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

Portugal Crash Out of World Cup Despite Win


Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal V Ghana

Portugal 2-1 Ghana

World Cup Group G

Despite performing much better and defeating Ghana 2-1 in their final World Cup group stage match, Portugal has crashed out of the tournament, edged out on goal difference by the United States of America. A very tough task to overcome a 4-0 defeat in their opening match, the team never managed to fully recover, drawing the United States in their next match. The team can now look towards qualifying for Euro 2016, which should be much easier than in previous tournaments, due to the increase in number of teams at the European Championships.

Paulo Bento had to choose a team which was still ravaged by injuries. Beto again resumed his spot in goal in place of the injured Rui Patricio. In front of Beto were the usual center back pairing of Bruno Alves and Pepe, the latter of which returned to the team after his one-match suspension for his antics in the Germany match. Joao Pereira set up shop on the right of defense, and in the absence of Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso moved to left-defender, a clear sign of attacking intent from Bento. In the midfield, Bento dropped Raul Meireles to the bench, leaving a middle three of Joao Moutinho, Ruben Amorim, and William Carvalho. On the wings were the usual suspects of Ronaldo and Nani, with Eder starting up top.

In stark contrast to the team’s first two matches, Portugal performed quite brightly. One could say that they finally played to their potential. The game started brightly for the Portuguese, with many of the chances in the first part of the half going in Portugal’s favor. Ronaldo was closer to his scintillating form which played a big part in Portugal qualifying. And it was the Real Madrid man who was behind many of Portugal’s chances in the first half. Finally, Portugal was rewarded for their fine play just before the half. Some sublime skill from Joao Moutinho set up a cross for Miguel Veloso. His cross was whipped into the box, only for Ghana defender John Boye’s botched clearance to loop into the back of the net. That own goal gave Portugal a well-deserved 1-0 lead coming into the half.

Knowing that a loss would eliminate them from the competition, Ghana pressed more in the second half. Despite chances coming to both sides, it was Ghana who struck next. A beautiful cross from Andre Ayew fell perfectly to the head of Asamoah Gyan. His header slipped past an out-stretched Beto and into the back of the next to level the scores at 1-1. From that point onward, Portugal pushed forward in search for a winner. Despite being thwarted a number of times by Ghana’s goalkeeper, Portugal finally found their winner through their captain and talisman, Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani fired a cross into Ghana’s box. A miscued header sent the ball straight up into the air. When the ball fell down, Ghana’s goalkeeper, with his first mistake of the night, punched the ball directly to Ronaldo, who fired the ball home. After that goal, Portugal continued pressing, and could have extended the scoreline further, if it wasn’t for heroics from the Ghana goalkeeper and profligacy in front of goal. That was how the game ended: a 2-1 Portuguese victory, but it was not enough for the team to progress in the tournament.

Beto(Eduardo), Joao Pereira(Varela), Miguel Veloso, Bruno Alves, Pepe, William Carvalho, Ruben Amorim, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ronaldo, Eder(Vieirinha)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Paulo Bento Names 23 for World Cup Squad


Paulo Bento

Paulo Bento announced yesterday a list of 23 players that will represent Portugal at this summer’s World Cup. Seven players who were included in last week’s 30-man squad announcement were dropped. Some exclusions were predictable. Some not. Let’s look closer.


 

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Andre Almeida (Benfica)

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Eder (Braga), Varela (Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)

 

Standby players (dropped players): Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rolando (Inter), Vitorino Antunes (Malaga), Quaresma (Porto), Andre Gomes (Benfica), Joao Mario (Vitoria Setubal), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica)


 

Statistics

(2014, 2010, 2006)

Average Age of Squad: 28 years old, 27.8 years old, 27.9 years old

Average Caps of Squad: 35.9 caps, 27 caps, 34.5 caps

Number of Players from Liga Zon Sagres: 7, 10, 8

Number of Players from Premier League: 1, 3, 6

Number of Players from La Liga: 6, 6, 2

Number of Players from Serie A: 1, 0, 1

Number of Players from Ligue 1: 1, 1, 2


 

Analysis

Goalkeepers:

The inclusion of Rui Patricio and Beto are completely warranted. Few can argue that both Patricio and Beto are two of Portugal’s most in-form goalkeepers at the moment. Beto is coming off a successful season that saw him win the Europa League with Sevilla (and saving two penalties in the shoot-out in the final). Rui Patricio is already established as Portugal’s no.1, and his performances for Sporting Lisbon did nothing to hurt that this season, leading the Lisbon-based team to a second-placed finish in the Liga.

The last goalkeeper spot was between Anthony Lopes and Eduardo. While Anthony Lopes enjoyed a decent debut season for Lyon, establishing himself as the team’s starting goalkeeper, Eduardo has World Cup experience. During the previous World Cup, Eduardo was Portugal’s starting goalkeeper, and lest we remind you that his performances at the last World Cup earned him a move abroad to Genoa. While Anthony Lopes has an extremely bright future, and his performances this season may merit inclusion, the decision to choose Eduardo over him is one that I understand and agree with.

Defenders:

Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira, and Fabio Coentrao are all staples in the Portuguese team. Pepe and Bruno Alves have flourished at Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, respectively. Alves played in 25 league games, helping Fenerbahce to their first Turkish League title since 2011. Though Real Madrid didn’t manage to win the title this season, Pepe performed admirably in 30 league games, firmly establishing himself as a starter. While Fabio Coentrao didn’t receive as much playing time as he may have liked, he did perform well when he did manage to get a game. According to WhoScored.com, Coentrao managed a 6.96 match rating in the 15 games he participated in in all competitions. While this is nothing spectacular, it shows that Coentrao has the ability to play at the top level, an ability he has shown time and time again while donning the Portugal jersey. His inclusion is a no-brainer. Joao Pereira is another player whose previous performances for the Seleccao merit an automatic call. Currently playing at Valencia, Pereira managed 25 league appearances, as the team only finished 8th in La Liga.

Ricardo Costa has proven himself in a Portugal shirt in the past, and though he 33 years old, he is still an important part of both Valencia and the Seleccao. This was an interesting decision from Bento. Rolando, who spent this past season on loan at Inter from Porto, performed admirably in the Serie A. Some would argue that this season was his finest of his career to date. An outcast at Porto, Rolando managed 29 appearances at Inter, a team many would argue are among the best in Europe. I think the issue of experience is the factor at play here. This World Cup will be Ricardo Costa’s third, while if Rolando was included, it would be his second. Costa also played more of a part in qualifying, most notably scoring in the team’s 1-1 draw with Israel. Moving to Russia, Luis Neto enjoyed a wonderful sophomore year at Zenit. Though the team were pipped by CSKA Moscow for the Russian Premier League title, Zenit performed well this season, and Neto was at the heart of the team’s defense, completing the season with 25 league appearances. The inclusion of Andre Almeida was an interesting one, but one that makes sense once thought about. Many have clamored for Cedric Soares, of Sporting Lisbon, to be called, and for good reason. Cedric impressed for the Portugal U-20 team as they finished runners-up to Brazil at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, then for Academica on loan from Sporting, then the Portugal U-21 team, and finally Sporting’s first team. This season, Cedric was the undisputed starter at right-back for Sporting, amassing 28 league appearances in the process. Andre Almeida, on the other hand, only managed 10 appearances in the league for Benfica. Why should Almeida be included over Cedric you may ask? This is why. Andre Almeida began his career in midfield, but has been transformed into a solid right-back. Also capable of filling in at left-back, Almeida has extreme versatility. By calling up Almeida, Bento essentially did not need to call up another left-back, due to Almeida’s versatility. This meant that there were more spots open for other attackers. Also, Almeida participated in three finals (two domestic Portuguese cups, one Europa League final). In addition to this, Almeida was a part of a title-winning team in Benfica. Cedric, while he performed magnificently for a Sporting team which managed a second-place finish, is simply not the best choice. There will come a time for Cedric, but this World Cup is not it.

Midfielders:

The core of Portugal’s midfield in Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, and Raul Meireles are all obvious choices, though some not quite as obvious as in the past. Joao Moutinho has established himself as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders plying his trade in Europe at the moment. His performances for Monaco further proved it this season. Helping Monaco to a second-place finish in Ligue 1 this season, Moutinho made 31 league appearances in the process. His performances for the Seleccao have been nothing short of wonderful lately, and many are looking to Moutinho to continue making the Portuguese midfield “tick” at this summer’s finals. Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso have lost a considerable amount of stock lately. Though they have both put in performances ranging from solid to spectacular for Portugal in recent years, their performances have begun to noticeably decline.  While Raul Meireles helped Fenerbahce win the Turkish League this season, Miguel Veloso only managed 20 league appearances, as Dynamo Kiev finished a disappointing 4th in the Ukrainian League. Even though Veloso and Meireles are noticeably on the decline, their spot is a certainty, due to prior performances. Even if they do not start, they offer a great deal of experience off the bench. William Carvalho, though he’s only appeared twice for the Seleccao, is another obvious inclusion. Carvalho’s performances this season for Sporting Lisbon have been nothing short of astounding. A virtual unknown before the start of the season, William Carvalho is now the subject of transfer speculation, most notably from Manchester United, who allegedly have a 37 million pound transfer in the works. And it’s no wonder. Carvalho won four of nine Liga Zon Sagres Player of the Month awards and six of nine Liga Zon Sagres Young Player of the Month awards. Many are clamoring for Carvalho to take Miguel Veloso’s spot in Portugal’s starting eleven as the midfield’s anchor. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.

Rafa is a slightly surprising inclusion to the team. An extremely attack-minded midfielder, Rafa made the move from Feirense to Braga at the beginning of the season, and has absolutely flourished in Braga. Teams such as Roma and Southampton are hot on his tails, and for good reason. Though Braga’s season went south very quickly, Rafa’s performances were certainly not a disappointment. The midfielder’s inclusion naturally comes at the expense of another. Josue made a highly-anticipated move from Pacos Ferreira to Porto at the beginning of the season. A regular under Porto coach Paulo Fonseca, Josue has found playing time and form very hard to come by since Fonseca was sacked. Many view Josue to be the successor to Raul Meireles in Portugal’s midfield, but it appears that that definitely won’t occur during this World Cup. Bento’s final midfield inclusion is perplexing for most: Ruben Amorim over Adrien Silva. Adrien Silva has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Portugal at the moment, and some would argue he’s one of Portugal’s finest midfielders. Silva is in a similar position to Cedric. Silva was an integral part of Sporting’s team which finished second in the league this season, and many are rightly perplexed by his omission from the squad. Adrien is yet to make an appearance for the Seleccao, while Ruben Amorim has managed 10 appearances thus far in his career. Though Amorim is older, he has more experience on the national level for Portugal, while Adrien has none whatsoever. Amorim, like Andre Almeida, is a much more versatile player than Adrien. Amorim can fill in at right-back aptly, and can also fit in anywhere in the midfield. Ruben Amorim was also part of a team which won the domestic treble, and also participated in the Europa League final. Though he only made 17 league appearances this season, Amorim gained priceless experience at Benfica. This is not to say Adrien deserved to be included; just that Amorim is perhaps a bit better qualified. Adrien Silva will certainly have his time after the World Cup. Not to forget anyone, Andre Gomes and Joao Mario are both very talented players with bright futures ahead of them, but with all respect to Paulo Bento, their inclusion in the 30-man provisional list is laughable.

Forwards:

Ronaldo is really the only staple in Portugal’s forward line. The forward has enjoyed yet another wonderful season, scoring 31 goals in 30 games for Real Madrid, a statistic that normally is otherworldly. But for Ronaldo, it’s just another season. Nani, Hugo Almeida, and Helder Postiga are all favorites of Paulo Bento, and though none have enjoyed fruitful seasons respectively, they still have the ability to offer something for the Seleccao. Nani’s season at Manchester United was a mix of injury and lack of form, combining into a horrendous season, even worse than the rest of Manchester United’s season. Hugo Almeida enjoyed a decent season at Besiktas, managing to put the ball in the back of the net 13 times in 31 appearances. Helder Postiga’s season was not quite as fruitful as Almieda’s, but not as disastrous as Nani’s. After moving from Zaragoza to Valencia in the off-season, Postiga established himself as Valencia’s starting striker following the sale of Soldado to Tottenham. Only scoring three goals, most notably scoring two against Barcelona, Postiga was sent on loan to Lazio, where he has struggled with injury, and has only managed five appearances with no goals. Moving to the wing position, Varela has enjoyed another successful season at Porto. The winger amassed 48 appearances in all competitions, as Porto finished third in the league behind Benfica and Sporting. Few can forget Varela’s wonder-strike in Portugal’s group stage game against Denmark at Euro 2012. His goal gifted Portugal the victory, and many will hope that similar super-sub feats can be achieved by him this summer in Brazil. The final winger included in the squad is Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha. After starting the season promisingly, Vieirinha suffered an injury that has kept out until last month. Now fully recovered, Vieirinha  managed a handful of appearances for Wolfsburg before the season ended. The final striker spot on the call goes to Eder, of Braga. After enjoying a wonderful season for Braga last season, Eder could not manage to replicate his form this season. Only scoring three goals this season, Eder never fully recovered from a loss of form due to injury. Can he find his form this summer? He might have to if/when Almeida and Postiga don’t perform. Can you sense my cynicism?

Eder and Amorim Replace Martins and Fernandes


Manuel Fernandes and Carlos Martins have both had to pull out of the Portuguese squad due to injury ahead of the team’s upcoming games against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. Called to replace them are Eder and Ruben Amorim, both of Braga. Both have enjoyed solid starts to their respective season, each having a hand in Braga’s qualification to the Champion’s League. This is Eder’s maiden call for the Seleccao, while Amorim has appeared once before for the team.

Ruben Amorim Loaned to Braga


Ruben Amorim

Benfica to Braga (loan)

Benfica have announced that outcast Ruben Amorim has joined SC Braga on a loan deal. Much like Porto did with Ukra, Amorim will join the club on a 1.5 year loan deal. The midfielder has only managed a measly 291 minutes so far this season for Benfica, due to a minor falling-out with coach Jorge Jesus. Despite the limited playing time, Amorim has still managed to earn multiple call-ups to the Portuguese National Team. Amorim will now join his teammates and hope to win Paulo Bento’s approval, in an effort to win a place with Portugal at Euro 2012.

Bento Announces Squad


Portugal National team coach Paulo Bento released a list of 23 for the team’s upcoming Euro 2012 Qualifying matches. With Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, and Hugo Almeida all out injured, many wondered who the coach would call up in place. Sereno, Ricardo Costa, and Ricardo Quaresma all earned the call. Some surprise exclusions are Quim, who has been in good form for a winning Braga team, and Bosingwa, who has earned a starting spot at Chelsea with his eye-catching displays. Here’s the full list:

 

Goalkeepers: Eduardo, Beto,  Rui Patrício
Defenders: Bruno Alves, Eliseu, Sereno, João Pereira, Ricardo Costa, Rolando, Sílvio
Midfielders: Carlos Martins, João Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Paulo Machado, Raul Meireles, Rúben Amorim, Rúben Micael
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Danny, Hélder Postiga, Nani, Nuno Gomes, Ricardo Quaresma

 

Probable starting lineup:

Rui Patricio

Joao Pereira-Bruno Alves-Rolando-Silvio

Raul Meireles-Joao Moutinho-Ruben Micael

Ronaldo-Helder Postiga-Nani

OFFICIAL: Nani Out of World Cup


It’s official. I’m sorry to say it’s official. The Portuguese injury list continues to grow. First Bosingwa, then Varela and Ruben Micael, and now Nani. When I saw this, I was absolutely shell shocked. Nani will miss the 2010 FIFA World Cup due to an injury in his shoulder at a training session. He has been in almost tantalizing form for club and country as of late. He was arguably the best performer against Cape Verde and Cameroon, and his heroics at United have earned him a contract extension. I fell quite sorry for him as this will be his first World Cup, and with the form he is currently in, I have no doubt that he would have raised some eyebrows. His replacement will be Ruben Amorim, of Benfica, who has been told to pack his bags immediately. It now looks like Duda will mainly be used as a left winger, not a left-back. Instead, Fabio Coentrao will most likely be the starting left-back. Amorim will most likely be used as a wing-back, either on left or right, but it looks more likely that he will be a backup for Coentrao on the left.

Queiroz Releases 24-man Squad


Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz released a 24-man squad for next month’s World Cup. Due to Pepe’s questionable fitness, Queiroz released a 24-man list instead of the official 23-man list, so that if Pepe is deemed unfit, he can drop him, or if Pepe turns out to be ready, Ze Castro or Ricardo Costa can be dropped. Surprise inclusions are Beto, Daniel Fernandes, Ze Castro, and Ricardo Costa. Moutinho was not included in the squad most likely due to his mediocre season.

Here’s the list:

Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Braga), Beto (FC Porto) Daniel Fernandes (Iraklis)

Defenders: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Miguel (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Benfica), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Ricardo Costa (Lille), Rolando (FC Porto), Pepe (Real Madrid), Duda (Malaga) Ze Castro (Deportivo)

Midfielders: Tiago (Atletico Madrid), Deco (Chelsea), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), Miguel Veloso (Sporting), Pedro Mendes (Sporting), Danny (Zenit St Peterburg)

Wingers/Forwards: Simao Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Liedson (Sporting), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen)

Queiroz also released a list of 6 reserves, just in case any of the players in the squad of 23 get injured. Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Amorim, Manuel Fernandes, Eliseu and Makukula all have an outside chance of playing in the World Cup after being included in this list.