Soccer

Portugal's goal drought bodes badly for Euro 2012

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OPELENICA, Poland (AP)

Portugal is getting a name as the team that can't shoot straight.

The Portuguese have found the net just once in their last three games as they conceded 0-0 draws against Poland and Macedonia and lost 3-1 at home against Turkey in a miserable run of exhibition matches. The problem: there's no top-flight striker to harvest the fluid build-up by the talented Portuguese midfield.

Portugal has no one who can match the clinical finishing of German forwards Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez, who they face Saturday in their Group B opener at the European Championship. Nor do they have the likes of Robin van Persie of the Netherlands or Nicklas Bendtner of Denmark, representing the other teams in the group.

But central defender Bruno Alves says he isn't rattled by Germany's firepower.

''We've got quality players and I expect us to hit the net'' in Lviv, Ukraine, he said Wednesday. ''We practice every day to get better in every aspect.''

Portugal has been firing a lot of blanks lately, bringing a five-place drop, to 10th, in FIFA's latest list of world rankings published Wednesday.

The three-game winless streak started in Poland, when the Portuguese collected plenty of chances in the first half and squandered them all through poor finishing.

Against Macedonia, out of 21 attempts on goal, none went in. Against the Turks, Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty.

That makes Portugal look like easy prey for its group opponents who have all won Europe's top competition before. The Portuguese, who finished second in their qualifying group behind the Danes, are still chasing their first silverware.

It's looking as if, just like in the qualifying campaign, the goal-scoring onus will fall on Ronaldo at the European Championship finals.

The Real Madrid forward got as many goals in qualifying (seven) as the joint total racked up by first-choice center forward Helder Postiga (five) and second-string Hugo Almeida (two). Nani, who is scrambling to shake off a bruised right foot in time for the Germany game, contributed another five goals.

Postiga racked up just nine goals in 33 league appearances for Zaragoza in La Liga last season. Almeida netted 15 goals in 37 games for Besiktas.

Coach Paulo Bento's decision to call up Nelson Oliveira, a 20-year-old striker used as a substitute by Benfica and Portugal, seemed to be due as much to a lack of resources as a hope that Oliveira will be part of a new generation.

Portugal hasn't had a gifted hitman up front since Pauleta retired from international football in 2006. He remains the country's top scorer with 47 goals in 88 games.

The goalscoring troubles aren't uncommon and make Portugal's path at Euro 2012 hard to predict.

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Portuguese produced a stunning 7-0 demolition of North Korea in the group stage. But that result was bracketed by 0-0 draws against Ivory Coast and Brazil.

In the playoffs for Euro 2012, Portugal drew 0-0 with Bosnia-Herzegovina in the first leg. In the return leg, it smashed its opponent 6-2.

Portuguese fans, denied a trophy for so long, are hoping the goal-scoring dam will burst sooner rather than later.

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