Opinion: Portugal vs Albania – The Good, Bad, and the Ugly


Paulo Bento - Portugal vs AlbaniaPortugal came into the first Group I game against Albania at the Estádio Municipal Mário Duarte in Aveiro, off of what most consider a poor World Cup.

The team had a lot to prove, and Bento did make changes bringing in a lot of fresh faces into the squad and starting line-up. Gone from the starting roster were habitual starters Postiga, Meireles, and Veloso replaced by Eder, Andre Gomes, and William. More importantly Cristiano Ronaldo was left off the squad by personal request so he could play in Real games as he is still not fully fit, he was replaced by Vieirinha (more on this later).

A whole lot of movement that had Portuguese fans excited before the game but what hasn’t changed is that Bento employs the same methods, tactics, and formations from the bench. The result was even worse than most could imagine, the poor fans that bleed red and green endured a pathetic display that resulted in Albania winning away to Portugal 1-0. The world press caught on and Portugal was a major sporting headline for media outlets like the NY Times that barely cover football/soccer.

What transpired on the pitch was more of the same traumatic scene as we as a collective have seen in recent memory from the Portuguese National team, a squad that has gone 2-2-1 in their last 5 games. To cap it off Bento goes down in history as one of the few Managers, that you can count on one hand, that Albania has won away to in a competitive match, with the likes of Norway, Luxembourg, & Kazakhstan the only other nations to fail to Albania at home in the last two decades. Albania in Euro Qualification has only 8 wins, 20 losses, and 15 draws in the last two decades. The only other away win in Euro qualifying in that time was against the giants of Luxembourg.

This result has many fans in a huff and deservedly so, especially in the smug face of Bento who doesn’t take ownership for any result. The fact that he has never won a serious trophy in his Managerial career must’ve eluded the FPF who hired him, and continue to employ him.
Bento started with a shocking 4-3-3 formation. Shocking in that it hasn’t been successful against the minnows of Europe in the last 4 decades, but learning from history isn’t a strong suit of the Supreme Leader.

Where most major sports teams are hiring advanced stats experts to benefit their teams, it can be said that even the most basic stats are neglected by the FPF and any of their revolving Managerial Dictators.

I love William and thought he should’ve started from day one in the WC, and it would’ve made a huge difference in the Group of Death, but what is the point of playing a Trinco (DM) in a game against a minnow?

Why start a 4-3-3 with a Trinco to win a non-existent midfield battle against a team that is going to park the bus?

This insanity the red and green blooded folk have had to endure the last 4 decades is not only idiotic, it is irresponsible, and preposterous. Portugal’s major nemesis is an organized defensive squad and that includes the minnows of Europe who park the bus. Yet the same tactics are used consistently year after year, and it has been to the detriment of some world class players.

Take our much maligned Strikers over the last few decades the majority of them lined up 2 at the front for their club teams where they had success, yet when they played on the National team against the best defenders in the world they were expected to play alone.

In all fairness CR & Nani who have manned the wings for the majority of the last decade aren’t the best of crossers or passers yet they are expected to find a lone man in the middle of two Center Backs, a Goalkeeper, and a Trinco (DM), a needle in a haystack in other words. I don’t care who it is, but if I walk into a fight with 3 of my buddies against one guy even if it is Anderson Silva the MMA Legend, he is going to take a one sided beating.

I can’t blame the Portuguese wingers either because it is an almost impossible task that requires perfection. Ronaldo is amazing, and Nani also has shown glimpses of that, but it is a big ask. What upset me most is the same formation and tactics employed, Portugal has become extremely predictable and easily defended. If not for the sheer quality of the players we wouldn’t even dominate possession, and would’ve failed years ago.
Over the years the likes of Pauleta, Gomes, and Postiga have been treated poorly, left alone to face the criticism their Managers should’ve taken. Gomes & Postiga scored some big goals for Portugal but were always chided for their efforts.

Eder is the current whipping boy, and although he holds the ball up well, when he is finally fed in the box it is either a ridiculous pass/cross or he has 4 defenders on him. The ESPN Colour Commentator yesterday suggested he lacked quality in his attempts, yet the truth was the quality attempts were lacking, left alone.

Oscar Cardozo for Benfica is prime example a monster goal scorer that was treated poorly by the revolving door of Managers at Benfica in his tenure. He was benched or played as a lone Striker, but in a two man attack system his lack of speed or defensive qualities made him lethal. Positioning is the key and the Goaldozer missed more than others scored. If you gave him a good ball to the feet or a header half the time it was bulging the back of the net, the space afforded to his lack of speed was exploited, repeatedly. Yet our Strikers for the National Team are afforded no space, no time, and multiple markers and they are expected to be world class.

Very few nations have a Striker that can play alone, yet the expectation from Portugal is that our frontmen should be able to do it, and we chastise them if they don’t succeed.

Portugal should start every game against a minnow in a 4-4-2 or in one of Jorge Jesus’ 2-2-6 formations.

The whole point of opponents parking the bus is getting 11 men behind the ball forcing Portugal to shoot from long range, or make a world class play that breaks the bus. With Ronaldo being the only good long range shot for the NT it is not a statistically viable option, and it has led to much heartbreak. Save the 4-3-3’s for games against quality opponents when you have to win a midfield battle, and using a Trinco like William would’ve been a good idea against Germany, not the defensively inept Meireles, Veloso, and Joao Pereira.

Overall Portugal dominated possession as expected in a 4-3-3 versus a minnow and against all odds broke Albania down repeatedly. The only thing missing was the FINAL BALL it was a night of atrocious shooting from Nani, Pepe, and many others in the face of goal that resulted in the loss.

Read Mitchell Rua’s excellent Match Report to get the detailed game review.


 

Time for the Good, Bad, and Ugly:

Good

  • Albania played their game to perfection hard fisted with the bus parked and kept threatening attempts to a minimum
  • NT lining the squad with young faces was a step in the right direction
  • Vieirinha was a beast on the left in for Ronaldo, and the little man created BIG danger
  • Andre Gomes got 500+ minutes under JJ at Benfica in two seasons??? Yet his calm and cool control has won him many fans abroad, he did not disappoint
  • Coentrao coming off his injury created havoc and was his usual problem self in the offensive zone, his mastery almost won the game
  • William didn’t have much to do but every possession counted, his vision and control of the field is deserving of his buyout clause being met in January, hopefully by Manchester United
  • Horta, Coentrao and Gomes had bombs that should’ve bulged the twine

Bad

  • Although Nani created dangerous situations and got into deadly areas his final ball was lacking, with CR out he was called upon, in the end it was a fail
  • Pepe had 3 good deliveries for a header none were close to the targetPepe not marking the only man in the box was sheer laziness that resulted in a loss
  • Ref handed out 6 yellow cards to Albania a couple of them should’ve been Benfica coloured, Albania was allowed to hack and did so all night, fortunately no long lasting injuries came of it
  • Adrien Silva not getting into the game, what does the impressive kid have to do?
  • Taking off the best player in the first half Vieirinha

The Ugly

  • Inviting only ONE STRIKER to a squad playing against a MINNOW
  • Playing a 4-3-3 with a Trinco against Albania is asinine
  • Bringing on Veloso as your last sub when you are down a goal
  • Being the only REAL team to lose to Albania at home EVER
  • Listening to Bento not QUIT or be FIRED directly after arguably the worst result in the history of the Portuguese National Team

In closing, I would like to address another problem area for the National Team, they have rightfully picked up a reputation from Ref’s with their unsportsmanlike behaviour (dating back to Bento’s suspension in the WC as a player) as cheats, divers, and meddling fakes. It surfaced again in the game against Albania where a couple of reds should’ve been lashed out but the Ref was right to be wary. It didn’t cost us the game, but it did affect it.

It is high time that this was addressed. No simulation, no surrounding the Ref begging/pushing, no more flashing of imaginary red cards, and no more sulking after not getting a call. It is starting to affect games, and will cost us at the highest level in the biggest games.
It doesn’t matter that teams like Germany and Italy live off of simulation they don’t have that reputation in the Ref’s eye.
Portuguese people are a hardy breed, especially abroad. Full of folks that work hard at back breaking jobs so nothing upsets them more than a bunch of Prima Dona’s on the pitch that don’t put in the effort, sulk, and dive repeatedly.

STOP IT!!

We need the Portuguese National Team to build back their reputation with sportsmanlike behaviour so we can get back the benefit of the doubt. So we can win big trophies like the World Cup winning German Diving Team, and the Italian Actors Guild.

Portuguese Liga Week in Review: Round 3


Photo: FC Porto

Photo: FC Porto

Week in Review – Liga Highs and Lows

With the closing of the transfer window it was a frantic news week for all the Big clubs in Portugal, which made for a lot of interesting reading. So here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in the Liga:

FC Porto got an important win over Moreirense to start the week, which kept them on pace with Rio Ave who continues to crush their opponents, Victoria Guimaraes also kept up their impressive start, here is a look at the Liga Standings after week 3.

SC Braga won their match with Estoril which keeps them within striking distance of the top teams (Eder had an amazing goal), but both Benfica and Sporting dropped points in the match of the week, an exciting derby that had its share of High’s and Lows.

 

Champions League Draw

Always exciting to get the groups sorted out and to eye up the Euro club competition, with the Primeira Liga moving ahead of Serie A into 4th place in the Euro Country Co-efficients the Liga brand is at an all-time high.

Benfica the Liga Champs were in pot 1 so got pooled with Zenit, Leverkusen, and Monaco in Group C this is courtesy of their #5 ranking in Europe. Benfica / Zenit started out as slight favourites but the odds will increase with Monaco losing Falcao on loan, and Zenit losing Hulk to injury. The group though still looks very challenging and should make for some exciting games, we are hoping Jesus irons out his wrinkles and we take this group in style, although there might be a question where the goals will come from.

Sporting (#33) the Liga runners-up got pooled with (highly favoured) Chelsea, Schalke, and Maribor from Slovenia in Group G and they are favoured to go through over Schalke. We like Sporting’s chances if they can sort out their defence. We hope their return to the CL is a successful one.

Porto (#11) was pooled with Bilbao, Shakhtar, and Borisov in Group H probably the easiest group of the Big 3 and are favoured to go through. Although ESPN thinks Athletic Bilbao will top the group (because of their victory over Napoli) but I don’t think beating a team from the nose diving Serie A is something to get excited over. Lopetegui and PDC have assembled a very talented squad with lots of depth and it should see them easily into the next round bar injuries.

 

Transfer Headlines

Porto

With Porto losing Mangala and Fernando in the transfer window some could be concerned but PDC did well, and if anything strengthened his squad in a major way. This trend continued at the deadline with a double swoop where he signed Otavio a highly sought after Attacking Mid, and loaned Spanish midfielder Jose Campana.  To cap off the successful transfer window for Porto. They also managed to keep danger man Jackson Martinez, who was on every BIG clubs radar. The only sad news was that Varela was sent packing after a contract row, but to be fair it is probably better for him as with all the talent assembled he was going to see a lot of the bench.

Sporting

Sporting was in the headlines a lot with More Rojo Problems  thankfully the self-obsessed hype train has left the station, not sure what all the interest is in a very average defender who has played on an excellent Sporting team, and Argentina National squad, but BdC did well to get Nani in the deal (with the majority of his salary paid).

Also making the headlines was the chase for the most sought after Defensive Midfielder in Europe. The Elegant Powerhouse known as Carvalho was chased until the dying seconds with both Arsenal and Manchester United in the running. Fortunately for the fans he chose to stay, even after the sneaky Wenger offered Campbell in exchange.

Ryan Gauld the Scottish Messi also talked highly of Sporting and why he chose to come to the historic club to round out his game. More and more talented youth players are realizing that the best place to go is the Primeira Liga, as they will not only get to play in Europe but the pedigree of players turned out by the Big 3 is unheard of. Sporting being the King of Portuguese talent is renowned for their Academy.

Benfica                                              

Definitely a roller coaster ride at the deadline for the Eagles with Hernandez from Palermo (there is a Portuguese joke in there with that team name) turning down a bid to go to the Luz. Clearly he might be Abel but he definitely isn’t that bright, as a move would’ve guaranteed him some big Euro games.

To add to the misery Arsene Wenger as true to his first name was being an arse (British slang), after suggesting he needed a striker first before selling or loaning World Cup star Joel Campbell to SLB. After getting Wellbeck he then offered Campbell up in a backroom deal to Sporting for Carvalho, then at the last second balked on the SLB purchase price and didn’t even loan the player much to the anger of both Campbell & his Agent who were furious.

Fortunately for Benfica it all ended well they managed to keep two highly sought after players in Enzo Perez and Nico Gaitan as their buy-out clauses were not met and also picked up a gem from AC Milan in Bryan Cristante. The Italian Wonder Kid came in cheap at 6 million euros much to the dismay of Milan fans who took to twitter in horror, and many Italian Reporters who chided Milan Management for the blunder. To top it off Cristante even forced the transfer and requested Benfica to add more salt to the wounds. Again the appreciation for the Big 3 and the job they have done developing BIG League talent is what has all these players knocking the door down to get to the Liga.

So all in all a very productive week for the Liga let me finish with the Highs and Lows of the week:

Highs

 

  • Porto Win
  • Rio Ave Crush
  • Good Champions League draws for Sporting & Porto
  • Jackson, Slimani, Carvalho, Enzo, and Gaitan Stay
  • Cristante dumps AC Milan for Benfica

 

Lows

 

  • Benfica & Sporting drop points in Liga Race
  • Varela goes to West Brom
  • Hernandez turns down SLB
  • Benfica misses out on Cardozo replacement – Campbell via Wenger
  • Rojo still in the Headlines

Once again another interesting week in the Headlines for Portuguese Football, follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

Opinion: Sporting 1-1 Benfica: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly


Benfica and Sporting came into the Lisbon Derby on Sunday with something to prove and it was a must win for both sides to quiet the skeptic supporters at both ends of the pitch. The conclusion in the first round of the Lisbon Derby was an entertaining 1-1 draw. Unfortunately for both teams this log jam on the field has dropped them behind pre-season favourites FC Porto in the race for the Liga crown.

Sporting CP is already 4 points adrift of Porto in the standings only 3 matches in (W 1, L 0, D 2), so soon after their feisty play last year in the Liga saw them rewarded with a second place finish in the standings. Although it is way too early to panic as a Sporting fan, the Lions are still working through the mess that Godinho Lopes caused at the club a couple of years ago, and this off-season the club was meant to strengthen their core without too many player losses. With their core players still intact (losing Rojo, Dier, & Elias in the off-season), Sporting arrived at da Luz with Nani, a new Manager and expectations of grandeur.

Across the field Jorge Jesus has had a very difficult off-season after winning the Primeira League title last term, his roster has been decimated by player transfers losing Garay, Oblak, Cardozo, Markovic, Rodrigo, Gomes, Siqueira, and Cavaleiro (in order of importance) to other clubs looking to replicate Benfica’s success the last few seasons (#5 in Euro Club Standings). Jesus has been very vocal about his displeasure saying that although his name is Jesus he doesn’t create miracles, in response to the exodus of players. He has also been uncharacteristically vocal in his criticism of Luis Felipe Vieira’s player acquisitions, saying he doesn’t have enough talent to work with on numerous occasions to the content of the rabid jornalists in Portugal. The irony is that he has had his best start to the Liga whilst at Benfica this season (SLB came into the game with W 2 L 0).

This was the backdrop to this battle of the behemoths at the Stadium of Light, both Managers being scrutinized under the microscope of their passionate followers and journalistic scribes on a warm Sunday evening in front of 61,895 spectators.

Benfica 1-1 Sporting - Derby lineups August 2014

Starting Lineups


Sporting CP

GK: Patricio
Defense: Esgaio, Maurico, Sarr, Jefferson
Midfield: Carvalho, Martins, Silva
Forwards: Carrillo, Nani, Slimani

From Marco Silva’s perspective, it was a very standard 4-3-3 Sporting formation with strength and talent in the midfield, danger on the wings and a formidable striker to cash in some lively goals. The line-up was as expected with the main question marks at the back.

Benfica

GK: Artur
Defense: Eliseu, Jardel, Luisao, Maxi
Midfield: Almeida, Enzo
Forwards: Salvio, Gaitan, Talisca, Lima

Jesus’ line-up had some futebol pundits questioning if revisions were in order, as was rightfully discussed on the Benfica Podcast with Alfredo & Co. and in a subsequent article by Neil Fernandes that previewed this Derby match. There were questions about Talisca’s role, Lima’s play, and whether Gaitan should be used as an Attacking Mid to allow Ola John to patrol the left wing and add more bite to the attack.

As expected, Jesus rolled out his usual line-up with no surprises, Talisca was used as an Attacking Mid/Sub Striker, and Ola John never even made an appearance (Mental Note: Check to see if Ola has any relatives with Portuguese passports or is related to Nolito or Capedevila).


 

The expectations were for both teams to play a spirited game and they did. The match had intensity going back and forth in possession at the same time remaining relatively clean, as there were 6 yellow cards handed out on the night by Pedro Proenca.

Some of the questions going into the game were:

Who would be behind the Benfica bench?

JJ was thrown out of last week’s game with Boavista for getting into an argument with the referee at half time, in the end he only received a minor fine, and warning by the LPFP, so was able to manage on the night.

Would the real Nani show up?

Nani’s confidence has eroded the last couple of years, and coming back to Sporting was a major coup for Bruno de Carvalho, especially when he has Manchester United footing the majority of Nani’s wages, but the question is how quickly he can assimilate himself into the squad? With new team mates around and very little training time, many wondered aloud if he would have an impact in the derby match. On the night he had a decent game turning provider on a few dangerous plays, but lacked the shooting boots at times when he was presented with gifts in and around the box. So the jury is still out on Nani, but for Sporting’s sake and that of the Portuguese National Team we hope he gets back in gear sooner rather than later.

Could Benfica’s weakened midfield handle the hot mid core of Sporting?

Many including myself wondered with Fejsa & Amorim’s injuries whether rarely used Almeida would be able to help Enzo Perez cope with the triple threat in Sporting’s midfield core. Almeida is fairly feisty and it wasn’t a major concern of mine as I think he is better suited to that position, although in fairness lacks the big league experience in that role. The midfield battle was spirited all night and made for a great game with possession almost split down the middle, Sporting with 51% and SLB with 49%, so I think both SLB players fared well in the face of the opposition.

How would Sporting’s decimated back line hold-up against Benfica’s fierce attack?

Losing Dier and Rojo clearly makes the defence the weakest link in the Sporting chain, and they were carved up throughout the game. Benfica out-chanced Sporting 17 shots to 11, and for the most part were of the dangerous variety. On many occasions Lima blew past Esgaio to make some lethal passes across the face of goal and there were too many scoring opportunities inside the heart of the box. Fortunately for the back four Patricio was on fire and the Portuguese International Keeper made some world class saves, furthermore Benfica clearly will rue all the missed chances in the face of goal.

Who could replace the scoring of Lion killer Oscar Cardozo?

Oscar had 13 goals against Sporting in his time at Benfica and almost singlehandedly won derby matches for the Eagles at times. Unfortunately no one in the end did fill his shoes. Gaitan had a wonder goal but missed badly on at least two other occasions to wrestle control over the game. Lima is unfortunately better suited to playing in a sub striker role and was rarely in position to score inside the box. Salvio needed to tighten the laces on his dancing shoes as he missed some glorious chances (excuse the pun) in the goal mouth.

How would Slimani play after being suspended by SCP for trying to force a transfer?

Slimani excelled on the night, and was as good as in the recent World Cup with Algeria where he turned heads. He is a livewire at the front and gets himself into threatening positions. His pressure of Artur helped to create the error that led to his tying goal in the first half. Although some fans took exception on twitter to him kissing the emblem after he scored, because of his attempted hijack of the transfer process. BdC did well to hold onto his investment and Slimani will be an important cog in the Sporting attack this season.

Would Jesus start one of his crazy BIG Match Line-ups that have people scratching their heads?

For a big game match this was about as sensible as JJ gets, although a few fans did scratch their heads at how Derley was the only sub used, and with good reason. Talisca had received medical treatment twice during the game, and the shift of Gaitan to the 10 role and addition of a speed demon like Ola on the left to frustrate Esgaio, who was already on a yellow, might have been what the doctor ordered. Also Bebe could’ve been brought on to provide some goal scoring punch from the Sub Striker role considering he scored 11 goals last season with Pacos but it was all for not.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly


Good:

Gaitan

Maxi

Patricio

Slimani

The Fans

Bad:

Sporting Defence

JJ’s one sub

Ola not playing

Both teams dropped points on Porto in the race for the title

Ugly:

Minuscule fine JJ has to pay

Artur’s Frango

I left Artur’s frango for last as it is definitely the big talking point of the match, and he was sarcastically voted Man of the Match on Abola.

I feel for the guy he is a good goalkeeper and makes some wonderful saves, as he did for the majority of the match, but like Jorge Jesus sometimes in Big Games he makes some colossal screw-ups that end up costing Benfica the win. Like Nani his confidence isn’t at its highest, but I am not sure Julio Cesar will do better (as was witnessed in the World Cup). Although this frango will surely have Artur rooted to the bench for the next match. Let’s see what Julio can do, it is his job for the taking at this point.

All in all this Derby was a great match between two title contenders that are still working through their kinks, and the one that can find consistency first will challenge Porto for the title this season. It has many fans including myself looking forward to the mouth-watering Liga games to come, add to that Rio Ave is crushing teams, Braga has improved, as well as Guimaraes turning in good performances and this looks to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.

Stay tuned for more.

Match Report: All Even at the Lisbon Derby


Sporting vs Benfica - August 2014

Benfica 1-1 Sporting

Match Report

The Lisbon Derby between Benfica and Sporting at Estadio da Luz on Sunday ended in a 1-1 draw.

Benfica as well as Sporting came into the match undefeated in the early stages of the Primeira Liga and both teams got a point out of the game to ensure their unbeaten records stayed intact.

Both teams have amassed 51 Liga titles (Benfica 33, Sporting 18) between them, so it is usually a very intense derby with title implications, and this game was no different with the action starting early: Slimani’s header just missed from a dangerous Jefferson corner kick in the 3rd minute that had everyone beat.

In the 5th minute Rui Patricio made a great save tipping a well struck Talisca free kick over the bar, in a subsequent play Patricio comes up big again as Luisao’s hard shot off a corner gets pushed out at the far post.

The first goal in this clash of titans came early as Maxi Pereira linked up with Salvio on a give-and-go that fed Gaitan at the top of the box for a Benfica goal. It is one of the prettier goals so far in the young season as Salvio’s incisive run to the box, and Maxi’s quick follow-up caught the Sporting defence on the back foot, besides Patricio’s agility to get his hand on the Gaitan wonder strike, he had no chance and was beaten to the near post in the 11th minute.

Sporting fought back and with great pressure caused Artur to make an unforced error when Eliseu’s back pass was literally that a mishit off of Carillo’s backside (who charged down the ball) to hit an open Slimani in front of goal. Slimani made sure to penalize the Goalkeeper by heading it in off of the line for the tying goal making the scoreline level at 1-1.

Benfica along with Sporting traded chances to close out the first half with Eliseu hitting a bomb that went over the bar in the 26th minute, as well as Slimani getting a couple of good chances one in the 28th that he hit weakly towards Artur, and in the 42nd when he deflected a ball that Artur made a great save on (the Ref called the play back on an offside).

Second half started quickly with Gaitan chipping Patricio but the effort went over the bar in the 47th minute, then he turned provider when his cross to Salvio at the top of the box who shot just wide of the right post (48’).

Benfica kept the pressure on and had the better chances in the second half, with Talisca’s dangerous shot on goal in the 61st minute ricocheting off of Mauricio wide right (it almost caught Patricio out), which led to a threatening strike from outside the box by Enzo Perez that just evaded the far post (61’).

Salvio was then fed all alone in the heart of the box by a clever pass from Lima on the byline, but he could only muster a direct strike at Patricio who easily pushed it from harm’s way (62’). The action didn’t stop there as a great corner from Talisca found Andre Almeida’s powerful header in the box, forcing Patricio to make a spectacular flying save on the Portuguese International (64’). Lima then again made a dangerous run off of a Gaitan diagonal and found Salvio open at the back post (66’), but Salvio could only hit the side netting from the deadly cross.

Although Benfica had the Lion’s share of chances (excuse the pun) Sporting was never out of this game and a menacing free kick from Jefferson in the 71st minute forced Artur to make an acrobatic save to keep the match tied. Nani then headed easily right at Artur (73’) from a good cross from Capel.

Gaitan got Benfica back in the action in the 79th minute off of an Eliseu corner, when he rose above everyone in the box and just missed the near post with a powerful header.

SportingCP got the final good chance of the game when Nani delivered a dangerous cross to Slimani in the box, which forced an instinctive reflex save out of Artur to keep things level.

In the end both sides dropped points in the title race, but are still undefeated.

Portuguese Liga Week in Review: Round 2


William Carvalho - SportingWith the transfer window about to close shut in only a matter of days, the amount of news is beginning to ramp up. Orlando Mac takes a look at the big stories over the past week. 

Porto, Benfica, Sporting Win, Champions League Success, Carvalho Saga Nears an End, and Azzurri on the Cheap


It was a busy week for all the Big clubs in Portugal, which made for a lot of interesting reading so here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in the Liga.

FC Porto got an important win for the club qualifying for the Group Stage in the Champions League. They also helped the Liga as a whole beating out French side Lille 2-0 at the Dragao (3-0 on Aggregate), boosting the Primeira Liga’s Co-efficiency points in Europe. Brahimi was a star again.

The William Carvalho story has taken another twist as Manchester United bump ahead of Arsenal, in the race for the impressive Portuguese National Team’s World Cup star. Sporting CP has dropped their asking price (although many strings attached) causing a frenzy of headlines.

Benfica in interesting news was turned down by Palermo striker Abel Hernandez. He would rather stay in Italy or move to a lower level EPL team instead. Good riddance I would say because clearly playing in a 5th rate league or not in the Champions League is better for his career.

FC Porto’s wonder boy Ruben Neves was given global attention again as FIFA posted an article praising the 17 year old on their website. Two weeks in and the young midfielder a U-17 star for Portugal has really made a name for himself.

SLB international midfielder Ruben Amorim hit the headlines unfortunately in a bad way, as he ruptured ligaments in his knee that will see him out of action for 6 months. It was a bad break for Ruben as Defensive Midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa was out with injury and it looked like he was going to get a lot of first team action in that role. Fortunately for Benfica they have Andre Almeida in the wings that could be a big star at the position.

Portuguese International Nani reported and got in action for Sporting CP helping them to a win. The bonus was that Bruno de Carvalho got Manchester United to foot most of his wage bills in the Rojo deal.

Joao Cancelo the talented Benfica fullback got a loan deal with Valencia who looks to give him some first team playing time. Cancelo was very impressive in pre-season this year for SLB and fans look forward to him taking big steps this season.

With Liverpool FC exchanging one troubled striker for another which seems fitting, AC Milan looked to replace Balotelli by poaching FC Porto’s monster attacker Jackson Martinez. They not only sent in a low-ball bid to Porto for Martinez they also wanted to make installment payments for him over a few years, in true Italian style. Someone should explain to the Italian Chiefs living in their fishbowl that the Primeira Liga is above them now, and that they will have to pay more and sell for less in dealings with the Big 3. We have 2 Big clubs (Benfica #5 & Porto #11) both hovering around the top 10 in European Club Charts they have none. MESSAGE TO AZZURRI: Enough with the tampering and lowballing Liga players.

Once again another interesting week in the Headlines for Portuguese Football, keep it locked here to PortugalFutbol.net for your Portuguese Futebol fix, and follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

Orlando Mac

Portuguese Liga Week in Review: Round 1


Photo: Sergio Miguel Santos

Photo: Sergio Miguel Santos

The Primeira Liga began last weekend, and with the transfer window still open, there is still plenty of news to report. Orlando Mac takes a look at the major headlines over the past week.

Luis Felipe’s Interview


 

Luis Felipe Vieira’s interview this week on BTV had many people talking, with Financial Crisis, Player Transfers, and Portuguese Players making up some of the talking points. Some Eagle fans were quite critical of the interview claiming they didn’t get honest answers from LFV, but the fact is that any CEO of any business will not outright tell you they failed, or that there is trouble at hand. That would lose them public confidence and in turn create a bigger crisis. So like any CEO Luis Felipe did some dancing around questions until he could get in the words he wanted. I thought overall he did a good job in breaking down the key areas of concern, and if you read between the lines a bit, as you have to do in these situations, everything is still headed in the right direction, for now.

Sporting Hold-out Trouble


 

You couldn’t escape the news on Sporting CP’s troubles with Rojo and Slimani both faced discipline from Sporting for trying to force a move away from the Avalade. I applaud Bruno de Carvalho for his efforts to not be held ransom over the two World Cup stars, but was disturbed by the constant press releases on their own site. It looked unprofessional at times with the he says, she says reports. Unfortunately this is still part of cleaning up Godinho’s mess at the club, but it really proved how 3rd party contracts can have a harsh effect on a club, at the most inopportune moments. Sporting was also reported to be filing a tampering complaint with FIFA against Manchester United over the Rojo fiasco.

Luisao Tampering


 

On the topic of tampering it was also reported this week that Benfica could file a complaint with FIFA over Juventus’ attempt to lure Luisao, the Eagles captain, to Italy. Juventus is reported to have suggested to Luisao to have his contract terminated so he could join them on a free transfer. This really angered not only LFV but also the loyal fans of the club who took to twitter en masse to show their displeasure. Luisao is a long serving Benfica player with over 10 years of service, first signing with the club in 2003. Of anyone that could request a transfer he would be the one who through his service would merit a transfer request, but in a summer that Benfica loses Garay, Luisao’s move would decimate the back line. So I can’t see LFV allowing it to happen.

Nani Coming Home?


 

After the embarrassing start to the Rojo situation reports suggest that Sporting are trying to turn the tables and have requested that Nani be included in any deal for Rojo. As reported it would be on loan, but Manchester United would be covering most of Nani’s wage bills. This would be a great coup for BdC, and having Nani back in the Liga would be the delight of not only the Sporting fans, but would make for some great games for Liga fans in general.
All in all it was a very interesting week in the Portuguese Liga with many talking points, especially 17 year old wonder boy Neves who impressed with his maturity and positioning. All in all it was an impressive start to the season, keep it locked here to PortugalFutbol.net for your Portuguese Football fix, and follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

5 Reasons Gaitan Should be Transferred


Photo: skysports.com

Photo: skysports.com

Benfica fan favourite Nicolas Gaitan has been in the transfer rumour news all summer with Monaco, Manchester United, and Liverpool all keen on picking up his services. I’ll take a look at why Benfica should transfer him.

This will not be a popular article with Benfiquistas in light of all the transfers Luis Felipe Vieira has made this summer, but with all the player purchases last season, and few sales. Tough decisions have to be made at the club, and the pipeline restocked with good younger talent.

It is imperative for Portuguese Liga teams to sell to maintain their club co-efficient standings and performances in Europe. Benfica currently rank 5th; quite an impressive feat when you look at it.

So stars like Gaitan will come and go that is the nature of the business. The more important part is selecting the players that should stay, pay them more and keep them a few seasons at BIG RED. Gaitan has had his few seasons, most of which have been losing ones with only one Liga win for Benfica, while he has featured in primetime. The more important part is that 3 out of those 4 seasons he has starred Benfica had the better team, and has one Liga crown to show for it.

So I hope you keep an open mind as I play Red Devils Advocate. Here are the main reasons I think Gaitan should be sold now:

  1. If they don’t transfer him, Enzo Perez will go – Enzo actually plays for his National team and is a workhorse both offensively and defensively on the pitch. He is not an easy replacement whereas Benfica have Ola John & Pizzi to replace Gaitan on the wing.
  2. He is a selfish player – Gaitan averages a lot of shots a game, with very few on target. He has averaged 3.3 goals a year in the Liga and doesn’t feed his strikers who have a higher goal rate (even when they are open in the 6 yard box). Time is also running out on his valuation, IF Benfica have a rough season we will never get the transfer fee which is currently being offered in excess of the £30m mark. He also looks for highlight reel plays (looking to get a bigger clubs attention) and accomplishes it every 4 games, but it hurts the team game in game out.
  3. Need to restock the pipeline with younger/better prospects – With the sales of Garay, Cardozo, and Oblak players who aren’t easily replaced and will require many buys to do so. The sale of Gaitan would generate enough money to purchase a new stable of young players that can fight for those important roles.
  4. He doesn’t know defence – Gaitan is a notoriously bad defender that believes in a one way effort. The same is not true for his countrymen Enzo and Salvio. Eduardo might not be the best defender but he chases relentlessly to the backline in the meantime scoring on average 4.25 goals the last 4 seasons which is higher than Gaitan’s average. With Jesus’ all out attacking team formations you need players to track back on the opposite wing to balance out the attack. The holes Gaitan leaves make us vulnerable at the back.
  5. Ola John is faster and a better crosser/passer – With his speed Ola John is a terror on the left, has a great shot that does hit the target, and tracks back well as a defender. Ola is only 22 and it is time he was given his full run out. Ola John also knows where his bread gets buttered and links up well with his Fullbacks and Strikers to over-run opposing defences and improves the score line. In 2012/3 when Gaitan was out with injury Ola combined with Luisinho and his strikers for a team average close to 4 goals a game. As soon as Gaitan came back in the line-up that average dropped to 2 goals per game for the team. Same goes for Pizzi who is 24 as with Ola, Pizzi has averaged 5.5 goals on some bad Spanish teams. Just imagine what he could do on a great Benfica team.

So as you can see there are many great reasons to transfer Nico Gaitan, and to cash in now while the valuation is good. Failure to do so will result in Benfica selling him on the cheap next season. So you have to pick your poison.

For Benfica to do well this season they need to keep Enzo Perez (give him a raise and sell him next year), and dispatch Gaitan to the outhouse.

Agree or Disagree?
So what is your opinion?
Would you like to see Gaitan sold?
If not what do you think LFV should do?
Keep the comments coming…

Written by Orlando Mac (@OrlandoMaxxx)

Opinion: 10 Reasons Paulo Bento Should be Fired


Photo: publico.pt

Photo: publico.pt

After Portugal’s collapse in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Paulo Bento, the Portuguese National Team Manager, has come under fire to resign or for the FPF (Portuguese Football Federation) to sack him. I’ll take a look today at the Top 10 reasons Bento should be fired.

Paulo Bento was born in Lisbon on the 20th of June 1969, he has had some good results over the years as a player, and as a Manager at Sporting CP. Bento even picked up the nickname of Papa-Taças (which translates into Cup Eater) during his tenure at Sporting.

In reality some would say that he won a bunch of meaningless trophies:

• 2 Portuguese Cups
• 2 Super Tacas
• 1 League Cup

As a Manager he lost out on the top prizes including the Liga title, as well as any Euro trophy. His loss to Bayern Munich with a 1-12 aggregate is the record for worst loss by a team in the Champions League, a credit no one wants on their resume.

Of course to the FPF, Bento’s record made him the leading candidate, and on September 20th, 2010 following Queiroz’s dismissal, Bento was hired.

Since then, Portugal has delivered two horrible qualifying campaigns for the 2012 Euro’s and for this World Cup. On both occasions the National Team needed play-offs to qualify, after ending up second behind Denmark and Russia, in relatively easy groups.

Most football pundits had Portugal doing well at this World Cup, although they were slotted in the Group of Death. Expectations were that Portugal would qualify easily in second place from that World Cup group stage.

After the early exit of Portugal from the tournament and the embarrassing defeat by the German’s, many fans and media alike have been critical of Bento’s management of the team.

So here are the Top 10 Reasons Bento Should Be Fired


1. Lack of flexibility in formations – Whether Portugal is playing Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Israel, Denmark, Spain, or Germany the formation is always a 4-3-3. Whether the NT is up by a goal, down by two, it is always 4-3-3. If Bento was on Top Chef he would cook the same meal with the same unwashed frying pan, and go out in the first round.

2. Results: Of the last 5 Portuguese National Team Managers (that weren’t interim Manager’s) Bento holds the record for the worst winning percentage. Here is a look at the top 5: 1) Humberto Coelho 66.67% 2) António Oliveira 58.14% 3) Luiz Felipe Scolari 56.76% 4) Carlos Queiroz 55.56% 5) Paulo Bento 54.66%
Unfortunately with the FPF bottom of the table results are good enough to extend a contract till 2016.

3. Playing favourites/Squad selection/Playing over the hill players : Brazil WC 2014 saw 6 of the starters for Portugal were over the age of 30, including three of the back four, and no one was younger than 26. Bento played until he was 35 so has the penchant to believe in older players. He also doesn’t like to feature young players in primetime. Portugal has a wealth of talented young prodigies that unfortunately get wasted at club and country.

4. Pride & Stubbornness – Even after terrible results Bento fly’s against the wind, being hounded by the media and fans at the closing press conference in Brazil after the early exit, Bento replied I have no intention of resigning. Questioned about his formations and squad selections he said, it is not his fault and looks to blame external sources. I am paraphrasing here, but that was the message. If the expectations were higher, Bento would’ve been ashamed and would’ve quit.

5. Training – Your team is headed to a World Cup in very hot and humid locations. The sensible thing to do would be to acclimatize your team to the environment before the tournament. Nope, Bento went for some friendlies in the US, mostly in the North East, meanwhile Northern Euro teams like Belgium, Switzerland, and of course Germany performed well in the heat.

6. Dead ball preparation/Set pieces Offence and Defence – In an extremely tough tournament with narrow decisions, most high level teams have worked out some ingenious plays both to defend and attack. Yet the NT has been weak for years on defending set pieces, and also generating goals. If it is such a deciding factor, why does the NT look so disorganized? We have lost countless BIG GAMES from the inability to win or defend the dead ball. A reasonable man would make this his priority.

7. Failing to adapt quickly in-game/Game time decisions – Joao Perreira is being over-run on the right, Veloso and Mereiles, are losing their markers in midfield because of the other team’s ability or your formation. Yet the status quo is kept to the breaking point, and even though the NT is in a draw or are losing, there are no changes to the formation or player substitutions made until the dying moments of a game.

8. Restraint of players/Leading by Example – Bento’s previous World Cup experience was playing for the NT in 2002 and crashed out when Portugal exited in the first round. He also was suspended for 5 months after a bust-up with the Referee in that tournament. Did Bento learn from his experience? Nope, he accused a Ref of bias after the Germany game in Brazil. His example leads to players surrounding the game officials, and taking idiotic red cards, as Pepe did in that Germany game, none of which is beneficial going forward.

9. The FPF earpiece – It is common knowledge in any previous Manager hiring that the FPF have demanded a Portuguese speaking Manager so that they can communicate with them. No foreign tongue is welcome, because the FPF wants to influence the Manager. Bento has a very strong relationship with his handlers, and even after poor results, they have no interest in firing him. Now only if Benfica & Porto loved their own that much.

10. Not playing a true Defensive Mid/Trinco – Bento prefers defence by committee so employs 3 in the middle that are considered more box to box midfielders in Veloso, Meireles, and Moutinho. His thinking is more offensive in its approach as all 3 create more than they defend. With Joao Perreira on the wing in the Neverback position this is a catastrophic mistake, one that Bento has over-played in his tenure as NT Manager. Quieroz was wise to this flaw in the 4-3-3 so deployed Pepe & Meira as DM’s which led to the NT not surrendering a goal in the qualifying round in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So with William Carvalho hitting the stage and being widely proclaimed as the best young DM in Europe, the thought was that he was going to get a big role. He did, unfortunately it was in warm-up games. Until injury struck Crvalho was rooted to the bench.

That concludes my Top 10 list of reasons for Bento being fired, but in contrast it is not like Bento hasn’t accomplished anything in his time as Portuguese National Team Manager. He did reach the semi-finals of the Euro Tournament in 2012, although some would argue it was the players doing.

He also defeated World Cup champions Spain 4–0 in Lisbon, imposing the largest defeat to its Iberian neighbours in our history (albeit in a friendly).

In a recent article for Entrepeneur.com, they listed the 5 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Company Manager they were:

1. Decisions are being made based on politics, not productivity.
2. Communication is one-way.
3. Employee complaints are on the rise.
4. The manager abuses his or her power.
5. Employees are being thrown under the bus.

I believe I checked off most of that list, especially when you view fans as employees. Even if you don’t the least you would consider fans, is as stakeholders in the business of football. If a CEO loses his stockholders trust on Wall Street, he is terminated.

Sadly that is not the case in the world of football.

The report the vast majority of Portuguese fans want to read would go somewhat like this:

“In a very brief statement: The FPF has officially announced that Paulo Bento has been sacked as manager.”

So what is your view?
Would you like to see Paulo Bento fired?
What has he done that has upset you?
If not, then what is your reasoning for keeping him at the helm?

Written by Orlando Mac (@OrlandoMaxxx)