The Seleccao will struggle to survive the 'Group of Death' as the list for Poland and Ukraine shows that the squad lacks depth in all areas of the field
By Luis Mira | Portuguese Football Editor
On Monday, Paulo Bento named his final squad for Euro 2012 - making Portugal the first big-name side to reveal their cards for this summer’s showpiece event in Poland and Ukraine.
But many of the cards will be unfamiliar. From the 23 players who comprise the list, seven have never featured in a major international competition before and two of them – Braga duo Miguel Lopes and Custodio – have been called up by their country for the first time.
Lopes emerged victorious in the race for the role of substitute right back, beating Betis' Nelson to the line. The Porto-owned defender is younger, taller and physically stronger than his counterpart and was rewarded for an impressive second half of the season.
Custodio was selected as Miguel Veloso's understudy in midfield. As Bento himself confessed, the 28-year-old is a "different player" to the rest of the midfielders in the squad and can only play as a pure No.6, the least offensive-minded member of Bento’s midfield trio.
Custodio jumped to the front of the queue as the coach had doubts about Sporting Lisbon duo Andre Martins and Daniel Carrico. Martins has featured infrequently this season, while Carrico is a centre-back who has only been playing in front of the defence due to Sporting’s lack of options there.
|PORTUGAL'S EURO 2012 SQUAD
|Rui Patricio||Sporting Lisbon||Beto||Cluj|
|Joao Pereira||Sporting Lisbon||Fabio Coentrao||Real Madrid|
|Ricardo Costa||Valencia||Pepe||Real Madrid|
|Raul Meireles||Chelsea||Miguel Veloso
|Joao Moutinho||Porto||Ruben Micael
|Nani||Man United||Cristiano Ronaldo
|Hugo Almeida||Besiktas||Ricardo Quaresma||Besiktas|
The biggest surprise was the absence of Hugo Viana and Manuel Fernandes, despite their excellent seasons at Braga and Besiktas, respectively.
Bento considered the pair too similar to Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles, and not close enough to the pure No.10 which Portugal have lacked since the days of Rui Costa and Deco. Instead, Bento opted for Carlos Martins and Ruben Micael, two players who add more of an attacking flavor.
When comparing Portugal’s squad with the pool of talent boasted by Group B rivals Germany and Netherlands, it is easy to see why the bookmakers are skeptical about the Seleccao’s chances of surviving the 'Group of Death' (also containing Denmark, who finished above Portugal in qualifying).
Even without a world-class striker, Portugal field a strong starting XI, but in tournaments like this, the bench often makes the difference, and here they lose the battle.
After the defeat against Denmark in the Euro qualifiers - which forced the Seleccao into a playoff - this author wrote that a lack of depth was a serious issue for Portugal.
This is the only reason why players like Silvestre Varela, who was largely disappointing this season, and Eduardo, who made just nine competitive appearances, are on Bento's list.
Not enough quality youngsters are emerging, and taking just one glance at Portugal’s Euro 2012 squad, one cannot help but wonder if Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago and Simao Sabrosa all left the international scene too soon. All four are still good enough to make the 23-man roster.
The likes of Ronaldo and Nani have a real task on their hands next month if they are to escape Group B.