Monday, June 21, 2010

Should Portugal Rest Stars against Brazil?

June 15, 2008, a little more than two years ago to the day, Switzerland hammered Portugal 2-0 in the final day of the group stage of Euro 2008. Portugal won its group on goal differential after beating Turkey and the Czech Republic in its first two matches, but it left a good, talented and expensive hunk of its lineup on the sidelines for the Swiss game. Cristiano Ronaldo did not play, neither did Simao Sabrosa, Deco, Nuno Gomes or Ricardo Carvalho among the regulars.

Former boss Big Phil Scolari decided to rest his stud horses, preparing them for the quarterfinals and a date with Germany. And we all remember how that one ended, a 3-2 German win in a game that was not as close as the final score would indicate.

I contend to this day had Scolari played his regulars at least a half, Portugal would have beaten Germany, hammered Turkey in the semis and maybe, just maybe, beaten Spain in the final.

You see, my theory is this: It may take you two years to qualify for the World Cup, but at the end of the day, the World Cup is a short tournament. By the time the managers select their final 23 players, there's scant more than a month to build some sort of final cohesion and continuity. To rest players during the tournament, players who aren't injured or aren't in yellow card hell, is irresponsible and risky.

Just ask Portugal.

So in that respect, it will be very interesting to see what manager Carlos Queiroz does later this week when Portugal meets Brazil. Brazil is through to the knockout stage, and after today's 7-0 dismantling of North Korea, Portugal would need a disastrous collapse and an equally heroic goal onslaught by Ivory Coast over North Korea not to join Brazil in the next round. To quote the Mythbusters, plausible, but I'd rather call it busted.

So what does Queiroz do? Does he play his regular Portugal Starting Eleven 45 minutes? 75 minutes? Not at all. Is there any validity to my theory.

I sure think there is. Portugal did not play well against Ivory Coast and today was an aberration. North Korea surrendered once the second-third-and-fourth goals found their way into the back of the net. The 7-spot was insurance against an Ivory Coast shellacking of the North Koreans. Portugal needs more quality minutes in this tournament. Hopefully they get them against Brazil, which has been dominant in the first two matches.

Brazil has physically overpowered both Ivory Coast and North Korea, imposing its will and flair on both opponents. It doesn't need to win against Portugal, nor does it need to tie. Hell, my theory may not even apply to Brazil in this case.

But it sure does to Portugal. The Selecao das Quinas needs to button up its unity on the field. They need to shore up defensively and figure out whether Tiago or Deco is the guy in the middle of the field. Another game of lineup shuffleboard won't do it for Queiroz.

Do the right thing Carlos. Go for the jugular against Brazil, try to win and infuse some confidence in your team--even if it's phony confidence against a Brazil team that does not need to win. You have seen the failure of Scolari in Euro 2008. History is doomed to repeat itself; let's hope not this time.

Quim, Rui Patricio, Bosingwa, Ronaldo, Petit, Simao, Carvalho, Deco, Nuno Gomes

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