PORTUGAL is full of massive individual talents — but my hope is that the team’s ability is even greater than the sum of its parts.
Cristiano Ronaldo will once again be the big star, even at 36, with his enormous quality meaning the side revolves around him.
Portugal have a wealth of talent to help defend their Euros crown[/caption]
His team-mates have to accept it is worth foregoing some teamwork from Ronaldo, because they know he is capable of making the difference at any moment.
That has been the case in the past — such as that amazing hat-trick in the 3-3 draw against Spain at the 2018 World Cup — and will be once again at this tournament.
Ronaldo will offer little on the defensive side but contribute everything in the final third, so he is a luxury worth having.
But beyond the Juventus striker and the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Bernardo Silva, there are some emerging stars in Portuguese football too.
The latest example is Pote, a young midfielder who played in behind the striker for title-winning Sporting Lisbon and finished top-scorer in the Primeira Liga with 23.
Pote, 22, is a rebellious and bold player who is not afraid of any opponent or atmosphere.
I know three members of the squad really well because they played for me in the past. I had Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho at Sporting and Renato Sanches at Swansea.
Patricio holds the all-time record for international caps won by a Portuguese goalkeeper so is very experienced and assured.
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He rarely makes big mistakes and there’s no question that he’s a big asset to the national team.
His performances at Wolves have confirmed just how reliable the best goalkeeper of the decade really is.
Moutinho is a machine! I was once asked to give my thoughts on him and I remember saying, “He plays with an antenna on his head”.
He understands the game, he plays and gets others playing, he covers for players who are out of position and is a tireless worker for the team.
Moutinho, 34, is second in the all-time appearances list for the national team with 130 caps, ahead of Luis Figo and behind Ronaldo on 174.
Having played at three Euros and two World Cups, this is likely his last major tournament.
Sanches, 23, is an explosive box-to-box midfielder who regained his best form in France with surprise Ligue 1 champions Lille.
As someone who plays with great intensity at both ends of the pitch, the French league has been the ideal platform for him to prove his ability.
Portugal are out to defend their Euro 2016 crown[/caption]
Manchester City’s Ruben Dias is one of several stars to have emerged since[/caption]
When there are a lot of transitions in the game is when we will see the best of Renato.
Portugal are in Group F with Hungary, Germany and France. It’s going to be difficult and very tight.
In theory, Hungary will be the team left behind and the other three will battle for the top two spots.
Portugal have historically struggled against what, on paper, are weaker teams and excel against stronger opponents. This is why the first game, against Hungary on Tuesday, is so important and the team simply cannot afford to drop any points.
I think that in this match the coach Fernando Santos will take risks to win the game — and go with three attacking players up top who have an eye for goal.
He will set up with a four-man defence and three midfielders, two of them more attacking players.
He will also go with two attacking wing-backs that have the flanks to themselves, with the wingers playing more on the inside.
In the other two games, against France and Germany, I expect to see Portugal try to control the game in the middle with two holding midfielders, a more attack-minded option (like Fernandes) and a winger who is a good all-round midfielder, such as Bernardo Silva.
This will allow Santos’ men to dominate play in the middle third and create good attacking play to provide Ronaldo the best supply, while not giving the opposition the time to launch counter-attacks.
We attack together and we are a unit when we lose the ball.
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Portugal are the defending Euro champions. The team has really talented players, a very able and experienced coach as well as huge desire and belief to successfully defend their crown.
Everything in the group stage will come down to beating France and Germany, and not slipping up against Hungary.
We hope to see Portugal play technical and creative football but with good discipline at the same time.
That is what they showed five years ago and it took them all the way.
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