In times of high tension it helps to have a friend to raise a smile. So Nani and Miguel Veloso were happy to be in each other’s company as they plotted the victory in Wednesday’s crucial Group B match against Denmark that Portugal need to get their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign on track.
The pair have been firm friends for almost a decade, since their time in Sporting Clube de Portugal’s youth academy. “It’s great to be here with Miguel,” said Nani. “He’s someone I’ve known since we were very young.” Veloso had a brief giggling fit as his team-mate took a stab at speaking Spanish to one journalist and then fluffed his lines while recalling Denmark’s biggest attacking threats. Yet the pair are deadly serious when it comes to prising a result from Wednesday’s encounter in Lviv.
“Losing is a word we can’t even let enter our minds,” said Veloso. Perhaps typically for a forward player, Nani went a step further, pointing to the desire of Paulo Bento’s side to keep matters in their own hands. “We need to win,” he insisted, “because then we’ll only be depending on ourselves [going into the final game]. We’re going to try and attack, because that’s the only way we’ll be able to win.”
Portugal will have to improve on their recent record of one goal in their last four matches to do so, scored by Nani in their 3-1 defeat by Turkey on 2 June. The Manchester United FC winger feels sure a solution is just around the corner. “We’ve got a lot of players who can score,” he said, “and any of them could be decisive for us.”
Veloso concurred, pointing out that even against one of the competition’s strongest teams in Germany, Portugal created a raft of chances. “We didn’t make the most of our opportunities,” he lamented. “The ball didn’t want to go in, but we have to keep going and our luck will change.”
It has been suggested that Veloso could provide the cutting edge, having scored a superb free-kick in the play-off victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina that sealed qualification in November, but the 26-year-old is keener to focus on the key tasks in his game. “In my position, the most important thing is to help out the defence,” he said. “We have plenty of attacking players, though I’ll help out offensively if I can.”
Another possibility is pushing Nani more central, behind the striker, but he feels comfortable in his current role. “I’m happy to play wide,” he said. “It’s a position I feel good in and I can create opportunities for my team-mates from there.” If Nani and Veloso can combine as smoothly on the pitch in Lviv as they do off it, the breakthrough is surely imminent for Portugal.