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Pressure mounts as Ronaldo's Portugal brace for underdogs Slovenia

FRANKFURT, Germany : Portugal's talented squad led by captain Cristiano Ronaldo will be under scrutiny when they step on to the Frankfurt Arena pitch to face underdogs Slovenia in their Euro 2024 Round-of-16 clash on Monday.

Despite finishing top of Group F with six points, Portugal stumbled to an unexpected defeat against lowly Georgia that raised many questions after they arrived in Germany with high expectations as one of the odds-on favourites to win the title.

Even though the defeat came with Portugal fielding a second-string side, they were still led by Ronaldo and were never able to get a foothold against a Georgia team who seemed to enter every challenge as if it was their last.

Georgia played locked down with a deep back five, a defensive style that has been causing headaches for Portugal manager Roberto Martinez.

It was reminiscent of the match against the Czech Republic in their Euro opener, when Portugal had to dig deep to fight back and snatch a 2-1 victory with a stoppage-time winner.

It is also similar to the approach Slovenia are expected to take on Monday - a disciplined, deep back five who offer little space, and explosive counter-attacks from long balls.

In March, Portugal struggled against Slovenia who gave Martinez his first defeat after 12 games in charge since taking over from long-time manager Fernando Santos following a disappointing loss to Morocco in the 2022 World Cup quarter-finals.

Slovenia won 2-0 in Ljubljana in a friendly which saw Portugal have almost 75 per cent of possession but appear clueless on how to beat their rivals' back five. They ended up getting caught in quick counters, much like they did against Georgia on Wednesday.

Martinez led Belgium's golden generation of Kevin De Bruyne,

Read more on channelnewsasia.com