Azerbaijan 0-2 Portugal
2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification
The Portuguese Under-21 team continued their perfect start in 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification on Tuesday with a convincing 2-0 win in Azerbaijan. Goals from Rafa and Ivan Cavaleiro were enough to ensure the victory, the third for the team in qualification thus far. Portugal has scored 10, while only conceding once. They sit atop the group, having already played (and beaten) the second, third, and fourth placed teams, with only bottom-of-the-table Macedonia still to be faced. In other words, qualification seems extremely likely.
The game began brightly for the visitors, as was predicted before the match. And that was how it continued: the Seleccao controlling the match and creating the majority of the chances. Ivan Cavaleiro was at the end of much of the flow of traffic, which is of little surprise given his burgeoning reputation as of late. Though Portugal was on top, both teams went into the locker-room at halftime on level terms at 0-0. Soon after the break, however, the scoring was opened by Rafa. Some neat interplay opened Bruma for a shot. His low shot was parried by the opposition goalkeeper directly into the path of Rafa, who could not have had an easier finish. Soon after, Ivan Cavaleiro doubled Portugal’s advantage. A neat ball over the top put Cavaleiro clean in on goal, and the winger finished well. That was how the game ended: 2-0 in favor of Portugal.
Jose Sa, Raphael Guerreiro, Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Tiago Ilori, Tiago Silva(Luis Gustavo), Rafa, Sergio Oliveira(Bernardo Silva), William Carvalho, Ivan Cavaleiro, Ricardo(Betinho)
Portugal 3-0 Azerbaijan
A dominant display from the Portuguese National Team led them to a 3-0 victory over a lowly Azerbaijan side. The hosts showed much of the attacking prowess that they lacked against Luxembourg, and were unlucky that the scoreline was not higher in their favor. The team struck the crossbar an astonishing five times, as they ruthlessly attacked the Azerbaijani goal.
The game started brightly, which could not have been said about last week’s game against Luxembourg. Portugal were fully in the driving seat against Azerbaijan, and almost all of the action came from the home side. Joao Pereira and Raul Meireles both had efforts beaten away by the opposition goalkeeper in the opening exchanges between the two teams, before Helder Postiga almost finished off a wonderful team move, only to be denied by the crossbar. Joao Moutinho would then feel unlucky to see two excellent shots not translate into a goal, when one was saved by the keeper and the other thundered back off the crossbar. Portugal would continue to press, with Raul Meireles and Helder Postiga both coming close (the latter of which hit the crossbar). The half ended with the scores still even at 0-0 and Portugal wondering how they were not yet winning.
The second half started much the same as the first. It was evident that Portugal was hungry for a goal, and their play reflected that. Bruno Alves had a header saved soon after the restart, and Ronaldo went close soon after that on three different occasions. The goal was not far off, however. Silvestre Varela was substituted on for Miguel Veloso just after the hour mark, and the substitute made an immediate impact. Some sloppy defending from Azerbaijan opened up a golden opportunity for Varela, who calmly slotted the ball home for his third international goal. That goal did not cause Portugal to slow their attack, however. The Seleccao continued to press, but were constantly thwarted by either the post or the Azerbaijani goalkeeper. The second goal duly arrived a little more than twenty minutes after the first one. A pinpoint cross from Raul Meireles found Ronaldo, whose redirected his header into the path of the onrushing Helder Postiga, who poked the ball home. Portugal was not done, however. Joao Moutinho’s corner kick soon after was met with a thumping header from Bruno Alves into the upper right-hand corner to make the score 3-0. In the dying minutes of the match, Eder was substituted on to make his debut for the Seleccao. That was how the game ended: a comprehensive 3-0 victory for the hosts.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Ronaldo, Nani(Ruben Amorim), Helder Postiga(Eder)
Paulo Bento released a squad of 23 for the Seleccao’s upcoming games against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan. Notable inclusions are Pizzi (who has enjoyed a great start to this season at Deportivo), Manuel Fernandes (who was omitted from the Euro 2012 squad), and Nuno Andre Coelho (who made the last call-up by the skin of his teeth). Rolando, Hugo Viana, and Hugo Almeida all miss selection. Here’s the full list:
Goalkeepers: Beto (Braga), Eduardo (Istanbul BB), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Zenit), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valencia), Miguel Lopes (Porto), Nuno André Coelho (Braga), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia)
Midfielders: Carlos Martins (Benfica), Custódio (Braga), João Moutinho (Porto), Manuel Fernandes (Besiktas), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Raúl Meireles (Chelsea), Rúben Micael (Braga)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Nani (Manchester United), Nélson Oliveira (Deportivo), Pizzi (Deportivo), Varela (Porto)
FIFA announced earlier this week the qualification groups for the 2014 World Cup, slated to be held in Brazil. Portugal drew a seemingly easy group with Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, and Luxembourg. This group seems easier than the ones in the immediate past, but, as we have learned, Portugal has a knack of making a mess of things. Hopefully, under Paulo Bento, those days are over. Russia will be the most likely to give the team a run for their money, and Israel has an outside chance of doing just the same.
The qualification draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was today, and Portugal have been drawn in a slightly difficult group. Portugal were drawn in Group 6 alongside Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, and Luxembourg. This group may not seem very hard, but Russia may give us a run for our money.
Russia’s squad performed well at Euro 2008, but since has not lived up to those performances, failing to qualify for last summer’s World Cup. Russia will look to Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin and Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko for any attacking flair, while their leading midfielder, Konstantin Zyryanov, is getting on in years, currently at 33. Israel will be a little less tricky, with their main attacking threat coming through Benayoun, Ben Sahar, and Eran Zahavi. Portugal has only played Israel once before, with that game ending in a 2-1 win for the Seleccao. Northern Ireland have caused some upsets in various qualification campaigns in the past, so Portugal may need to look out for that, while Azerbaijan and Luxembourg pose little to no threat at all.