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EURO 2012 Preview: Portugal under no pressure

Cristiano Ronaldo admitted Portugal should feel no pressure in the Euro 2012 tournament as it is "never favorites to win championships."

Ronaldo was not ready to concede defeat, though.

Even in a group with Germany and the Netherlands, Ronaldo said "we think we'll prove surprising in the Euro. I really believe that, but we're not favorites."

It's not often a country ranked fifth in the world is not among the favorites, but with second-ranked Germany and fourth-ranked Netherlands also in Group B - along with Denmark - one of the top five will fall after the group stage.

Right now, the favorite for that distinction would be Portugal.

"Portugal are never favorites to win championships," Ronaldo admitted, "which is good in some way because we don't feel the pressure the others feel.

"Being in such a tough group makes things more complicated, but going through to the quarterfinals could maybe make things easier for us.

"Let's see."

Portugal has never won a major trophy, with its Euro 2004 runner-up finish and its 1966 World Cup third-place finish its best in the world's two major events for national teams.

Ronaldo is certainly not alone on Portugal, which also has experienced winger Nani from Manchester United and midfielder Raul Meireles from recent Champions League winner Chelsea, among others.

The key for Portugal will be what surrounds that old guard as Ronaldo admitted "we have young players and a young coach."

Paulo Bento, a 42-year-old former Portugal international, will coach his first major tournament and ask some of those young players to produce on the biggest stage of their lives.

Although it's unclear exactly what role they will play, Bento has two uncapped players in Custodio and Miguel Lopes on the team as well as once-capped Nelson Oliveira.

Portugal only managed to qualify for the Euro finals through the playoffs, and just surviving the "Group of Death" may be too much to ask this year.

But with Ronaldo, the 2008 world player of the year, coming off an incredible club season with Real Madrid - he scored 46 goals in La Liga - Portugal could surprise if its mix of youth and experience blends together well.

For Portugal to arrive among the world's elite - and earn the favorites tag in the future - it must win a championship in Poland and Ukraine, the co-hosts of the event.

OUTLOOK

Portugal lacks the pedigree of Germany, a three-time World Cup and three-time Euro champion, the Netherlands, a three-time World cup runner-up and Euro 1998 champion, and even Denmark, the Euro 1992 champion, but cannot be counted out. Ronaldo is among the sport's best, and the lineup is full of players from some of the best clubs teams in the world. If Ronaldo can shine under the spotlight on the international level, a deep run is possible.