Moutinho emerging as new Portugal playmaker
Even the best scorers need someone to set them up.
Joao Moutinho did exactly that for Cristiano Ronaldo on
Thursday, providing the precise cross for the only goal in
Portugal’s 1-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
The 25-year-old Moutinho showed he is a contender to become the
top-class playmaker that Portugal is looking for. And he’ll get
another chance to impress when the Portuguese face either Spain or
France in the European Championship semifinals on Wednesday in
Portugal was on the attack from the start and Ronaldo twice hit
the post before scoring the decisive goal. Moutinho’s sweetly timed
run split the Czech defense and gave him room to make the type of
inch-perfect back post cross that Ronaldo feeds on.
”We knew it would be a difficult game. We knew they were a
difficult opponent which always focuses on counterattacks,”
Moutinho said. ”We created a lot of chances and then we managed to
score and qualify for the semifinals, and that’s what we
The midfielder, who was left out of Portugal’s 2010 World Cup
squad, now has a chance to make an international impact, having
only played until now in the Portuguese league at FC Porto and
Moutinho, though workmanlike, has at times appeared overwhelmed
on big occasions.
Now, he’s a candidate in the Portuguese team for the position
that has been unoccupied since Deco retired from international
football after the World Cup.
Before the Brazilian-born Deco brought his drive and vision to
Portugal, the No. 10 jersey was the unchallenged property of Rui
Costa, whose guile and silky footwork helped Portugal to the Euro
Portugal coach Paulo Bento initially eyed Carlos Martins for the
role but the Granada midfielder pulled out of the tournament due to
injury last month.
Bento has manufactured a makeshift solution, with Moutinho and
Raul Meireles sharing duties in the attacking midfield role.
In Wednesday’s semifinal, Moutinho will have another chance to
serve Ronaldo. And there’s no one else he’d rather help.
”Cristiano is a very complete player in all aspects,” Moutinho
said. ”Messi is, too, but they differ from another. I prefer