The Seleccao don’t always make qualifying look easy, so they’ll be wary when they meet Cyprus on Friday...Background Problems
World Cup 2010 proved to be something of a damp squib for Portugal, who failed to really excite in South Africa, despite pushing Spain all the way in their round of 16 encounter. Qualification for Euro 2012 is fully expected, with victory over Cyprus on Friday anticipated, though approaching the fixture the hosts have a backdrop of problems they must ignore.
Placed in a pool with Denmark, Norway and Iceland, the Iberians will face three difficult trips to Northern Europe, the first of which is to Oslo on Tuesday, so they will place a great priority on picking up maximum points at home.
History suggests there should be few problems for the Seleccao on Friday evening, though the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo may prove problematic for the home side. They command a 15-0 aggregate score in their four fixtures against the Cypriots at home, with two 4-0 wins and a 6-0 success amongst their roll of honour.
Aside from Ronaldo’s absence, Portugal are presently going through a period of instability in their backroom staff. Though Carlos Queiroz remains technically in charge, he is presently serving a six month ban meted out by the national FA because of his behaviour towards the nation’s anti-doping authority and his future has been called into question. Agostinho Oliveira is in interim charge.
The caretaker boss will have to cope without established figures such as Paulo Ferreira and Simao, both of whom recently announced their retirement from the international game, making way for a new breed, who at times hinted at their potential in the summer.
Cyprus are not opponents to be lightly dismissed. Angelos Anastasiadis’ side may have finished a distant fourth in their World Cup qualifying campaign behind Italy, Ireland and Bulgaria, but the Islanders proved themselves to be fiercely competitive, losing only one game by a margin of greater than one-goal.
Away from home they were not so hot, finishing with a record of two draws and three defeats, and it is this aspect of their game that the Greek coach will try to tighten up his troops over the course of the next 12 months.
Qualification is an unrealistic goal, but that’s not going to stop the Mediterranean side giving everything towards the cause.
“The first game is always an exciting prospect and the same goes for Portugal,” Ioannis Okkas is quoted as saying by UEFA’s official website. “It will undoubtedly be a tough game and for such trips you need be focused for the whole 90 minutes. Our fans should know that we will give every ounce of our strength for the best possible result.”
In 180 competitive qualifying matches, Cyprus have won only 23 times, drawing on another 22 occasions, making them historical whipping boys, but after twice running Italy and Ireland close in the last campaign, they are increasingly emerging as a middleweight force in Europe not to be taken lightly.
Cristiano Ronaldo is out due to injury, meaning Ricardo Quaresma has been convened with the squad instead. Yannick Djalo has also been drafted in late following the withdrawal of Silvestre Varela.
Joao Moutinho, Manuel Fernandes and Nani all return after missing the World Cup, while Nuno Andre Coelho and Silvio could both debut. Toulouse midfielder Paulo Machado is on standby in case of any further problems.
Probable Starting XI: Eduardo; Miguel, Bruno Alves, Carvalho, Coentrao; Tiago, Meireles; Danny, Moutinho, Nani; Liedson
Coach Angelos Anastasiadis has named a panel of players drawn exclusively from the country’s domestic league, which is now ranked as Europe’s 20th strongest. Veteran defender Savvas Poursaitidis could make his debut after recently accepting Cypriot citizenship.
Probably Starting XI: Avgoustis; Elia, Poursaitidis, Christou, Charalambous; Makridis, Michail, Charalambides; Okkas, Konstantinou, Avraam
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