Portugal in poor form could face problems against Danish Dynamite
Portugal (7/5 to triumph) boast a brilliant record against Denmark (2/1), with eight wins from 13 encounters. However, it is the Navigators’ recent run of form that is a cause for concern, demanding closer attention.
Former Greece coach Fernando Santos has been brought in to repair a squad which underwhelmed with Paulo Bento during the World Cup, but he suffered a disappointing start with a friendly defeat against France last time out.
After verbally abusing officials during the Brazil finals, and subsequently handed an eight-match ban, Santos looked unlikely to make his competitive bow from the bench, but has now been cleared to lead his men in Copenhagen.
Speaking before receiving his reprieve, Santos stated: “It is a probability. Independently, whether I’m on the bench or not, my contribution will be the same.”
Navigators fans will be hoping that contribution will be significant, after the Iberian outfit previously slumped to an alarming defeat against Albania, placing their Euro 2016 qualifying hopes in jeopardy.
Portugal-born Santos’ mission must be to steady the ship and grab all three points against Morten Olsen’s side, with concerns over style of play put on the backburner.
Sporting Lisbon starlet William Carvalho will have been disappointed not to have been included in Santos’ first starting XI against Les Bleus, and could be a crucial addition in stopping Tottenham’s majestic midfielder Christian Eriksen from causing havoc.
However, with ex-Chelsea duo Ricardo Carvalho and Tiago Mendes re-called to the national set-up, Santos appears to be focusing on experience rather than youth to steer his side through this rocky patch.
The Cristiano Ronaldo experiment, placing the superstar alone up front against France, bore little fruit, as the Real Madrid talisman toiled to no avail. The isolated forward remains a doubt for this game, but is available at 4/1 to come through for his country and bag a brace or better to fire them past the Danes.
If Ronaldo is absent, the Navigators will need a new protagonist. Wild card and forgotten man Ricardo Quaresma stepped up to take a consolation penalty against Les Blues and is 10/3 to net anytime, whilst Ronaldo’s former Manchester United teammate Nani is also 7/1 to open the scoring.
Denmark, meanwhile, managed to split the spoils with surprise Group I toppers Albania last time out, and have a four point cushion over bottom-dwellers Portugal. Olson’s Eleven will be keen to extend this, and are 11/5 to secure a draw after losing just three games from their last 12.
Aside from Eriksen, the Scandinavian side’s hopes will be resting on a defensive duo also familiar to Premier League audiences. Leicester City stopper Kasper Schmeichel is now following firmly in the footsteps of his legendary father, having secured a spot in the first XI, and will benefit from former Liverpool centre half Daniel Agger’s presence.
Experienced Agger recently returned to boyhood club Brondby, where bright young Bayern Munich midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg spent a portion of his youth career. The 19-year-old Copenhagen-born starlet should feature alongside Eriksen and Wigan’s William Kvist, and is 11/4 to hit home anytime for the hosts in front of his hometown crowd.
Up front, Nicklas Bendtner (7/1 to fire home first after netting three goals in his last two appearances against Portugal) continues to be Olsen’s main man, and did contribute to substitute Lass Vibe’s (7/4 to score anytime) late equaliser last time out, but home fans will want to see more ambition against visitors in such lacklustre form.