Successive records, full of victories, 36 goals for and only two against and attractive football. Everything is going well for Roberto Martínez responsible for selecting Portugal, team that once again dreams of European glory before Germany 2024.
Under the command of the Spanish coach, Portugal completed the best qualifying phase for a major competition: It was the first in its history – achieved with three games still to play -, with more goals scored – 36 – and with an unprecedented ten consecutive victories.
Even Cristiano Ronaldo, as he acknowledged in October, is surprised: “I don’t think we’ve ever had such an ‘easy’ qualifying round since I’ve been in the national team, not even in the history of the national team… “I’m not going to say easy because we were the ones who did it that way.”
“Portugal qualified because they played well, they have an excellent team, an excellent coach and we deserved to go through. It is no coincidence that we are already classified”, he said at the time.
Portugal qualified because they played well, they have an excellent team, an excellent coach and we deserve to go through
Even Ronaldo smiles
Christian was, precisely, one of the protagonists of these first ten games of the ‘Martnez era’, marked by the return of the Portuguese star’s smile wearing his country’s jersey.
His tears after the elimination against Morocco in the quarter-finals of the Qatar 2022 World Cup -a tournament marked by problems in Manchester and with the previous coach, Fernando Santos- they went around the world and his continuation in the national team was unknown.
But doubts were immediately dispelled. In Martínez’s debut, Cristiano scored two goalsagainst Liechtenstein (4-0) to the delight of the local stands with a ‘siu’ (the legendary celebration of the footballer’s goal) that made Lisbon tremble and never stopped scoring.
With 10 goals, it was -with 38 years on his legs- Portugal’s top scorer in this qualifying phase, where he was only surpassed by Belgian Romelu Lukaku’s 14.
In addition to the goals, the Portugal captain once again demonstrated his versatility. He moved into a secondary role when the first game against Bosnia-Herzegovina (3-0) required it, and joined in the defensive duties to secure the three points in the second game against Slovakia (3-2) and against Iceland ( 2- 0). ) He alternated the role of striker with his former position as a winger.
One block beyond CR7
Cristiano’s contribution to the team led by Roberto Martínez is undeniable, but The team also showed that it does not depend on its captain. Without the ex-Madridista, Portugal achieved the biggest victory in its history, a 9-0 over Luxembourga rival that in previous years was not a walk in the park.
One of the best players on the field that historic night was Bruno Fernandes, another of the Spanish coach’s strongholds.
The Manchester United midfielder has been unstoppable with his team, and in the ten games who competed achieved the enviable number of six goals and eight assists.
The solidity of Bernardo Silva, the strength of Rafael Leo and the creativity of João Flix These are other assets at the coach’s disposal.
But not everything was easy for Roberto Martínez, who still needs iron out some details before the event in Germany.
The recent game in Liechtenstein (0-2) showed a Portuguese team impassive due to the lack of space to move on the field, as well as a slowness in its drafting game that benefited the tactics of the small Central European principality.
Portuguese disconnection/apathy was also a problem in the second game against Slovakia (3-2), where they conceded the only goals of this group stage. Before, in Bratislava (0-1), Portugal experienced difficulties due to strong pressure from Slovakia, which delayed the preparation of their game and left Roberto Martínez’s team somewhat disoriented.
And the physical power of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Lisbon (3-0) and Iceland in Reykjavík (0-1) had the same effect, stopping the Portuguese before they could gain momentum and forcing them to resume the game.
Something that has not always been easy for a team that sometimes resembles a car with a high maximum speed but little acceleration capacity. A fringe that Martínez should refine before the European Championship, where Portugal aspires to repeat the glory of 2016.