Portugal U-20s: What We Learned


Portugal U-20 coach Hélio Sousa, seen here, led the team to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

Portugal U-20 coach Hélio Sousa, seen here, led the team to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

The Portuguese Under-20 team was unfortunate to bow out of the 2015 U-20 World Cup at the hands of Brazil on Sunday. The team’s level of play throughout the tournament was of a high standard, so much so that many touted them as potential victors. Unfortunately, luck was not on their side, as they were narrowly defeated by Brazil on penalties in the quarter-final. Despite this disappointing end, there are many positives to take away from Portugal’s encouraging run. Continue reading

U-20s Edged Out on Penalties


Andre Moreira - Portugal vs Brazil - 2015 U20 World Cup

Portugal 0-0 Brazil (1-3 Penalties)

2015 U-20 World Cup Quarterfinal

In an entertaining encounter, the Portuguese Under-20 team was defeated on penalties by Brazil in the quarterfinal of the 2015 U-20 World Cup. The defeat sees Portugal exit the tournament, despite some excellent performances earlier in the tournament. Brazil was the most difficult opposition Portugal had faced in the tournament thus far, and if this match was anything to judge off of, Portugal could have progressed further.  Continue reading

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

Portugal Crush Ireland: Selecao Not a One-Trick Pony


Ronaldo - Portugal vs Ireland 2014

Portugal 5-1 Ireland

International Friendly

Portugal finished their pre-World Cup tour of America in possibly the best fashion with a 5-1 demolition of Ireland at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Goals from Hugo Almeida (2), Fabio Coentrao, Vieirinha, and an Irish own goal contributed to the win. The wide winning margin was exactly what many speculated the team needed, after tepid performances against Greece and Mexico. The game saw Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, and Pepe all return to fitness after being out injured recently. And indeed our captain Ronaldo looked healthy and dangerous; exactly the two qualities the team needs from him most next week when Portugal kick off their World Cup campaign against Germany.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento returned to his favored 4-3-3 formation. Returning to his no.1 position in goal was Rui Patricio. In front of him were Ruben Amorim (who is adept at playing at right-back) and Fabio Coentrao on the wings. In the middle of defense was Neto and Ricardo Costa, who were presumably fill-ins for Bruno Alves and Pepe. In midfield, Bento chose William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho, who will most likely be the starting trio that represent Portugal’s midfield next week. On the wings were a fit-again Ronaldo and Varela. They were joined up top by Hugo Almeida. Regulars Bruno Alves and Joao Pereira were given a rest for the match, but all signs are pointing toward them starting in the Seleccao’s first match against Germany next week.

The game started off brightly for the Portuguese. Within the first few minutes, the team was already 1-0 up. Great defensive work from Ruben Amorim released Varela on the right wing. The winger sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Hugo Almeida. After getting somewhat of a cushion in the form of that goal, Portugal seemed largely content with Ireland getting a hold on proceedings. But as is so common, Portugal attack against the run of play. Though Ireland was threatening, Portugal had a very good chance to double their advantage on the 13 minute mark. Some good work from Ronaldo opened room for a shot, which was parried by the Ireland goalkeeper. The rebound fell to Varela, who had the presence of mind to pick out the onrushing Raul Meireles. The midfielder’s fierce shot was well-saved, and the ball went behind for a corner kick. From the resulting kick, Hugo Almeida came within inches of doubling Portugal’s lead. From that point forward, it was largely one-way traffic. Ronaldo hit the post with another of his wonderful trademark free kicks minutes later, and it was the Real Madrid man who played a bit part in the second goal. A run forward from Coentrao was picked out by a wonderful back-heel pass from Ronaldo. The left-back crossed, and the ball took a fortunate deflection off Ireland defender Richard Keogh and looped into the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and were rewarded once again fifteen minutes later. Varela sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Ronaldo. The star man’s header was pushed away by the Irish goalkeeper, but Hugo Almeida was there to apply the finishing touch. It was the team’s third, and Almeida’s second of the night. That proved to be the last clear-cut chance of the half. Both teams went into the locker room with Portugal leading convincingly 3-0.

As could be expected, Ireland caused Portugal headaches early in the second half. And the Irish were rewarded for their hard work just 6 minutes after the restart. A well-worked set piece set winger James McClean free on the right. A simple cut-in allowed him the space to fire home past Rui Patricio. Later in the second-half, as is typical in international friendlies, there was a mass substitution. Among the players to leave the field was Ronaldo, who had performed admirably though not fully fit. Nani replaced the Real Madrid forward and was at the heart of the rest of Portugal’s forays forward. Ireland continued to threaten, and seemed determined to improve upon the momentum from their goal. Portugal managed to hold them off, and counter struck in the 77th minute. A superb cross-field pass from Joao Moutinho was taken perfectly in stride by Nani, who was motoring down the left wing. The winger took his time, and picked out the run of Vieirinha perfectly. The Wolfsburg man’s header was well saved, but he made no mistake with the rebound, shooting past the Ireland goalkeeper to record his first goal for Portugal, and stretch the scoreline to an impressive 4-1. And it was Nani at the heart of Portugal’s final goal just a few minutes later. The winger picked up the ball on the left wing once again, and instead of pressing forward, stalled a bit, and picked out the on-rushing Fabio Coentrao. The Real Madrid defender poked the ball home impressively with his right toe, and just like that, Portugal were up 5-1. And soon after, Nani was once again at the heart of another Portuguese move, and possibly one of the most exciting of which all night. The winger picked up the ball on his favored left side, and made a mazing run, playing one-two pass after one-two pass with his teammates before laying the ball off to Joao Moutinho. Moutinho dinked through a wonderful split ball to Vieirinha, whose square pass was back-heeled into the net by Nani. Alas, the wonderful move was correctly adjudged to be offside, but the point was clear. Portugal can be a mesmerizingly wonderful team.

Click here to see the chance.

Much of the talk lately surrounding Portugal has been over the fitness of star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The buzz is warranted. Ronaldo won World Player of the Year for 2013, and is fresh off winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. His performances for Portugal under Paulo Bento have been nothing short of spectacular, recently surpassing Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is undoubtedly an important piece to the puzzle. But he is not the puzzle. Yes, he is the best player in the world. Yes he has the ability to change games; to improve the quality of  play; to make a difference. But pundits under-emphasize the importance of the team around him. Portugal, as a collective, is one of the most complete sides in the world currently. The team that Portugal will likely field against Germany is almost identical to the one that was named when we faced Germany at Euro 2012. The team has played together for years now, and is well-versed in the formation and tactics that Paulo Bento uses. But Portugal is not stagnant. The team has a good mix of youth and experience. Players such as Rafa and William Carvalho are wild-cards. Having not been in the international spotlight for their talent can be an asset for Portugal. Other teams won’t exactly know how to handle Rafa at full speed or William Carvalho at full-stretch. I think for people to label Portugal as a one-trick pony, and the trick to be Ronaldo, is a mistake. There is much more to a team than one man. This game highlighted this point well. Ronaldo was involved directly in two of the goals (the second and third), but Varela carved out a chance for the first goal. Nani made the chances for the other two goals. A no-Ronaldo Portugal is still capable of playing beautiful, flowing football. Ronaldo is important, but just as important are the collective around him.

Rui Patricio, Ruben Amorim(Miguel Veloso), Neto(Pepe), Ricardo Costa, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Raul Meireles(Andre Almeida), Ronaldo(Nani), Varela(Vieirinha), Hugo Almeida(Helder Postiga)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Fernando Eligible to Represent Portugal


Fernando - PortoThis December, Porto midfielder Fernando will be eligible to represent the Portuguese National Team. Due to gain dual citizenship with Portugal and Brazil in December, the midfielder has come out and stated that if called to the Seleccao, he would accept. This is the opposite of what he has previously stated, which was that he would only accept a call-up to the country of his birth, Brazil. With any chance of representing them internationally, it seems as if Fernando is choosing his second-choice, but according to his agent, that is not the case. His agent stated that Fernando has been in Portugal for almost seven years now, and his daughter was even born in the country.

Fernando was purchased from Brazilian side Vila Nova in 2007, and was immediately loaned to fellow first division Portuguese side, Estrela Amadora. After the loan spell (which proved successful), Fernando won a place in the starting lineup for Porto in the 2008-2009 season, and has essentially kept that starting spot ever since. A defensive midfielder, Fernando is a master at breaking up play, masterful enough to have had some wanting glances from Europe’s elite clubs. Inter and Everton have been interested recently, and for good reason. Fernando is a solid player, one that could add much to the Seleccao.

The primary formation that Portugal employs is essentially a 4-3-3. The team plays with a diamond midfield, and the four in the back are shielded by a holding , or defensive, midfielder. Miguel Veloso has filled that position under Bento’s reign, and despite initially impressing, has largely been mediocre. Veloso has an eye for a pass, but what he lacks is a good work-rate. That is Fernando’s specialty. Fernando is smart and hard-working, and would certainly be a viable replacement for Veloso.

So will Paulo Bento call up Fernando? It will be interesting to see. The last three Brazilians who joined the team were Deco, Pepe, and Liedson. Deco and Pepe were both integrated by Scolari, while Liedson was called on by Queiroz. There is one thing that all three had in common, however: They were well immersend in the Portuguese game. Deco and Pepe are Porto legends, while Liedson is arguably one of the most loved Sporting players of the 21st century. With Fernando already having amassed well over 100 league appearances for Porto, he certainly fits the bill as a true Seleccao player.

Portugal Draw Sweden


Paulo BentoSweden will be the final test for the Portuguese National Football team in their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, as the two-legged draw will decide which team will earn a spot in Brazil. While Sweden will be a stern test for the Seleccao, the team did manage to avoid drawing France, who are a very strong side at the moment. The two legs of the playoff will happen on November 15th (in the Estadio da Luz) and on November 19th (in Sweden). Should Portugal fail to defeat Sweden in the play-off, it would mean that the Seleccao would not qualify for the World Cup. This would be a huge disappointment, seeing as Portugal has qualified for every major tournament since 2000.

Seleccao to Snap up Starlet?


Marquinhos - PSGIt seems as though there may be a new world-class player donning the Seleccao’s shirt at some point in the near future. Marquinhos, who scored today for PSG in the team’s 3-0 Champion’s League victory over Benfica today, expressed his interest in playing for the Portuguese National Football Team. Though born in Brazil, Marquinhos also holds Portuguese citizenship, likely through his parents or grandparents. The defender expressed his interest, saying: “If the invitation comes, why not? I’ll be very honored and happy.”

Marquinhos - RomaShould Portugal decide to call on Marquinhos, they would get one of the brightest young center-backs in the game at the moment. The defender made the move to Roma at the beginning of last season. Though not much was expected of him, Marquinhos established himself as not only a talented player, but also one of the league’s finest defenders (at age 18). 26 impressive league appearances for one of Italy’s top teams earned him a move to money-rich PSG, who splashed out 30 million euros for his services. Still only aged 19, Marquinhos has established himself as one of the brightest prospects in world football, and the Seleccao would be silly not to choose him before Brazil gets to him.

Portugal Fall to Mighty Brazil


Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso - Portugal vs Brazil

Portugal 1-3 Brazil

International Friendly

Neymar and co. just proved to be too much for Portugal, as the Seleccao succumbed to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Brazil in a friendly played in the United States last week. Goals from Neymar, Jo, and Thiago Silva guaranteed the win for Brazil, while Raul Meireles was the lone scorer for Portugal.

Portugal’s starting lineup was largely unchanged from their 4-2 victory over Northern Ireland just four days earlier. Nani came into the lineup to replace the injured Ronaldo, while Nelson Oliveira started over Helder Postiga. Other than that, the lineup was unchanged, with many hoping that the team can gel ahead of the 2014 World Cup next summer.

The match started predictably, with Neymar at the heart of the match’s chances and controversy. The first of which occurred just before the 10 minute mark, when the winger pushed Pepe into the onrushing Rui Patricio while battling for a long ball. It proved to be a deliberate foul, and the Brazilian star was shown a yellow card.  Just minutes later, Portugal came within inches of breaking the deadlock. An inviting cross was sent in by Vieirinha directly into the path of Raul Meireles, whose header struck the base of the upright. It was a let-off for the Portuguese, whose play had at least matched the Brazilians during the opening period. Portugal was rewarded soon after, however. A blocked Miguel Veloso shot was headed down lackadaisically by a Brazilian defender. Raul Meireles was lurking, and reached the ball before the Brazilian goalkeeper, side-footing the ball into the net. The goal seemed to wake Brazil up, and not very long afterward, the South Americans tied up the game. Thiago Silva headed in a cross from a corner kick to make the score 1-1. Though Portugal came close again through Nani, the momentum of the match was shifting in Brazil’s favor. At the heart of this shift was Neymar. It was the winger who scored next, leaving the Portuguese defense reeling. Embarking on a mazing run, Neymar sped past half-a-dozen Portuguese players before slotting the ball past Rui Patricio to make the score 2-1 in Brazil’s favor. Portugal were lucky to not concede further minutes later, after Bernard missed a sitter in the box. The half-time whistle likely was a melodious sound for the Seleccao, as it allowed for temporary relief from Brazil’s barrage. Both teams went into the locker room with the score at 2-1 Brazil.

As is to be expected with friendly matches, the second half was a much less lively affair. Soon after the break, however, Brazil did manage to further their score, with Jo tapping the ball into the net after good wing play. The only other event of note in the second half was the entrance of Lica into the Portugal setup, with the winger officially making his debut for the National team, after a stellar season for Estoril last term, and a promising start to this season at Porto. Also entering the fray (again) was Antunes, who last appeared for Portugal in 2009. Antunes revival has largely been due to a successful period last season at Pacos Ferreira, which earned him a move to Malaga, where he has held down a starting spot.

Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Pepe(Luis Neto), Fabio Coentrao(Antunes), Joao Pereira(Helder Postiga), Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho(Ruben Amorim), Miguel Veloso, Nani, Vieirinha(Lica), Nelson Oliveira

HIGHLIGHTS HERE