Portugal eager to explore options

<-- Luiz Felipe Scolari

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has no qualms about testing the strength-in-depth of his squad in tonight's friendly against Greece in Dusseldorf.

Stepping up
Scolari's men take on the European champions in a repeat of the UEFA EURO 2004™ final without key performers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco and Nani. However, the coach is demanding that the replacements – including a midfield of Fernando Meira, Miguel Veloso and Carlos Martins – prove both their own value and that of a squad bound for Austria/Switzerland.

Squad game
"We are missing Ronaldo, Nani, Deco and other players but we have to get by without them," said the Brazilian. "If we can't, then we are not a real team. We can't just depend on three players. We need a group that is capable of covering for absentees, however brilliant they may be. Ronaldo is a great player who makes the difference, but his absence gives us an opportunity to watch somebody else in action."

No guarantees
Failure to heed Scolari's words could mean missing the trip to UEFA EURO 2008™. "I have a good idea [about my squad] but that can change subject to performances," he warned. "Players who feel their place is safe could be wrong and much will depend on the work they put in." One player who is destined for this summer's finals is goalkeeper Rui Patrício – the 20-year-old from Sporting Clube de Portugal could win his first cap against the Greeks. "I still don't know if Rui Patrício will play on Wednesday," added the coach.

'Not a favourite'
Rui Patrício should provide competition for Ricardo and Quim when Portugal tackle Turkey, the Czech Republic and Switzerland in their Group A matches in June. Of their chances of ultimate success in the tournament, Scolari is rather less effusive. "We are one of 16 finalists, of whom 15 will lose, and I have already said we are not among the favourites."