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Ronaldo out to help Portugal retain Euros this summer

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are the reigning European champions of international football but are not even favourites to win their group at the delayed Euro 2020 finals this summer.

An expansion of the Euros in 2016 to 24 teams helped the Portuguese when they went all the way and lifted the trophy under Fernando Santos, who remains the national team head coach. Despite Ronaldo scoring three goals along the way, they only won one match in 90 minutes in the entire tournament yet were still successful.

If Portugal were expected to walk through their Euro 2016 group, which contained Austria, Hungary and Iceland, and ended with three draws, then the pool Ronaldo is preparing to play in at Euro 2020 is a lot tougher. The Hungarians are again in opposition, but there is the smaller matter of facing World Cup holders France and fellow European football heavyweights Germany.

When Portugal beat France in the Euro 2016 final in their own backyard, it was not Ronaldo who played the starring role, as he limped off injured after 25 minutes, but substitute Eder grabbing an extra-time winner. Five years on from that European Championship triumph, the team around CR7 is going to look quite different.

The Portugal side at the last Euros did not really have any goals from midfield in it. Santos preferred using the likes of Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma and Nani in striker roles. This time around, opposition nations do not just have CR7 to worry about but Bruno Fernandes too.

Another world-class talent playing in support of Ronaldo will make things more difficult for Hungary, Germany and France defensively. They cannot just single him out for special treatment such as man-marking, because that might leave space for Fernandes.

Santos has still relied on veteran central defenders like Pepe and Jose Fonte at the back in the intervening years but, with Manchester City’s Ruben Dias earning rave reviews in the Premier League, the torch may now be passed. Like that top English competition, football streams will be available of all the Euro 2020 action involving Ronaldo, Portugal and the other 23 competing countries between June 11 and July 11.

The tournament takes place in 11 host cities in different countries around Europe. Portugal’s group games are scheduled in Budapest and Munich. Depending on how they get on under captain Ronaldo and head coach Santos, that will determine if they progress to the knockout phase of the Euros and who they play.

Winning Group F looks a tall order even with CR7 included but, should Portugal manage that, they will play the third-place side from pool A, B or C. Finishing runner-up could see Ronaldo come up against England. This is because the second-place team in Group F meets the Group D winners in the last 16. A third-place finish could pair Portugal with Belgium or the Netherlands, if they – as expected – top Groups B and C respectively.

An in-form Ronaldo may take the defending European champions deep into the tournament once again. Don’t be surprised if Portugal do better than their odds, which make them sixth favourites, suggest.

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