Euro 2012: Ronaldo key for Portugal
The Hague : Portugal had difficulties qualifying for Euro 2012, but will nevertheless start the forthcoming tournament in Ukraine and Poland with high expectations, thanks to Real Madrid`s ace Cristiano Ronaldo.
The 27-year-old forward enjoyed a terrific season with Real Madrid, leading the Spanish giants to the La Liga title. He even improved on his personal record of 40 goals of the 2010/2011 season by netting 46 times in the league, still four behind his rival Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona.
For the Portuguese team Ronaldo scored seven goals in eight qualification matches, which was not enough to lead Portugal directly to Euro 2012. His team finished second behind group winners Denmark, but eventually qualified by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina in the play-offs, reports said.
After the 0-0 draw in Zenica, Portugal outclassed the Bosnians 6-2 in Lisbon, with Ronaldo scoring twice. The Portuguese thereby ended a difficult campaign on a high note. After a poor start coach Carlos Queiroz was fired in September 2010 and Bento was named as his successor.
The 42-year-old former Portuguese international and Sporting coach Bento decided his team would play in a 4-3-3 formation with Ronaldo in a free role on the left side and Manchester United winger Nani on the right.
"We have a very clear objective, first to get to the quarter-finals, then, naturally, to try to go as far as possible," Bento said.
Two veteran names are lacking in defence, Real Madrid`s Ricardo Carvalho and Chelsea right back Jose Bosingwa. Both were banned by the coach after quarrels during the Euro 2012 qualification campaign.
"We are satisfied with the choices we have made and we are going to focus on the task with these players. I don`t ask you to agree with my choices, but I ask you to respect it," Bento told the media after announcing his 23-man squad.
In five previous European Championships participations Portugal finished runners-up once (2004) and reached the semi-finals twice (1984, 2000). In 1996 and 2008 the quarter-finals were the final chapter.
Eight years ago a 19-year-old Ronaldo shed tears, just like the whole nation, after losing the final of the European championships on home soil against Greece (0-1).