Tough love can help Portugal blossom
Simao is looking forward to Portugal putting the lessons of a tough qualifying series to good use when they begin their UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign against Turkey at the Stade de Geneve. ( uefa.com )
After helping his club side Club Atletico de Madrid to a UEFA Champions League place in his first season at the Estadio Vicente Calderon, the 28-year-old forward is expected to start on the left in the Group A opener. Simao admits that Portugal's evolution into a younger team affected the squad during qualification, but says the experience will help them succeed at the Austria/Switzerland tournament.
No looking back
"Qualifying had become normal in recent years," he said. "But we had a few difficulties in these qualifying matches as we were making changes to the team and our game was under construction. We had difficult games, especially against Serbia and Finland, but the most important thing is that we managed to qualify. There's no point looking back now at what went before."
The winger accepts that expectation has been raised by their achievements under coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. " Portugal have to be one of the favourites," he said. Simao also hopes that the squad can draw from the negatives, as well as the positives, in their recent past to help them go as far as possible. "Our principal objective is to win the first game, so we can be a little more relaxed for the following matches. We know, after EURO 2004, how important it is to get off to a good start."
Simao's successor as SL Benfica captain, Nuno Gomes, says that Portugal will keep their tactical plan secret until the last minute. "We don't need to say publically what we need to do to beat Turkey, but we have our ideas," said Gomes. Nor is the striker taking anything for granted despite previous good results against Saturday's opponents. "It would be good if we could repeat the last few results against Turkey. But we're concentrating on the game rather than statistics."
Gomes also dispels worries about Portugal's perceived lack of a genuine out-and-out forward in a squad full of quality midfielders and wingers. "Since the days of Eusebio we've been saying that our national team have been lacking in strikers," he said. According to the 31-year-old, he and his colleagues will not be found wanting at the vital moment against Turkey. "If the passes arrive, the centre-forwards will be there," he said.