Denmark 2 Portugal 3: Lessons from a dramatic Group B clash
What did we learn from Portugal's dramatic 3-2 victory over Denmark at Euro 2012 in Group B on Wednesday?
Portugal live on the edge
There was considerable pressure building on Portugal coach Paolo Bento ahead of Wednesday’s clash. Luis Figo was just one of the star names to have questioned Portugal’s seemingly negative set-up after the 1-0 defeat by Germany in their Group B opener on Saturday. And Bento was also forced to deny reports of a bust-up with Cristiano Ronaldo in the aftermath of their Euro 2012 opener. So when Pepe and Helder Postiga put the Portuguese two to the good inside 36 minutes, they looked on course to answer their critics in emphatic fashion. Pepe glanced his side into the lead when he ran across the near post to nod home Felipe Joao Moutinho’s corner. And Postiga doubled the advantage when he stroked Nani’s low cross into the top corner from close range. It all looked to have gone wrong when a Nicklas Bendtner double restored parity. But substitute Silvestre Varela, on for Raul Meireles, spared his side’s blushes with the winner three minutes from time. The FC Porto winger made a complete hash of his initial effort when the ball first landed at his feet inside the box. But it didn’t deter the 27-year-old, who calmly swivelled and lashed home a stunning strike to hand his side a vital victory.
Ronaldo stutters again
Despite having a staggering 60 goals to his name this season, it turned out to be another unsatisfying evening for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid forward was visibly frustrated at the final whistle after Portugal’s loss to Germany – and despite showing sporadic sparks of brilliance against Denmark, he is yet to impress in Poland and Ukraine. His night was summed up in the 50th minute, when he raced through one-on-one with Stephan Andersen, but his tame effort was easily saved by the Denmark shot-stopper. Strangely, he didn’t look like scoring despite the clear-cut opportunity. And it got worse for the Portugal captain in the 78th minute, when he spurned an even better chance after latching onto Nani’s through-ball. He placed his shot at least a metre wide of the right-hand post and looked as surprised as everyone else in the Arena Lviv. Ronaldo’s record for Portugal is not to be scoffed at, however. He is level with Luís Figo in third place on his country’s top scorer list with 32 strikes. And in qualifying for Euro 2012, he hit seven goals in eight games and had more shots on target than any player for any country (23). It’s surely a matter of time, then, until we are treated to the Real Deal.
Bendtner adds to sparkling record against Portugal
Portugal must be sick of the sight of Nicklas Bendtner. The Arsenal striker, who spent last season on loan to Sunderland, had netted four goals in four games against the Portuguese ahead of Wednesday’s clash. He extended an already-stunning record when he headed Michael Krohn-Dehli’s nodded cross into the net with Rui Patrício stranded to halve Portugal’s advantage before half-time. He then popped up at the far post in the 80th minute to grab a dramatic equaliser for the Danes and notch up his 20th goal in 50 games for his country. Even if his good work was eventually undone by Varela’s winner, he is sure to have plenty of suitors across Europe if this clinical display is anything to go by, as he continues to be linked with a move away from The Emirates.
Varela throws Group B wide open
With the score at 2-2, Portugal were facing the prospect of an early exit from Euro 2012. But Varela’s winner three minutes from time has thrown Group B wide open ahead of Germany’s clash with the Netherlands. Germany, Holland and Portugal are all level on three points going into Wednesday’s second Group B clash, with Bert van Marwijk’s side surprisingly the only team yet to pick up a point in Poland and Ukraine. The race for the quarter-final spots will go right to the wire if Holland can secure victory against Germany to leave all four teams on three points.