https://www.theguardian.com/football/article/2024/jun/14/euro-2024-team-guides-part-23-portugal

Roberto Martínez’s side compiled a perfect record in qualifying and can call on the resurgent Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portugal coach, Roberto Martínez, after announcing his Euro 2024 squad. Photograph: Armando França/AP

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. theguardian.com is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.

Prospects

The individual quality of Portugal’s players makes the team one of the tournament favourites, something that was reinforced during qualifying. It is true their group was not the most demanding – Slovakia finished second and Luxembourg third – but you can only beat what is in front of you and Roberto Martínez’s side won all 10 games, scoring 36 and conceding two. It made them the highest-scoring team in qualifying, as well as the team that let in fewest goals.

So at the moment there is only praise for Martínez, who replaced Fernando Santos after the disappointing World Cup in Qatar, when Cristiano Ronaldo found himself relegated to the bench. The appointment of the Spaniard made it possible to reboot without deleting the captain from the hard drive. Ronaldo scored 10 goals in qualifying, a number bettered only by Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (14) and helped the team to reach the finals in Germany in the calmest possible way.

Portugal qualified playing easy-on-the-eye, attacking football with a versatile tactical structure, making full use of the individual qualities of players such as Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo. A pre-tournament defeat against Croatia dampened spirits in Portugal but Bruno Fernandes said: “There are always aspects to improve. To be honest, I like a bit of this negativity around the national team, ‘the team isn’t as good any more’, ‘it’s still not what we want’. I like it because it’s a sign that people expect a lot from us.”

Portugal seem as comfortable playing with three central defenders as they do with a back four. Against Lichtenstein Martínez even had Rúben Neves at the back, knowing the midfielder would be able to build attacks from an advanced position in the opponents’ half.

Up front, Ronaldo can play either a more isolated role through the middle with support from Bernardo Silva, João Félix or Rafael Leão – or Gonçalo Ramos can join the captain up front. This team are capable of playing 3-4-3, 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 – often in the same game – and that flexibility allows the players to showcase their technical and strategic intelligence.

“I don’t believe in systems. I believe in human beings who play football and for them to be tactically flexible, never forcing a talent to adapt to a system,” Martínez said at his presentation. That day he also said it was necessary to “dream big”, and the work he has carried out since has fuelled expectation at home. Portugal are considered one of the three or four teams with the best chance of winning Euro 2024.