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WTF Portugal???

June 2, 2010

Once again, I find myself at a loss. How on Earth can a team with the £80 million man be so bad? That is the question we are going to be addressing in this week’s installment of WTF?

As always, lets take a look at the squad Portugal have named. Upon glancing at the team sheet, you quickly realize that there probably weren’t too many doubts about who the 23 would be. With wingers like Cristiano Ronaldo, Simao Sabrosa, and Nani you clearly have quality out wide. With Deco, Miguel Veloso, and Tiago there is plenty of quality in the middle of the pitch. Ricardo Carvalho is a world class defender, as Pepe can be at times, and Bruno Alves is pretty useful. Up top is really the only weak point, with Liedson and Hugo Almeida being the only two real options that Portugal have, which isn’t the fault of Carlos Queiroz.

With a group of such talented players, and no obvious mistakes, surely they are doing well, right? Wrong. In a group consisting of Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Albania, and Malta, Portugal only barely managed to finish second. At one point during qualifying, Portugal went three games (against Sweden, Albania, and Sweden again) scoreless. They couldn’t manage to beat the Danes despite being two goals to the good with 80 minutes gone. The only sound victories they had were a pair of 4-0 thumpings they visited upon Malta to begin and end their group play. Then they edged out the mighty powerhouse of Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-0 on aggregate. Did I forget to mention that they recently drew 0-0 in a friendly with the Cape Verde Islands. THE CAPE FUCKING VERDE ISLANDS! You can’t even score on your own former colony. These guys are probably dead last on the FIFA power rankings, and a side featuring Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t even score a goal. Clearly there is something wrong with this team. So what is it?

Tactics. Obviously. They are playing in a 4-3-3, which makes sense considering they are short of out and out strikers. But throughout qualification Ronaldo didn’t score a single goal from his spot out wide. It seems as though Queiroz is overlooking the obvious option, play Ronaldo up front. Hear me out. I know he isn’t an out and out striker, but he brings an aerial threat that Liedson lacks, and pace that Almeida lacks, as well as a goal scoring edge that both of them have a hard time finding. Not to mention that he is not a stranger to the position, having played in it for Manchester United. His movement would be a great boon to Portugal. He could drift out wide to accommodate a winger coming inside, he could drop deep and draw the center backs, clearing space for a diagonal run from the wingers, or he could be a target man. Not to mention that you have the added benefit of bringing Simao off the bench and into the left winger role, with Nani in the right. In the midfield and defense things seem to sort themselves out, but the attack has got to be fixed.

But that brings me to another question: is Portugal really that good? Take a look at the squad, and ask yourself who makes Spain’s squad? Or Brazil’s squad? Or even England’s squad? Ronaldo most certainly makes it in any side. Carvalho would probably make it in. But Deco? Spain have Xavi and Iniesta, who he isn’t likely to jump in front of. Dunga prefers a more defensive set up, making it doubtful he makes the Brazil squad. Aside from the fact that he doesn’t fit the English style of play, it is doubtful he would make it in front of Gerrard or Lampard. Nani? I wouldn’t think so. He is clearly talented, but hardly reliable. He still has a little way to go before he makes good on the promise of his talent. Miguel Veloso is a good enough player, but I don’t think he would make it in any of the sides. So there you have it. Maybe Querioz isn’t the best coach in the world, but maybe Portugal’s players (Ronaldo aside) aren’t the best in the world either. Then again, sometimes all it takes is one man to change a match.

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