Portugal winger Varela hits limelight at Euro 2012

Silvestre Varela has become Portugal’s accidental hero.

The FC Porto winger rose from obscurity and pushed the misfiring

Cristiano Ronaldo out of the spotlight at the European Championship

with his winning goal against Denmark.

And the 27-year-old Varela’s triumph over adversity could be

just the kind of grit Portugal needs in its must-win match against

the Netherlands on Sunday.

”This is one of the best moments of my career,” Varela said


That’s no understatement for a player who four years ago looked

doomed to spending his career at minor clubs.

Varela came on as a late substitute against the Danes and

clinched a 3-2 victory with three minutes to play. It was his first

goal for Portugal in an official match and gave the Portuguese a

chance of advancing to the quarterfinals if they can defeat the


Varela has struggled to get into the team, where he is competing

for a place against Ronaldo and Nani.

”Any player likes to be in the starting lineup,” Varela said.

”If the coach thinks I’m best used as a sub, then I have to accept

that and do my best.”

Varela was a surprise pick for Portugal’s Euro 2012 squad after

starting only 13 times for Porto last season. He appeared only

twice as a substitute, playing just seven minutes, in Portugal’s

qualifying campaign.

Varela came up through Sporting Lisbon’s youth training scheme

but the club lost interest in him and loaned him to Recreativo

Huelva for the 2007-08 season.

In Spain, he didn’t score once, and Sporting sold him to Estrela

da Amadora, a minor Portuguese club, the following season in what

appeared to be a dead-end move. But there, Varela scored five goals

in 28 games and drew the attention of Porto, where he moved in 2009

and collected 16 goals in 42 games in his first season.

”I never gave up,” Varela said. ”I always believe I can


He missed an opening at the 2010 World Cup, when Nani was

sidelined, through injury. Now, with Ronaldo’s goal knack

mysteriously deserting him, Varela is claiming his place in the


Still, you won’t find him criticizing the Real Madrid forward

who scored 60 goals for his club last year but has failed to find

the net in his last four matches with Portugal.

”He’s got nothing to prove,” Varela said of Ronaldo. ”He’s

already shown what he can do.”