost quit football until Co Adriaanse landed at FC Porto and started to work with the shy defender. Pepe developed tremendously and got the big transfer to Real Madrid. Portugal didn’t lose a game whenever Pepe played in the starting line up. Pepe is fast, tough as nails and a good header. He has penetrative runs and good vision for a defender but tends to sometimes loose the plot. And when he does, he does that really really well….

Midfield Maestro
Raul Meireles started for Portugal since the World Cup 2006. The shrewd midfielder didn’t miss a game this qualification round and has 50 caps to his name. He is effective both defensively as offensively and scores important goals for clubs and nation. Meireles pairs physical strength to tactical smarts.


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A look at our rivals: Denmark

Willem van Hanegem, Louis van Gaal, Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola… they all said at some stage in their career: “I don’t care who we play, what their tactics are or what they do… We play our own game. And we won’t change it for the sake of our opponents…”

Tough talk. But let’s have a look anyway, ok?

Denmark is our first opponent this tournament. They are the filler in this Group of Death. All eyes will be on Germany, Holland and Portugal and Denmark will be seen as the ugly duckling, used to prop up the goal difference. But is that the right attitude?

Denmark was our first opponent at the World Cup in S Africa as well. They are seen as a weaker nation but we did need an own goal from them to start our winning campaign. Underestimating an opponent is always stupid and as Morten Olson’s men can look back at historical success at the Euros level, it is probably smart for Holland to take them seriously.

Denmark got their international breakthrough at the 1984 Euros in France, when they turned a 0-2 trail into a 3-2 win over Belgium. They lost the semi finals against Spain, but since then Denmark has been a staple at Euros.

They actually won it in 1992, in Sweden, as the so-called “beach team” that came to the tournament only because Yugoslavia was banned as a result of the Balkan crisis. Richard Moller-Nielsen’s team got a second bite of the cherry and totally relaxed and without pressure played themselves to glory. Partly by beating Holland in the semis on penalties. And this was even without their best ever player, Michael Laudrup.

Denmark was never able to even come close to this feat, but they did force Brazil to a hefty quarter finals game in the 1998 World Cup and they didn’t do too shabby at the 2004 Euros either.

Denmark has garnered fans all over the world by their joyous football: attacking, skillfull and somewhat undisciplined. Their former heroes include forwards like the Laudrups, Preben Larssen, Jon Dahl Tomasson, Allan Simonsen and more controlled players like Morton Olson and goalie Peter Schmeichel.

In today’s Denmark, youthful talents like Christian Eriksen, Michael Krohn Dehli and Nicklas Bendtner take the limelight, although the playing style under Morton Olson is more of a counter-attacking unit.

Coach Morton Olsen was the Danish Beckenbauer, a midfielder transformed to libero. He was the first Danish player to reach 100 caps the former Anderlecht star would later coach Ajax and Brondby IFK. Olsen still claims that the beauty of the game is more important to him than results, in real Ajax style, but the way his team plays doesn’t always exude that mantra.

The Captain
Stoke City goalie Thomas Sorensen is Olsen’s skipper. The seasoned goalie was supposed to be Schmeichel’s successor but struggles to make minutes in Stoke’s first team. Sorensen recently injured his back and might be replaced by Man United’s Lindegaard in the Holland game.

Defensive Rock
Andreas Bjelland is Denmark’s rock in the back. Strong and focused. Definitely not a big name player ( yet). He’s only 22 years old and has only played 4 international games for Denmark but he’s seen as the mainstay in Denmark’s defense. The young Dane will join FC Twente this summer. He plays center back for Denmark but is capable of playing full back and holding midfielder too.

Midfield Maestro
Christian Eriksen can play his football where he wants. All European topclubs are interested in signing the playmaker, as they were back in 2008 when he was only 16 years old. It was Ajax that snatched him up and Eriksen said only recently he will stay at least one more season in Amsterdam. He enjoys working with Bergkamp and De Boer and loves the open Dutch competition. But the biggest Danish talent since Laudrup will most definitely end up wearing the Barca club colours one day…

Star striker
Nicklas Bendtner is a lad with a big ego. And big strikers tend to have big egos ( ask Drogba, Ibrahimovic, Gullit and John Guidetti if you are not sure). The 23 year old Arsenal striker ( on loan at Sunderland) played an important role for Denmark in the qualifications, scoring key goals in important games.

Other interesting players: Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Nichoai Boilesen ( Ajax), Simon Poulsen ( AZ Alkmaar), Lasse Schone ( now NEC, Ajax next season), Mads Junker ( Roda JC, maybe Feyenoord?) and Dennis Rommedahl ( ex PSV, ex Ajax)

What to expect?
Denmark plays an interesting role in the group. We expect them to lose against Holland of course, but depending on the result of Germany – Portugal, anything is possible. If that game ends in a tie, and Oranje is capable of beating both Germany and Portugal, Denmark will have shot at second place. They will have to beat Portugal ( which they have done before in the qualifications) and need a result ( a tie? ) against Germany to be the dog that gets away with the bone.

Despite Olsen’s words and his reputation of playing attractive football, Denmark will calculate their way through the group and might be a surprise knock out rival.

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