Bento holds no fears for ‘Group of Death’
THEY may have been drawn in Euro 2012’s so-called “Group of Death” against former champions Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark but Portugal coach Paulo Bento insists his men can still make an impact.
Bento, 42, says the Seleccao can throw off the shackles after a hitandqualifying campaign which saw them have to negotiate a playoff at the expense of Bosnia.
“Our target is to reach the quarterfinals first of all,” said Bento, who replaced Carlos Queiroz as coach in September 2010 after domestic success with Sporting Lisbon.
“After that we we will take it match by match. It is a very strong group but a balanced one. I think that the team are capable of getting the measure of any opponent.” Bento, who has just seen his contract extended through to the next World Cup, won 35 international caps and played at Euro 2000 and also the 2002 Fifa World Cup.
He was one of three players who were suspended for abusing and intimidating match officials following a stormy extra-time semifinal loss to eventual champions France in 2000.
Bento says that Portugal must try to avoid putting extra pressure on star name Cristiano Ronaldo to reproduce his club form in the national shirt.
But while he may have won the approval from the Portuguese Federation to continue in his post, he has yet to win universal approval.
Real Madrid veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho quit the squad just two days before a qualifier away to Cyprus, having stormed out of the team’s training camp and then announcing he was quitting international football. He did not go into details amid reports of a fallout but did complain of a “lack of respect” and consideration.
Following Carvalho’s withdrawal and given the controversial end to his own 2000 tournament, Bento is keen to avoid any further trouble to Portugal’s Euro preparations.
Instead, he says he merely wants the Portuguese to knuckle down and ensure that each player strives to do what is best for the group.
“Teams have an identity. They must create an on-field dynamic and not then alter it once they get to the finals of a cmpetition,” he told uefa.com in April.
On the subject of Ronaldo he recently said: “I have stated for some time now that Ronaldo cannot and must not resolve all the problems of the side. For me it makes no sense whatsoever.”
Real Madrid central defender Pepe says he believes the fact that Bento has the experience of playing at this level is highly beneficial.
“He knows perfectly what a player thinks in a competition,” he told uefa.com in a recent interview.
Bento said that in terms of selection he has already got a group of pivotal players, though there is the chance still for others to make their case.
“I have not totally made my mind up but there is a core of players who we want to keep faith with.”
The squad will leave for its finals base of Opalenica, Poland, on June 4 after a training camp in central Portugal. Their first match at the finals is against Germany on June 9 in Lviv, followed by Denmark at the same venue on the 13th.
Portugal round off their group matches against the Dutch on the 17th in Kharkiv. — SAPA-AFP