Deco: Hope Portugal can win EURO 2016

"Portugal is doing well as a football nation; its structure is good and clubs are doing well. Portuguese players perform at a high level in the best of clubs. Portuguese coaches are in demand," says the former Portuguese playmaker Deco.

Deco was part of the Portugal team which lost to Greece in the final of EURO 2004.   -  Special Arrangement

Football fans are enjoying a feast with EURO 2016 in France and COPA in the USA. In the EURO, Portugal advanced beyond the group phase despite slip-ups like Cristiano Ronaldo’s missed penalty. In COPA, Brazil suffered a premature exit — another major embarrassment for the nation on the big stage following the 7-1 hammering by Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Brazil-born Portuguese playmaker Deco spoke about the football structure in Europe and dissected Brazil's problems in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

Deco is one of the members of the expert panel for Sony Six's EURO 2016 show.

Question: Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in EURO 2016, joining a list of prominent players who have failed to score from the spot. Zico and Roberto Baggio in World Cup games for example. How easy is it to convert a penalty kick?

Answer: Scoring from a penalty is easy when playing among friends. Pressure is huge in these competitions. In World Cup finals, teams get very few chances to score goals. When the match goes to penalties, the nation cries if you miss. If you score, the country celebrates and for the player, it is a chance to shine.

Portugal figured in a European Championship final long ago, in 2004, where it lost to Greece. When will it make another final, win a major title?

I hope Portugal makes it this time. Portugal is doing well as a football nation; its structure is good and clubs are doing well. Portuguese players perform at a high level in the best of clubs. Portuguese coaches are in demand.

Brazil changes its head coach after a major tournament. Felipe Scolari was out after Brazil's 2014 World Cup fiasco, Dunga quit after Brazil's early exit from COPA. Tite is now in charge of the team. Will a highly-paid national coach or manager be successful in handling the squad?

Tite is very good, maybe the best one at the moment. The problem is not about the coach, Brazil has other issues. The mentality to become a good player is lacking in young Brazilians. Things moved very fast for young talents, they lost something along the way. People in Brazil think the team is still the best in the world. It is not true.

Other nations have moved up in the last 20 years, you see Belgium, Albania... Brazil is not working as well as some other countries. Football is still the number one sport there, it is a rich country with a history of winning World Cups. People in Brazil may say we won the World Cup five times, but my view is that three of those wins happened before 1970. Football has changed since then, Brazil has not.

Germany is a football power with its own philosophy. From the time of Jurgen Klinsmann to Joachim Loew, the national team coach decides on a playing style for Germany. It is followed by clubs in the Bundesliga. Players moving up find it easier. Is that the way forward for other nations?

The German team you see now started work 12 years ago. I always believe if you have the organisation, plan ahead and don’t feel all problems will vanish by changing one coach, change will happen. The team may not win all the time, but success will come.

At one point, you made a career move from FC Porto to FC Barcelona. What adjustments were needed stepping into the La Liga?

It was easier because I was not raw. Football-wise, I was experienced and my time at Porto was good. Working under different coaches and (in different) systems helped. Winning the Champions League with Porto gave me the confidence at Barcelona, where we had a good team and won the Champions League.

FC Barcelona came under the influence of two strong personalities. The late Johan Cruyff and later the influential Pep Guardiola. Did you hear about Cruyff's work during your days at Barcelona? How did Guardiola change the club?

Johan Cruyff was one of the most important people in Barcelona. As a player he was fantastic. As coach, he created his own style. Barcelona has its own style based on attacking play, keeping possession and balance. It is a mentality of the club, you need good players to implement it. The Barcelona style is because of Cruyff. I did not play under Guardiola, but when he was a player in Barcelona, his coach was Cruyff. He learned a lot of things from the teacher.

EURO 2016 is a continuation of the process, with leading national teams preferring attacking football. Does the success of Spain and Germany mean that attacking play is the winning way?

For me the first thing is to play well. When teams try to keep possession and play well, they get into a better position to win. Spain did it, so ended up winning more. So does Germany, whose players have the quality to win games even when they are not at their best.

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