On Friday, Fernando Santos will name the Portugal squad to face France on September 4th (international friendly) and Albania on September 7th (Euro 2016 Qualification). With both the U-21’s strong showing at the U-21 Euro and the U-20 team’s impressive run at the U-20 World Cup this summer, the Portuguese National Team are in transition. With young prospects such as Bernardo Silva, João Mário, and Ivan Cavaleiro now becoming integral parts of their club teams, will Fernando Santos begin to ween them into the national team setup? Will they become stalwarts of the Seleção, or will Santos favor older, more experienced players? These questions highlight the conundrum that Portuguese football is facing; one of how to go about this transition.
In case readers of this site haven’t noticed, I’m a huge proponent of giving young players opportunities. I understand the need for a mix of youth and experience in a successful team, but many of the Portuguese squads in the recent past have leaned too heavily on aging players. In such an important period as this in Portuguese football, it is vital that a balance is struck. When Fernando Santos took charge last year, he recalled aging players such as Danny, Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, and Tiago Mendes back into the national team fold. This move was largely successful, with Carvalho scoring against Serbia in March and Tiago adding some bite to the team’s midfield. But looking long-term, a 37 year-old Ricardo Carvalho and a 34 year-old Tiago Mendes aren’t the answer. But that’s not to say they don’t deserve a chance at the moment.
On Friday, when Fernando Santos names a squad of 23 or so, here’s who I believe should be included:
Goalkeepers: Rui Patrício (Sporting), Beto (Sevilla), Anthony Lopes (Lyon)
Defenders: Fábio Coentrão (Monaco), Cédric (Southampton), Paulo Oliveira (Sporting), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Pepe (Real Madrid), José Fonte (Southampton)
Midfielders: João Mário (Sporting), Adrien Silva (Sporting), Danilo Pereira (Porto), João Moutinho (Monaco), Bernardo Silva (Monaco), Pizzi (Benfica)
Forwards: Ivan Cavaleiro (Monaco), Carlos Mané (Sporting), Varela (Porto), Nani (Fenerbahçe), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Éder (Swansea), Rafa (Braga)
Questions still remain over the fitness of Bruno Alves, Fábio Coentrão, and João Moutinho. Should any of these players be deemed unfit, capable replacements would be Rúben Vezo (for Bruno Alves), Raphaël Guerreiro (for Fábio Coentrão), and Sérgio Oliveira/André André (for João Moutinho). Players such as Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Danny (Zenit), Quaresma (Beşiktaş), who have previously been regulars for the team could be included by Santos.