Cristiano Ronaldo showed a holiday in Ibiza has helped recharge his batteries, but it was Ricardo Quaresma who truly energised Portugal as Fernando Santos’ side delivered a devastating attacking performance before heading to France.
Ronaldo and Quaresma both bagged braces as Estonia were cut to pieces in Lisbon, with the latter pressing his claims to be given a starting role for Portugal’s Group F opener against Iceland on Tuesday.
Quaresma was all flicks, tricks and incisive running, with Estonia failing to handle the Besiktas forward.
Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo only joined up with the squad on Sunday having been given an extended break by Santos in the wake of Los Blancos’ Champions League victory.
And the 31-year-old displayed signs that, unlike the World Cup two years ago, he is heading into Euro 2016 at near peak fitness.
Ricardo Quaresma was on fire for Portugal tonight 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/jMlVIwYsOv— 101 Great Goals (@102greatgoals) June 8, 2016
There were also noteworthy performances by Danilo and Andre Gomes in midfield, while Renato Sanches’ 32-minute cameo, albeit with the Estonians well beaten, showed his the range of his abilities with a midfield display full of bite, pace and calm passing.
After the Estonians did well to limit Portugal’s first attacking forays, the rout began 10 minutes before half-time when Quaresma found space down the left flank and delivered a wonderful curling cross with the outside of his right boot. Ronaldo was waiting patiently at the far post and promptly delivered a powerful diving header into the net from six yards out.
The hosts had their second a few minutes later with Quaresma again lurking on the left, although this time he was inside the penalty area, and as the Estonian defence expected another cross, the former Al Ahli winger instead curled a delightful flighted shot inside the top corner.
Ronaldo made it three before the break as his one-two with Joao Mario saw Portugal break at pace and although his shot was slightly fortuitous with the ball spinning off an Estonian defender, the finish was clinical.
Ronaldo was replaced by Nani at half-time, as Santos began to experiement with his squad. But still the scoring at the Estadio da Luz continued as the impressive Danilo coverted Quaresma’s out-swinging corner with a fine header.
Quaresma continued to cause havoc, this time operating on the right, and his whipped cross just after the hour mark was eventually deflected into his own net by the unlucky Karol Mets after goalkeeper Pavel Londak’s poor punch.
At five goals to the good, Portugal could have strolled through the remaining minutes but Santos’ side displayed a ruthlessness and desire that would have no doubt pleased their coach.
Quaresma claimed the sixth with a low drilled finish from the corner of the penalty area after Sanches had stolen possession and advanced forward at pace.
Then Lille striker Eder then put the finishing touches to an impressive night, controlling Gomes’ chipped pass and scoring from close range.
France and Romania will kick-off Euro 2016 in Paris on Friday night with the hosts heavy favourites to get their campaign underway with a win.
Major tournaments are never straightforward, however, and Les Bleus will be well aware of the quality Romania possess across the park, with several players featuring in the continent’s top divisions.
Which key battles, then, will settle the encounter at the Stade de France?
Giroud will lead the line for Les Bleus and should be up against former Tottenham defender Chiriches.
Giroud’s natural style is actually more suited to the national team as Deschamps likes his side to attack with pace and width, a method that is some distance than the neat and tidy and sometime ponderous play of Arsenal.
Chiriches will need all his physical attributes and ability to read the game to keep the striker quiet.
For such a fresh and vibrant team, it’s odd that in full-back positions so used to needing eclectic pace, France have 35-year-old Patrice Evra and 33-year-old Sagna.
The Manchester City right-back is a possible weak link if he can be attacked with purpose, preventing him from moving forward and exposing his declining speed.
Stancu is a skillful, clever attacking midfielder who can flatter to deceive but could prove Romania’s best offensive weapon.
Romania will undoubtedly spend the majority of this match on the backfoot, having to repel attack after attack by the fired-up hosts. That said, they will, at some stage get at least one chance and Andone will have to make the absolute most of whatever opportunities come his way.
The Cordoba frontman may look to target Rami who’s place in the team is up for debate and who’s looked uncertain and error-prone in the past for France.
As hosts the pressure will be on France, but we should expect them to reach the semi-finals. That’s the minimum I expect, particularly a team as talented as this French side.
The pressure may be on them to perform as hosts but I think the team should have all the support and sometimes that makes a huge difference. The team has been doing well for quite some time. They have beaten world champions Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands in the last year after a difficult period, especially when they lost 1-0 to Albania last June.
But they have won seven of their last eight games, the only loss coming against England in November, so overall I think the team has a good chance to perform well. With Didier Deschamps in charge he is the right man to lead them to that last four stage at least.
The tournament is at home and if you take the players individually, from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to strikers Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann, they should be good enough to achieve this. Obviously, Karim Benzema will not feature but we should be there around the end of the tournament. One man I’m hugely excited about is a player at my former club, Manchester United, who has played his way into selection after a superb debut Premier League season – Anthony Martial.
I didn’t know that much about him before this season to be honest. But he’s made a great start with all the pressure and attention on him, the amount of money the club had to spend to bring him in at the last minute, and being a number nine, even though he plays out wide mostly. He’s coped well with all this and his response on the pitch has been perfect. Like the rest of the team he’s had a dip in form but I think that was down to the team instead of himself, and now he’s back to his best again in time for the Euros.
As he was relatively new to me as a player I couldn’t really get much of an assessment on him, I was just curious to see whether he was going to be able to make any impact at Old Trafford and he’s done really well. He’s a typical modern striker so you would expect him to play on both flanks and centrally.
He’s going to grow into both the United and France squads and take on more importance. He’s done well in his first season, but he will be judged even harder in the second season and also the defenders will know more about him, his abilities, his tendancies, his decision making and his tricks.
If he’s a good player he will have an okay season, if he’s a great player he will have a great season.