Five reasons why Portugal will fail to qualify

Winds of change are starting to blow through Portugal after the national team failed to win against group leaders Denmark.

The Selecção played well in Copenhagen, raining in 34 shots as Brazil-born Liedson marked his debut with a goal.

But it wasn’t enough to avoid a 1-1 draw that makes World Cup qualification "complicated," to borrow Diego Maradona's word.

It's more than that. Portugal are seven points behind Denmark; on Wednesday the leaders visit Albania, who have only beaten whipping-boys Malta.

Meanwhile, fourth-placed Portugal visit second-placed Hungary. A loss would make automatic qualification impossible, and even the play-offs improbable.

Before the remaining matches are played, The Portugeezer looks at five things that need to change in the national team.

The manager

Carlos Queiroz is an overrated manager. There, I've said it. He’s one of the best assistant managers in the game and achieved good results at youth level.

But his record as manager leaves some question marks.

At Sporting CP, he failed to win the league with a star-studded team that included the likes of Figo, Balakov, Paulo Sousa, Valckx and Capucho.

Later, at Madrid, his main flaw as manager was exposed: he’s too soft and unable to manage big egos.

If you're looking for a way out...

Yes, he was a bit unlucky in Copenhagen, but a draw in Denmark would be considered a positive result in a normal situation. This isn't one.

This uninspiring campaign started some time ago and Queiroz needs to go. Give him control of our teams at youth level, as he’ll do wonders there, but keep him away from the senior squad.

The holding midfielder

Portugal are an unbalanced team. Pretty much everyone knows that.

We have many good wingers and we have the luxury of having three world-class centre-backs: Ricardo Carvalho, Bruno Alves and Pepe.

It can be difficult to select the right partnership, but it's a mistake to accommodate all three by giving the Real Madrid defender a holding midfielder role.

Sure, he won’t compromise against mid-tier teams, but against world-class opponents he’ll struggle. Why? Because he’s not a holding midfielder!

And it’s not like we don’t have players who can fill that role either: Raúl Meireles, João Moutinho and Miguel Veloso can all play there.

Also, if you take into account Pepe’s speed and tackling skills, it would make more sense to use him as left-back, where we lack a real solution.

The captain

Cristiano Ronaldo, given the armband after Queiroz was appointed coach in summer 2008, is on top of the world after his staggering €96 million move to Real Madrid. But that doesn't make him the best choice to lead the team.

A captain must be someone who leads by example and is respected by his teammates. He has to push the team forward in tough situations and needs to keep his head cool most of the time.

Unfortunately, Ronaldo does not fulfill those criteria.

"D'you think it suits me?"

Figo was the best captain we've had recently and at the moment either Simão Sabrosa or Ricardo Carvalho would be most suitable options.

But of course that can only change with a new manager, otherwise it would look like CR9 was being singled out.

The naturalised players policy

Liédson may have scored the most important goal of this campaign as it kept our faint hopes alive. However, the decision to bring him into the team even more disagreeable than the ones of Pepe and Deco.

Never mind the fact he can score for fun at any level, and never mind the fact he’s currently the best (de facto) Portuguese striker.

Truth is, he’ll turn 32 this year. If Portugal fail to qualify for the World Cup, he’s hardly going to figure in Euro 2012.

"Oh, go on then"

Not long ago he wanted to play for Brazil, understandably. But Portugal is a clear second choice and this relationship is nothing more than a business partnership.

Where’s the love and the pride?

It feels like a short-term fix instead of a long-term plan, hindering younger players who could and can gain some experience at international level.

The attitude

Like England after their cruel elimination at the hands of Croatia, Portugal need some time to regroup. Our best squad was the one at Euro 2004 where we had the best chance to win a major tournament.

In that team were the last elements of the so-called Golden Generation (Figo, Rui Costa, Pauleta) and the new emerging talents (Ronaldo, Deco, Carvalho).

That squad was quite balanced - even with the problematic striker position - and the players wanted to show the world how good they were.

But now, the national side seems like a group of people pretending to be a team. The hunger and passion waned, and that has to change.

Maybe watching a tournament in the same way we mortals do – with a TV and a remote – will do them some good, even if it will be as painful for the Portuguese as Euro 2008 was for the English.

But as the saying goes, it ain’t over till it’s over and as you know football has reserved quite a few surprises over the years. Stay tuned!

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