With much of the media coverage pointed towards the Portuguese senior team’s match against Serbia tomorrow, Portuguese youth matches have flown largely under the radar. On Thursday, the Portugal U-21 team faced Denmark in a friendly match, and just a day later, the Portugal U-20 team faced Uzbekistan. Both teams are preparing for participation in major tournaments this summer. The U-21 team will be in the U-21 Euro for the first time since 2007, while the U-20 team will compete in their third consecutive U-20 World Cup. Both teams are oozing with talent, and while these friendly matches don’t mean anything on paper, the opportunity for team growth and improved cohesion was invaluable.
Portugal 0-0 Denmark
The Portugal U-21 team named to face the Danes was the strongest head coach Rui Jorge could name. As the team approaches this summer’s tournament, Jorge appears to be finalizing who will be included on the team and who will be left at home. The problem he faces is an encouraging one: too much talent. With the likes of Marcos Lopes, Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, Paulo Oliveira, and others on the team, there was no place in the squad for Valencia center-back Ruben Vezo, in-form Iuri Medeiros, or promising Benfica midfielder Joao Teixeira. What is even more remarkable is that many feel the likes of Silva, Oliveira, Cavaleiro, and Lopes are ready for the step up to the Senior National Team.
So, needless to say, the U-21s have the firepower. That’s not to say that Portugal have the ability to roll over any team with ease. The Danish U-21 team packs quite a punch as well. The team will also feature at this summer’s tournament, thanks to an undefeated qualifying campaign in which they only conceded nine goals. The team was led by the likes of Nicolaj Thomsen, Lucas Andersen, and Andreas Cornelius. All three players were in the Danish team that faced Portugal on Thursday.
The game started brightly for Portugal. The likes of Marcos Lopes, Bernardo Silva, and Rafa Soares combined multiple times to good effect. Despite Portugal’s silky passing, many of the chances early in the match were long-shots and other speculative efforts. The first true clear chance of the match fell to Denmark’s Rasmus Falk, who was found free inside the box. His low shot was well saved by Jose Sa. Soon after, the action switched to the other side of the field. Some deft dribbling from Goncalo Paciencia ended in a handball in the box from Frederik Sørensen. Sergio Oliveira stepped up to take the ensuing penalty, but it was well saved by the Danish goalkeeper. That save kept the scores level, and both teams went into the half on even terms.
The second half was a much less smooth affair. As is the case with many friendly matches, substitutions in the second half greatly disrupt the flow of the match. This proved the case in the second half. Rafa Soares, Marcos Lopes, and Ivan Cavaleiro all came off at the half, and were replaced by Joao Cancelo, Ricardo Horta, and Bruma. But soon into the second half, the best chance of the game fell to Goncalo Paciencia. The big striker controlled a lobbed cross, side-stepped some Danish defenders, and with quick feet managed to get a shot off, which was expertly saved by the trailing boot of the Danish goalkeeper. It was a wonderful showcase of skill from both Paciencia and Danish ‘keeper Jakob Jensen. From that point onward, the game was relatively one-sided, with Portugal coming relatively close on a couple more occasions, despite Denmark controlling the majority of the run of play.
Jose Sa, Tiago Ilori, Paulo Oliveira, Rafa Soares(Joao Cancelo), Ricardo Pereira, Ruben Neves, Sergio Oliveira(Rafa), Bernardo Silva(Carlos Mane), Marcos Lopes(Bruma), Ivan Cavaleiro(Ricardo Horta), Goncalo Paciencia(Toze)
The Portugal U-20s are also preparing for a major tournament this summer: the U-20 World Cup. Their participation in this summer’s tournament will be their third consecutive, after finishing runners up in 2011 and exiting in the second round in 2013. The team that will feature this summer will most likely be very similar to the U-19 team that finished as runners up at last summer’s U-19 Euro. This team has the likes of Tomas Postawski, Andre Silva, and Ivo Rodrigues, three players who impressed at the U-19 Euro last summer.
This match ended at 2-0 in Portugal’s favor. A penalty from Ivo Rodrigues and a goal from Andre Silva earned the win for the Portuguese. The team mainly consisted of players new to the U-20 team, such as Reus’s Dinis Almeida, Rio Ave’s Nelson Monte, Santa Clara’s Ruben Ribeiro, Heerenveen’s Janio Bikel, and Benfica’s Goncalo Guedes.
Tiago Sa(Guilherme Oliveira), Rafael Ramos, Nelson Monte(Domingos Duarte), Ruben Ribeiro(Mauro Riquicho), Dinis Almeida, Joao Palhinha(Estrela), Francisco Geraldes(Raphael Guzzo), Janio Bikel(Francisco Ramos), Ivo Rodrigues(Nuno Santos), Joao Vigario(Andre Silva), Goncalo Guedes(Gelson Martins)