Portugal are eyeing a fifth consecutive victory in their Euro 2012 qualification campaign when they face on Friday to set up a showdown with Denamrk next week to decide who qualifies automatically for the finals from Group H.
There may be a few more bumps along the road to Poland and Ukraine yet for Paulo Bento’s side, but the man who replaced the unpopular Carlos Queiroz last year has helped get a supremely-talented squad back on track.
Cristiano Ronaldo has too often struggled to repeat his remarkable club form on the international stage, but the Real Madrid man has revelled in his role as captain under Bento, scoring four times in four qualifiers.
Bento – a former Portuguese international who was previously in charge of Sporting Lisbon – began his reign with a 3-1 home win against Denmark 12 months ago, giving them the head-to-head advantage against their main rivals.
Portugal sit level on 13 points at the top of the section along with the Danes and Norway, although the latter have just one game left to play.
A win against the outsiders from Iceland and a point in Copenhagen on Tuesday will suffice to take the Portuguese to a seventh successive major championship finals.
It must be tempting to start thinking about the Denmark clash already, but Bento is trying his hardest to make sure that the focus for now remains on Friday’s game.
“We have spent the week preparing to play Iceland, we are not thinking about the game that comes after that,” he said on Thursday.
Bento must however deal with a raft of selection problems for the match at the Estadio do Dragao.
Ricardo Carvalho announced his international retirement last month, shortly after being suspended by the country’s federation.
The experienced defender had left a training camp in disgust after being told that he would not be in the starting line-up to play Cyprus.
Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Hugo Almeida and Danny are all sidelined, although Bento says Ronaldo has fully recovered from a hip injury.
“He didn’t train the day he arrived, and then the next day he only trained on his own, but he has completed full sessions in each of the last two days and is ready to play tomorrow (Friday),” he said.