LISBON — Portugal will look to justify their tag as favourites in the Euro 2012 play-off second leg match with Bosnia-Herzegovina today and seal their place in a fifth successive European championship.
The Portuguese — finalists when hosts in 2004 — largely dominated the first leg which finished in a 0-0 draw in Zenica on Friday, but will be counting on stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo to see them safely on the plane to Poland and Ukraine next year.
The two sides know each other well, having also faced each other in the play-off for a place at the 2010 World Cup which the Portuguese took off only to disappoint at the finals themselves.
Theirs is the most finely-balanced of the four play-offs, with the Republic of Ireland and Croatia looking certain to seal their spots having beaten Estonia 4-0 and Turkey 3-0 respectively, both away from home. The Czech Republic — semi-finalists in 2004 — also look comfortable having won 2-0 in Montenegro.
Ronaldo meanwhile accepts he and his teammates have it all to do against a tough Bosnian side that pushed France all the way in their qualifying group and were 12 minutes away from an automatic place when they led the French 1-0 in the final match before it ended 1-1.
“It’s pretty much equal,” the 26-year-old Real Madrid superstar told uefa.com.
“Of course we’ll be playing in better conditions, with our fans behind us, at home, but it’ll be just as difficult. We got a good result away from home and we have to finish things in our home game.”
Ronaldo will be expected to lead by example and reproduce his stunning club form — he has scored 13 goals in La Liga already this term – for his country, something which he has been accused of not doing in crucial matches. However, the former Manchester United talisman has called for a collective effort.
“We have to take on the mantle of favourites because we’re a team that always has a chance of winning,” he said.
“So we have to prove why we’re favourites on the pitch. There’s no point in just talking about it and not proving it in matches.” Bosnia coach Safet Susic acknowledges Portugal dominated on Friday, but the former Paris Saint Germain star — voted their best ever player in 2010 — believes his players could have the edge playing the second leg away.
“Portugal are one hell of a team, they have a good player for every position,” said Susic, who is looking to guide Bosnia to their first major finals since gaining independence in 1992.
“They are satisfied with the result, just like we are, because they know our qualities.”