Posted on Jun 19
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 said.
"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."