A Portuguese puzzle: where are the goals?
There’s a mystery at the heart of Portugal’s empty trophy
cabinet: why does a country that produces some of Europe’s best
club talent have so much trouble scoring in international
It’s a riddle that is once again haunting the Portuguese as they
gear up for their second European Championship Group B game against
Denmark on Wednesday. The match follows a defeat in their opener
against Germany – when they played well but failed to find the net
and lost 1-0.
Portugal possesses one of the world’s leading goalscorers at
club level in Cristiano Ronaldo and a highly talented winger in
Nani. But in a four-game winless streak this year it has netted
just one goal.
”That’s the way football is,” Nani said Monday. ”It’s hard to
score in this type of tournament.”
Portugal’s lack of edge in attack has repeatedly denied it the
international honors that could make it the great team it has so
long promised to be. Not even the ”Golden Generation,” which
featured Luis Figo and Rui Costa, could remedy the problem of no
The team twice struck the goal frame against Germany, but a good
performance wasn’t enough.
The Portuguese are in trouble in a tough group, with the
Netherlands lying in wait beyond Denmark, and another blank
scoresheet in Lviv, Ukraine, could send them home.
The players are stumped by the goal drought and believe their
luck has temporarily deserted them.
”The ball just doesn’t want to go in at the moment,”
midfielder Miguel Veloso said. ”We have to keep pushing until it
Coach Paulo Bento has identified the problem: Sunday’s training
was largely dedicated to target practice.
There could be something more fundamental about the
difficulties, though, as there appear to be some missing links in
the squad. It has no playmaker who might come up with unexpected
flourishes that wrongfoot defenses and create sudden openings.
Though Ronaldo and Nani are good, opposition defenders are primed
A prolific, world-class center forward is also absent. That
could force Bento to realign the attack, even though his resources
are limited. He could spring a surprise against the Danes by
handing 20-year-old Nelson Oliveira his first start.
Oliveira hasn’t even started in the Portuguese league for his
club Benfica, but throwing him into the mix could inspire some new
Portugal is no stranger to goalscoring troubles.
In the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, Portugal recorded 0-0
draws against Ivory Coast and Brazil, but still advanced.
At Euro 2004, it also lost its opening match, but ended up in
the final – where it once again failed to score and went down 1-0