OPALENICA, Poland (AFP)
Raul Meireles said on Tuesday that Portugal could emulate Chelsea
by winning Euro 2012 just as his club won the Champions League
without ever being considered favourites to do so.
The 29-year-old central midfielder - who had a memorable maiden
season with Chelsea after his move from Liverpool winning the
Champions League as well as the FA Cup - said that Thursday's
quarter-final with Czech Republic was too close to call.
But the former Porto star - who won four successive league titles
with them before moving to Liverpool in 2010 - said his
experiences with Chelsea in the Champions League had given him
the same feeling as he had now with Portugal.
"Chelsea won the Champions League when nobody considered
themselves as favourites," he said referring to their penalty
shootout win over Bayern Munich.
"When we began this tournament, nobody mentioned Portugal as one
of the favourites.
"The best example for me is what I experienced with Chelsea this
year in the Champions League. If we manage to do the same it will
the realisation of a dream."
However, Meireles acknowledged that the Czechs too had battled
back from losing their first game - 4-1 to Russia - to qualify
top of Group A and so would be no pushovers.
"There are no favourites really, because Germany and Holland were
the favourites in our group and we qualified," said Meireles, who
will come face to face with his Chelsea clubmate Petr Cech.
"We watched some of their games. They didn't begin very well,
like us (Portugal lost 1-0 to Germany), and they reacted
brilliantly to it.
"We are expecting a very strong team, it will be a difficult
match but we are going to do everything we can to neutralise
their strong points on the pitch."
Meireles, a member of the Portuguese squad from Euro 2008 and the
2010 World Cup finals, also lent his support to team captain
Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored both their goals in the 2-1 win
over Holland on Sunday but who had been subject to all sorts of
criticism prior to that.
"In football things don't always go as you want them to," he
"The important thing is that Ronaldo is one of the most
professional players I have ever come across.
"He gives his all at every training session.
"He is our leader and, on the pitch, there is no one who wants to
win more than him. He scored twice in the last match; before he
had drawn a blank but he had still helped us out in other ways."