The Portuguese National team face a difficult away trip to Denmark tomorrow, as they look to turn their Euro 2016 qualification campaign around. The team lost to Albania in their first qualification match, which led to Paulo Bento’s departure as coach of the team. With Fernando Santos now in charge, the team looks revitalized, as was shown in their 2-1 loss to France two days ago. That France game was a good test for tomorrow’s match in Denmark, as both are very difficult teams to play away from home.
On paper, Portugal should defeat Denmark. The Portuguese team has the current World Player of the Year, as well as a host of players playing for top clubs around Europe. Portugal has qualified for every major tournament for more than a decade, while Denmark’s most recent involvement in a major tournament was Euro 2012. So, on paper, Denmark should pose very little threat.
But in reality, this game will be close one. The match will be played in Copenhagen, at the national team’s Parken Stadium. The stadium has a bit of good luck for the Danes. In the past year, Denmark has defeated Sweden and tied Italy in the stadium. In terms of Portuguese involvement, the Parken Stadium has spelled bad luck in recent years.
This qualification campaign marks the third time in recent years that Portugal and Denmark have been drawn in the same qualification group. The two teams also met in qualification for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. During both of those campaigns, Portugal’s most difficult match was arguably the one played in the Parken Stadium. For qualification for the 2010 World Cup, the teams tied 1-1, with only a late header from Liedson enough to salvage a point. Two years on, the Portuguese couldn’t muster even as much, losing 2-1 in a match dominated by the Danes. Say what you like about the Danish national team, but when they’re playing in the Parken Stadium, they are a different team; one that rarely loses.
Another factor to consider is that Santos will not be in the dugout for this match. The tactician will be serving part of his ban that came as a result of his antics this summer at the World Cup while in charge of Greece. This means that Ilidio Vale will be the coach in charge, though Santos will surely give the team instructions and pick the team beforehand. But losing your leader (albeit a new one) on the sideline could have a profound impact.
The team that Fernando Santos named to face France two days ago raised few eyebrows. But it was different. Santos showed that he is willing and able to tinker with the team, both in player selection and tactics. With the France match a friendly, Santos was likely looking to tinker with the team to see how it would work. With most of the tinkering (hopefully) out of his system, he will look to field a more permanent side for tomorrow’s match. Here’s my prediction:
Against France, Ronaldo was deployed as a striker/false nine, and his involvement was affected significantly. Should Santos look to increase Ronaldo’s involvement, placing him back on the wing may be the solution. Moving Eder back up front may cause some controversy, but the Braga striker should be given a chance in the new system. He has performed well before for Braga, and giving him the confidence through a starting spot could be exactly what he needs from Santos. Tiago performed admirably on his return to the team, and he offers a stabilizing presence in the midfield, alongside a more mobile Joao Moutinho. William is our man for midfield cover, as he showed under Bento. The backline is fairly straightforward. The Ricardo Carvalho-Pepe partnership was the backbone of our defensive solidarity under Queiroz during the 2010 World Cup. Cedric looked shaky during his debut against France, but he will surely improve. It’s not an easy debut marking Patrice Evra and Antoine Griezmann. And on the left, Eliseu showed why Santos should explore other options. Antunes is the man to try next. He has been solid in service to Malaga and the national team in previous appearances.
This match will be a very difficult one for the Portuguese. With a history of dominance at the Parken Stadium, the Danes will look to improve on their dominance over Portugal. But with Santos in charge, Portugal are looking a different team than they were during Paulo Bento’s last matches in charge. But with Santos banned from the match, Portugal will be without a strong leader on the sideline. There are many factors, but I think Portugal have enough to scrape past Denmark.