In a little over a week, the Portuguese U-20 Team will kick off their much anticipated U-20 World Cup campaign with their first match against Senegal. The U-20’s participation in this summer’s tournament will be the third consecutive finals appearance, after a runners-up finish in 2011 and a second round exit in 2013. Expectations are high for the Portuguese, with many of the players included in the squad touted to be stars of the future. But, as has been the case with Portugal’s involvement in the U-20 World Cup, many players are not as well-known as some of their older counterparts. So let’s take a look at the team:
Goalkeepers: André Moreira (Moreierense), Tiago Sa (Braga B), Guilherme Oliviera (Sporting B)
Defenders: Dinis Almeida (Réus), Domingos Duarte (Sporting B), João Nunes (Benfica B), Mauro Riquicho (Sporting B), Rafa (Porto B), Rebocho (Benfica B)
Midfielders: Estrela (Orlando City), Francisco Ramos (Porto B), Janio Bikel (SC Heerenveen), Raphael Guzzo (GD Chaves), Rony Lopes (Lille), Tomás Podstawski (Porto B)
Forwards: André Silva (Porto B), Gelson Martins (Sporting B), Gonçalo Guedes (Benfica B), Ivo Rodrigues (Vitória SC), João Vigário (Vitória SC B), Nuno Santos (Benfica B)
André Moreira will likely retain the starting position, after his solid performance at last summer’s U-19 European Championship. Tiago Sa will most likely play second-fiddle to Moreira, much like last summer. In defense, Domingos Duarte and João Nunes are the probable pairing in the center, as both players performed well in last summer’s U-19 Euro. The remainder of the back-line should remain unchanged from last summer as well, with Rafa on the left and Mauro Riquicho on the right. Pedro Rebocho’s excellent season at left-back for Benfica B could warrant considerable playing time.
In midfield, head coach Hélio Sousa favors a three-man setup, consisting of a defensive anchor (Tomás Podstawski, Estrela), an attacking-minded number 10-type player (Rony Lopes), and a more balanced box-to-box midfielder (Francisco Ramos, Janio Bikel, Raphael Guzzo). As captain of the team, Podstawski should fill the defensive anchor role. Rony Lopes, who many believe to be a vital part of the future of the Portuguese team, should undoubtedly find a spot in the team, provided he maintains fitness. The competition for the No. 8, box-to-box midfield position will be the most interesting to watch, with Bikel, Guzzo, and Ramos all capable to fill the role. Perhaps Raphael Guzzo will get the nod, after a stellar season for Chaves, but this remains to be seen.
On the wings, Portugal arguably has their largest concentration of talent. Gelson Martins and Ivo Rodrigues both starred last summer for the U-19s, but Gonçalo Guedes and Nuno Santos have both emerged this season for Benfica B, leading to a selection headache for Hélio Sousa. Goncalo Guedes will likely get the nod for one of the wing positions, after his stellar season at Benfica at such a young age. The other wing position will be between Ivo Rodrigues and Gelson Martins. Rodrigues was primarily used by Sousa as an impact substitute for the U-19s; a role in which he excelled. If this were to stay the same, Martins could win the starting position. Up top, André Silva will almost undoubtedly spear-head the team’s attack, with João Vigário acting as back-up.
Probable starting lineup
Average age: 19.47 years old
Youngest player: Gonçalo Guedes: 18 years, 6 months, 2 days
Oldest player: Raphael Guzzo: 20 years, 4 months, 25 days