Portugal hope Cristiano Ronaldo can find Real Madrid form against Denmark

 

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The Independent Online

When Cristiano Ronaldo tore off his captain's armband in frustration after Portugal's 1-0 defeat by Germany in their opening Group B game, on Saturday, it summed up all that is wrong with his team.

Before the Euros started Portugal's coach Paolo Bento slated critics who said his team would struggle with an uninspired midfield, out-of-form strikers and a high-profile winger who often fails to fire in big tournaments.

Saturday's match appeared to prove those critics right. "I haven't done the individual analysis yet but I think it was a very good game by Ronaldo," Bento said at the weekend. In truth, the Real Madrid winger did little to justify his top billing.

The reality is, the critics say, that while Ronaldo's goal-scoring feats with Real Madrid are remarkable, too many of the teams he dominates in La Liga are ordinary.

Ronaldo's fancy footwork and stepovers might work well against Getafe and Real Zaragoza but when he comes up against quick, top-class defenders who refuse to panic, he finds it harder.

Within the first few minutes against Germany he literally bounced off the powerfully-built Mats Hummels, and later had a similarly frustrating time against a solid Jérôme Boateng.

Ronaldo had one good chance in the 64th minute when he broke clear into the German box, but was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Boateng.

Bento will also fret about the way the Germans took control of the game simply by sticking close to Ronaldo and Nani, Portugal's other attacking winger.

On several occasions midfielder Joao Moutinho found himself with plenty of space – but when he looked for an outlet in the final third of the field both Nani and Ronaldo were closely marked and the attacks broke down.

Before half-time Ronaldo was remonstrating with team-mates about the quality of their passing, yet he too was guilty of misplacing the final ball.

Up front the story was even more depressing, with striker Helder Postiga largely ineffective and Hugo Almeida the only experienced alternative.

Portugal's forwards will hope to raise team morale on Wednesday against Denmark, a slower team with a defence hardly at Germany's level. "We have to concentrate in the second game and we have to win it," Bento said.

Ronaldo at least found a staunch defender in Portugal's most capped player, Luis Figo, who said the team must improve his supply lines to get the best out of him. "I think the team need to give him the chances to have a good performance," the former World Player of the Year said.

"Cristiano's style is to finish, to score, so if the team don't produce those kind of opportunities then of course his performance is down."

Figo, 39, a veteran of 127 caps, added: "We have to improve. Portugal were not so efficient in the opportunities we had. We don't have time for any more mistakes – we have to win the next two games."

Win or lose, though, football is not the only thing on Figo's mind nowadays. At the weekend he was due to board one of the competing boats, Abu Dhabi, when the Volvo Ocean Race goes around Lisbon port before it continues to the next stopover in Lorient, France. His former Real Madrid team-mate Zinedine Zidane did the same in Alicante, Spain, at the start of the round-the-world sailing event.

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