Mario Rui Thriving in Italy


Mario Rui in action for Empoli. Photo: Getty Images

Mario Rui in action for Empoli. Photo: Getty Images

Few of the players in Portugal’s squad which finished as runners-up at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup have experienced success. Out of the squad of 21, only two have earned caps with the senior national team, and only Cedric Soares has really shown the promise of a bright future. One player, however, is beginning to show his true colors, despite not being one of the more talked about players in the 2011 team. Mario Rui has enjoyed a successful start to the season at Empoli in Italy’s Serie A, winning a starting spot at left-back. His performances have established himself as one of the most important members of the squad. Continue reading

Aladje: Portugal’s Discovered Gem Lost Again


Aladje (center) in action against Cuba at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.

Aladje (center) in action against Cuba at the 2013 U-20 World Cup.

Everybody remembers Portugal’s run in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Laden with precocious talent in the form of Bruma, Joao Mario, and Andre Gomes, Portugal’s attack was flashy and effective. Almost all the players on the team played their club football in Portugal, with the exception of two Barcelona B players, Edgar Ie and Agostinho Ca, and Aladje. At the time of the tournament, Aladje was a virtual unknown in the team. Having just finished a season in the Italian fourth division, Aladje’s performances in pre-tournament friendlies and the Toulon Tournament were enough to cement a place in the team, and ultimately the starting lineup for Portugal. His performances at the tournament continued to impress, and during the tournament, he was purchased by Serie A side Sassuolo. Since that time, Aladje has fallen by the wayside. One of Portugal’s most surprising and exciting talents has just disappeared once again. Continue reading

U19s Edge Austria in Even Encounter


Tomas Podstawski - Portugal V Austria - 2014 U19 Euro

Portugal 2-1 Austria

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

The Portuguese gained a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Austria Friday to advance to the semi-finals of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Though the Austrians were worthy opponents and may have deserved to get more out of the game, goals from Tomas Podstawski and Romario Balde were enough for Portugal to squeeze through. This victory means that Portugal finished first in Group A, and is set to face Serbia in the semi-final match tomorrow, the very team that knocked Portugal out in last year’s edition of the tournament. Things look different this time around, but it will certainly be an entertaining encounter. Let’s take a look at how Portugal fared Friday against Austria.

Because they were already guaranteed a semi-final spot going into this match, the Portuguese fielded a noticeably weaker side than in their first two matches. Andre Moreira retained his spot inbetween the sticks, while the back four in front of him was much changed. Rafa and Domingos Duarte started in their usual spots, on the left and in the center, respectively, while Jordan Machado and Rebocho replaced regulars Joao Nunes and Mauro Riquicho, respectively. In midfield, captain and midfield anchor Tomas Podstawski retained his starting position and was joined by Joao Palhinha and Raphael Guzzo. Marcos Lopes was left on the bench to avoid suspension, due to a yellow card he picked up in the game against Hungary. On the wings were Ivo Rodrigues and Jorge Intima, while Andre Silva spearheaded the attack up front.

Portugal were a bit spoiled in their first two matches, defeating both Israel and Hungary by large margins. The difference in quality was evident between Portugal and their opposition, and they defeated them accordingly. Austria was in much the same boat, also defeating both Israel and Hungary in their first two matches. As a result, the Austrians and the Portuguese were largely evenly-matched teams, and the beginning of the match reflected that perfectly. Neither side looked truly any better than the other, and both teams pressed each other a great deal. As a result, the match began with a high intensity that lasted straight until the half.

Portugal have gained quite a reputation this tournament for their superior technical ability. They have used this ability to their advantage by playing a quick, short passing game, much like the Spanish have done in recent years. To be able to play this way is impressive, but also can be a liability. Teams can easily shot down this playing style, so a lack of tactical flexibility can sometimes hurt a team. In this game against Austria, the Portuguese played a much more direct game, constantly firing long passes up-field and into the box. This was a smart tactic by the Portuguese, who knew that Austria’s tenacity and defensive discipline would not bode well for their short-passing offensive game. And while the Portuguese’s direct play did not get them a goal, it certainly gave the Austrians problems.

Soon before the end of the half, Portugal reverted to their short passing game, and to good effect. The Portuguese began to dominate the match, and it paid off just minutes later. Portugal won a free-kick in the Austrian half, and the kick was swung in by Ivo Rodrigues. His cross was met by the head of captain Tomas Podstawski, whose header guided the ball into the back of the net. It was the perfect time to score, because Portugal went into the half the better side and with a goal to show for it.

As predicted, the Austrians came out in the second half with much more attacking intent, and were almost immediately rewarded. The Austrians scored not even two minutes after the restart and leveled the game at 1-1. And they didn’t stop there. Constantly pressing, Austria truly was the better side for the majority of the second half. Portugal looked keen on sitting back and playing to the draw, a result that would still see them top of Group A on goal difference. Despite this, Portugal did score late in the game through the team’s youngest player, Romario Balde. Rafa was sent free on the left and passed the ball to Balde, who expertly touched the ball into a shooting position and shot the ball into the bottom corner. It was impressive play from a 17 year old, and one that many players much older than Balde would be proud of. That goal was enough to give the Portuguese a 2-1 victory in a game that was largely even.

Portugal will now face Serbia, the very team which knocked the Seleccao out last year. But it is worth noting that this year’s Serbian side is not nearly as impressive as last year’s side, which went all the way and won the tournament. This year’s side is certainly not one to laugh at, but one may feel that the Serbians are not as strong as last year.

Andre Moreira, Rebocho, Jordan Machado, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Palhinha, Raphael Guzzo(Mauro Riquicho), Tomas Podstawski, Ivo Rodrigues, Jorge Intima(Gelson Martins), Andre Silva(Romario Balde)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U-19s Top Hosts in Thrilling Encounter


Andre Silva's 4 goals led the team to victory

Andre Silva’s 4 goals led the team to victory

Hungary 1-6 Portugal

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Andre Silva put in a man-of-the-match as Portugal defeated Hungary 6-1 in both teams’ second match of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Silva scored 4, while Gelson Martins and Ivo Rodrigues scored one apiece. The performance was an impressive one from Portugal, especially considering the horrid conditions the match was played in, with the teams having to battle through torrential rain throughout the match. It was an impressive performance from the Portuguese (who struck the post multiple times) against a very determined Hungarian side. Let’s look more in-depth:

As is the style in modern football, national youth teams typically employ the same tactics as their senior counterparts. This meant that Portugal set up today in a 4-3-3 (as they also did against Israel). This 4-3-3 is a bit different from the full national team because of the mobility of the team’s star man, Marcos Lopes. Lopes is given the freedom to surge forward, and at times almost plays as a second striker to Andre Silva. Despite this, Lopes was seen many times tracking back to help the team defend, showing that he is tactically aware. The starting lineup was not much different to the way the team came out against Israel just three days ago. Andre Moreira was given the start in goal, while the back-four was unchanged in front of him. Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, and Rafa all started in defense. In midfield, Francisco Ramos replaced Raphael Guzzo, with Tomas Podstawski and Marcos Lopes alongside him. The forwards were unchanged as well, with Ivo Rodrigues and Gelson Martins on the wing and Andre Silva in the middle.

The game started brightly for the team, although the poor weather meant that the pitch quickly deteriorated. Despite being the better side, Hungary’s determination and tenacity meant that it took 32 minutes for Portugal to score. Ivo Rodrigues picked up the ball and ran into the box. A challenge from a Hungarian defender brought down Rodrigues, and the referee awarded a penalty. Rodrigues stepped up confidently, and gracefully struck the ball into the back of the net, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead. Portugal continued pressing, and were rightfully rewarded just before the stroke of halftime. Andre Silva released Ivo Rodrigues on the right, and the winger looked to not be able to get to the ball before the Hungarian defender marking him. His marker slid into the ball, presumably to clear the ball out of play, but instead overshot the ball due to the huge amount of water on the field, and Ivo Rodrigues was gifted with the ball. Rodrigues cut the ball back to the on-rushing Andre Silva, who calmly side-footed the ball into the net. And that goal meant that Portugal went into the locker room at halftime deservedly up 2-0.

Hungary came out in the second half with a much more attacking-minded game-plan, likely as an attempt to get back into the match, which had been largely dominated by Portugal in the first half. And their attacking intent worked well for them early in the second half, as the Hungarians looked the better team for the opening 15 minutes. But Portugal began to gain control over the game again, with Marcos Lopes, who had not had a great game until this point, beginning to find his stride. Just past the hour mark, Andre Silva missed a sitter. Good work from Gelson Martins put Silva through on goal. The striker rounded the keeper, and struck the ball into the post when it seemed easier to score. It was a howler, but Silva made quick amends. Just minutes later, Francisco Ramos aimed a peach of a cross into the far post where Silva was lurking. Silva deftly headed the ball into the bottom corner, and Portugal was up 3-0. With Portugal up 3-0 and dominating, few predicted Hungary could stage a comeback. But after they scored minutes later, there was the feeling that a comeback from Hungary could be made reality. That feeling was promptly quashed by Gelson Martins, who has been hugely impressive over these two games. Martins dribbled through one, then another, then another, then another, and then dinked the ball with his left foot past the Hungarian goalkeeper. It was a truly spectacular goal from a player who before this tournament was a virtual unknown. That goal visibly deflated Hungary, whose defense looked ill-equipped to handle Portugal’s attacking prowess. That very point was shown just before the end of the game. Substitute Raphael Guzzo attempted to dribble through the heart of the Hungarian defense, and was predictably stopped, but the rebound fell to an un-marked Andre Silva, who composed himself and slotted the ball home. It was the goal that completed his hattrick, and one that perfectly represents Silva’s playing style. He’s calm on the ball, has great awareness and positioning, and is capable of holding the ball up or even taking on defenders himself. In short, he’s the striker that Portugal has needed ever since the retirement of Pauleta in 2006. But Silva wasn’t done. Three goals was not enough for him. Minutes later in stoppage time, Rafa found himself free on the left wing and aimed a cross into the box, which was met by Andre Silva. It was his fourth goal of the night and Portugal’s six. That proved to be the last event of note in the match, with the game ending 6-1 in favor of the Portuguese.

Now, Portugal faces Austria, who have also won their first two matches. Whoever wins that match will top the group, though both teams are guaranteed advancement to the next round. By winning their first two matches, Portugal has also managed to qualify for next summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is to be held in New Zealand. The U-20 World Cup is a tournament that Portugal has found success in over recent years, finishing runners-up in 2011 and reaching the second round last summer.

Andre Moreira, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Nunes, Mauro Riquicho, Francisco Ramos(Joao Palhinha), Marcos Lopes(Raphael Guzzo), Tomas Podstawski, Gelson Martins(Jorge Intima), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Marcos Lopes Steals the Show


Marcos Lopes - Portugal U19

Portugal 3-0 Israel

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Marcos Lopes was predictably the man-of-the-match today as Portugal defeated Israel 3-0 in their opening match of the 2014 U-19 European Championship. A goal from Andre Silva was sandwiched in between two Marcos Lopes goals, as Portugal’s attacking prowess greatly outweighed Israel’s much heralded defensive solidarity. But Portugal wasn’t a one-man team, as may be assumed with this title. The Portuguese looked a cohesive unit, with a clear focal point in attack and an effective gameplan.

The Portuguese entered this game and this tournament as clear favorites, with the other teams in Group A (Austria and Hungary) not expected to pose very much of a threat. Israel only conceded three goals in all of qualifying (6 games), which led many to believe that the Israeli’s defense would be very difficult to break down. And that assertion proved to be true, but possibly not to the extent that many predicted. When looking at each team’s tendencies going into this game (Portugal strong in attack, Israel in defense), one may have assumed that this would be a stop-start game, or at the very least would lack fluidity. That also did not prove to be true. The match was fluid, full of attacking intent, and though Portugal pressed more expertly at times, the teams looked largely even. Israel just lacked a cutting edge, something that Portugal exploited.

The match started in fluid fashion, with Portugal making use (as always) of their pacy, technically-gifted wingers. Gelson Martins started on the left with Ivo Rodrigues on the right. Both are well-known talents, but it was Gelson Martins who had the more impressive game, constantly running at the Israeli defense and giving Israel’s left-back a torrid time. The first chance of note came midway through the half. Marcos Lopes did well to draw a foul on the edge of the box. He then struck the ensuing free kick into the crossbar. It was beautifully hit, and he will feel a bit unlucky that his shot didn’t hit the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and despite controlling the match, Israel did not look out of the contest. But it was Portugal who struck next through their talisman. A simple passing move from the team led to Marcos Lopes being open just outside the box. After receiving a pass from the captain, Tomas Podstawski, Lopes turned and shot. His effort deflected fortunately off of an Israeli player and crept past the Israeli goalkeeper. With the score 1-0, Portugal went into the half surely feeling better about the proceedings.

Israel, surely feeling that they were unlucky to be down 1-0, came out in the second half with much more attacking intent. As a result, the Portuguese played a more conservative style in the minutes following the half. But despite their best efforts, Israel’s attacking play was well thwarted by Portugal’s defensive efforts. And it was Portugal who struck again just after the hour mark. Marcos Lopes sprayed the ball out wide to Mauro Riquicho (Portugal’s right-back). Riquicho aimed a cross to the far post, which was headed back into the path of Gelson Martins. Martins’ shot was parried by the Israeli goalkeeper directly into the path of Andre Silva, who tapped the ball into the net. With the score 2-0 in favor of Portugal, the team continued to press, and although Israel came close a few times, it was largely one-way traffic in favor of Portugal. And about a quarter of an hour after their second goal, Portugal extended their lead even further through their star man, Marcos Lopes. Portugal won a corner kick, which was cleared by Israel only as far as Joao Nunes, who sent in a cross. The cross was also dealt with by the Israelis, but their clearance was acrobatically saved by Nuno Santos. His pass was found by Marcos Lopes, who took a touch around an opposition player and then proceeded to strike a wonderful left-footed volley, which left the Israeli goalkeeper rooted to the spot. With Portugal up 3-0, the Portuguese did not look very keen on trying to extend their lead any further, and the match flow was largely lost. That goal was the last event of note in the match, and the game ended with a score of 3-0 in favor of Portugal.

Portugal will now face hosts Hungary in three days time. Hungary lost their match today against Austria by a score of 3-1. Should Portugal defeat Hungary, which at this point looks very likely, the team will advance to the semi-finals and will guarantee a spot in next summer’s U-20 World Cup.

Andre Moreira, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa(Rebocho), Mauro Riquicho, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Tomas Podstawski, Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Nuno Santos), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

GOAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Lazio Snaps Up Pereirinha


Bruno Pereirinha - Lazio

Bruno Pereirinha

Sporting to Lazio

Lazio announced today the hiring of Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Pereirinha. The contract is valid until 2016, and there was no talk of the price of the transfer. Pereirinha had been a fringe player throughout his time at Sporting, despite positive performances for the Portugal Under-21 team as captain. His inability to hold down a starting place at Sporting was likely a contributing factor to this move to Lazio. Now, at Lazio, Pereirinha will most likely be fighting Abdoulay Konko for a starting spot at right-midfield. This is no small task, however, as Konko has been Lazio’s first choice right-midfielder for the past two seasons, and with Lazio still in the Serie A title race, change may not happen. Pereirinha may yet again be a fringe player.

Nelson Moves to Italy


Nelson - Portugal vs Finland

Nelson

Real Betis to Palermo

Real Betis right-back Nelson has made the switch to Italy to join Palermo. The Italian side are struggling in Serie A so far this season. Normally a top half team, Palermo now finds itself second to last in the Serie A, with only 17 points from 22 games. Real Betis, however, is currently over-performing in La Liga, and currently sits at fifth in the standings. Nelson has appeared only ten times in the league for Betis so far this season, but will most likely become an important part of Palermo.

Siena Negotiating With Dinamo Over Neto


Luis Neto - Siena

Luis Neto

Siena to Dinamo Kiev?

According to reports coming out of Portugal, Siena is currently negotiating with Dinamo Kiev over the transfer of Luis Neto. The central defender has been a bright spot in Siena’s dismal campaign. The club currently sits at the base of Serie A, and relegation looks likely. Clubs such as Juventus, Napoli, and Roma have been interested in Neto, and a move looks likely. A release clause is set at 16 million euros, but something as low as 6 million may be enough to pry him away from Siena. If he were to move to Dinamo Kiev, he would join up with fellow countryman Miguel Veloso.

Gama a Possibility for Sporting


Bruno Gama is one of the players on Sporting Lisbon’s wish-list this winter, according to reports coming out of Portugal. Sporting are in need of some wingers, with Izmailov, Vukcevic, Salomao, Valdes, and Yannick the players able to play on the wing. Izmailov is currently injured, Valdes is more of a creative central midfielder, and Yannick is more a striker. That leaves Vukcevic and Salomao, the latter of which has been in good form as of late. Gama was unaware of the interest, learning it from the newspapers. “I understand the interest from the newspapers, but it’s always good to see my name associated with big clubs,” the winger said.