Preview: Portugal vs Albania


Paulo Bento - Portugal

Portugal vs Albania

Match Preview

The Portuguese National Team will kick off their UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign tomorrow when they host Albania. Portugal is also joined in Group I by Denmark, Armenia, and Serbia. France will also play all of the teams in Group I, but the matches will not count towards the final group standings, as France is automatically qualified as host of Euro 2016. With Serbia, Denmark, and Armenia all wildcards capable of giving Portugal trouble, one feels that the matches against Albania are must-wins for the Portuguese.

Paulo Bento named a decidedly new-look Portuguese team for this match, most likely as a response to team selection criticism after the World Cup. Bento has earned a reputation lately for being set in his ways. Many believe he is too much set in his ways, but the fact that he has stuck with players who are past their prime is one that cannot be overlooked. Players such as Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga, and Miguel Veloso have all seen better days, but are still automatic starters under Bento. Players such as William Carvalho, Jose Fonte, and Adrien Silva have been given few opportunities, despite stellar performances. In fact, with the example of Fonte and Adrien, Bento has not even selected these players, despite their solid performances in the Premier League and the Portuguese Liga, respectively.

When it was announced that Paulo Bento would stay on as coach until at least Euro 2016, many fans feared more of the same favoritism for two more years. This favoritism, many fear, could cost the team qualification for Euro 2016, which could be the first time Portugal has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But, with the team that Bento selected for tomorrow’s match against Albania, many of the hardcore opponents will be appeased. In the team that Bento named, no less than seven players have the opportunity to make their debuts. These players are Pedro Tiba (Braga), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), and Adrien Silva (Sporting). All seven are enjoying positive starts to their respective seasons, and it is encouraging that Bento is giving opportunities to young, capable players. And there are some statistics that show Bento’s change in heart:


Average age of 2014 World Cup squad: 27.9 years old

Average age of squad named for Albania game: 25.6 years old

Average number of appearances for 2014 World Cup squad: 34.5 caps

Average number of appearances for squad named for Albania Game: 23.4 caps


As the numbers show, the team that Bento named for tomorrow’s match is both drastically younger and more inexperienced. This decision to boot experience and age in favor of younger, more inexperienced players could prove to be a positive decision. The Portuguese are coming off of a tournament that they were expected to perform much better than they did. With their star man Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly at his height as a footballer at the age of 29, the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s. Portugal had an experienced team, which was led by arguably the finest player in the world at the time of the tournament, and the team was expected to beat out the United States and Ghana easily to earn a second-place spot behind Germany (at least) in Group G. The rest is history, and the decision by Bento now to bring in new faces suggests that he is preparing the team to move on and look ahead to future challenges (such as Euro 2016).


Portugal last met Albania in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the team was led by Carlos Queiroz, who if nothing else, instilled a defensive solidarity in the team. In the 10 matches during qualification, the team only conceded five goals in total. When the team met Albania in those qualifying matches, both teams’ tactics cancelled each other’s out. Both were defensive-leaning teams, and though Portugal possessed much greater talent, the outcomes were stale matches. The two times the teams played, the outcomes were a 0-0 draw and a last-minute 2-1 victory for Portugal.

This time around, Portugal plays a much more open, attacking style of play, one that can be used towards a much more positive result against Albania. Though the team will be lacking their start man, Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no shortage of talent and dynamism in the team. As this is a qualification match, Paulo Bento will likely keep his experimenting to a minimum.

Rui Patricio is a no-brainer to start in goal as a result of solid performances both for Sporting at the Seleccao recently. In front of Patricio will likely be a familiar back-line, something that Bento may be reluctant to change. Fabio Coentrao merits inclusion at left-back, while Joao Pereira could very well start on the right. There is a possibility that Joao Pereira could be benched in favor of Andre Almeida. Pereira’s future at Valencia is currently up in the air, and Bento has given hints that his starting spot is not set in stone. Pepe will likely start, seeing as he has been Real Madrid and Portugal’s starter for some time. The other center-back spot will likely come down between Ricardo Costa and Luis Neto. Though Ricardo Costa is 33 and not playing in a major league, Bento will likely choose him to start.

In midfield, Bento will likely have learned his lesson with William Carvalho. Carvalho will most likely start ahead of Miguel Veloso. Ahead of Carvalho will likely be Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles, who is one of the players whose lackluster performances lately have been noticed, may be benched in favor of Adrien Silva, whose performances for Sporting have been wonderful. On the wings, Nani will likely resume his starting position, after playing regularly for Sporting. Filling the hole left by Ronaldo will likely be Vieirinha, who is impressing at Wolfsburg. Up top should be Eder, who is the team’s most viable option as striker. Bento has also hinted that Ivan Cavaleiro could be used as striker for the team, but it remains clear who will start.

Here’s the full lineup, as predicted:

Portugal-Albania predicted lineup

If the team can learn from its previous mistakes, Portugal should have no problem with this game. The fact that Bento is giving opportunities to younger players, the morale and drive of the team should be very high. A positive performance in this game could very well put their underwhelming performances at the World Cup behind them. Put simply, a win tomorrow can be the first step towards a new chapter in Portuguese football.


 

PortugalFutbol prediction: Portugal 4-1 Albania

Opinion: 10 Players Who Could Break Out This Season


Many are looking for Marcos Lopes to have a big season at Lille, where he is on loan from Manchester City.

Many are looking for Marcos Lopes to have a big season at Lille, where he is on loan from Manchester City.

10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

Portugal is once again producing quality young footballers at a scale not seen since the ‘Golden Generation’  that emerged in the late 1990s.

But at no time has there been more Portuguese youngsters playing abroad in Europe’s top leagues. Only three of the ten players on this list will be playing in Portugal this season.

Please note, this list includes only players that have yet to establish themselves as national team players but who we believe can conceivably do so during Euro 2016 qualifying. Both Bruma and André Gomes have received call-ups but have yet to establish themselves as regular players.

Here now is a list of 10 Portuguese young stars to watch this season.

Ruben Vezo , Central Defender, Valencia FC

Last season was probably the best debut season Ruben Vezo could have asked for. He was definitively promoted to Vitória de Setúbal’s first team after two successful seasons with the club’s under-19 side. And it only took him half a season to catch the eye of La Liga giants Valencia.  After making 12 appearances for Vitória de Setúbal , the central defender was off to Spain. Used primarily as a backup at Valencia for the rest of the season, Vezo still managed to appear eight times, scoring once.

This season, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo,  Vezo should play a more prominent role, especially considering Ricardo Costa and Jeremy Mathieu have left the club. Vezo will now compete with Nicolas Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi for playing time, two well-established internationals. This is no easy task, but Vezo has the tools to develop into a solid defender. And at only 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to reach that potential.

Raphaël Guerreiro , Left-Back, FC Lorient

Having been born and raised in France, it could be said that Raphaël Guerreiro is a bit different from other players on this list. Born to a French mother and a Portuguese father, Guerreiro’s allegiances thus far lie with Portugal, despite never having played in the Portuguese league. He is already an established first-team player at French side Lorient. Despite having played only one season in top-flight, Guerreiro is already viewed as one of the most promising left-backs in Ligue 1.

It appears that little will change this season, with many touting him for another good campaign. With another successful season under his belt, larger clubs will surely come knocking for Guerriero’s services.  He has reportedly drawn interest from Premier League clubs West Ham and Liverpool . If he can manage to stay healthy, Raphael Guerreiro could be the subject of a bidding war next summer.

André Gomes, Midfielder, Valencia CF

The 21-year-old midfielder began making a name for himself in Benfica’s reserve squad with some dominant performances at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. He would make his senior debut with the club that season in a Portuguese Cup match against  Freamunde, scoring a goal in a 4-0  victory. His performances would earn him some playing time in the Champions League as well.

Gomes has exceptional technical ability and is versatile as well. He played in defensive midfield last season with Benfica, but his attributes are better suited for an attacking role. After being heavily linked with a move to the Premier League in January 2014, his rights were sold to an investment fund for €15 million. Gomes will be part of a resurgent Valencia side this season.

João Teixeira , Midfielder, Benfica

Few would have expected João Teixeira to have been as involved in Benfica’s pre-season as he has been, playing mainly as an anchor man in the midfield. Teixeira made 28 appearances for Benfica’s B team last season, but only 16 of those were starts. Still only 20-years-old, Teixeira has been a welcome surprise in Benfica’s otherwise underwhelming pre-season.

With the team’s first-choice holding midfielder, Ljubomir Fejsa out injured for the foreseeable future, Teixeira is now creating competition for Ruben Amorim.  Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has a history of nurturing young talent, as he did with Andre Gomes. And should Teixeira be given a first-team role this season, look for big things.

João Mário, Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

João Mário has long been viewed as a top Portuguese prospect. The midfielder has been at Sporting since he was 11-years-old, but has only managed one first team appearance so far. After spending the entire 2012-2013 season playing for Sporting’s B side, João Mário was loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga outfit Vitória de Setúbal for the second half of last season. He immediately earned a regular place on the team and managed to make 15 league appearances.

His performances were enough to earn him the ‘Young Player of the Month’ award for January and February, ahead of the likes of William Carvalho, Ricardo Horta, and Bebe.  João Mário was recalled to the Sporting senior squad this summer and he appears to be in contention for a starting position. His work this pre-season has not gone unnoticed.  Former Sporting midfielder Luis Vidigal delivered a glowing recommendation for the player in a recent interview. ‘ It is only a matter of time before Marco Silva realizes the value of João Mário,’ Vidigal said.

Bruno Fernandes, Attacking Midfielder, Udinese Calcio

Unlike most players on this list, Bruno Fernandes never played for one of the ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football. In fact, the Udinese midfielder never even played for a club in Portugal’s top division.  The former Boavista youth player accepted a modest offer from Italian club Novara in 2012. He has adjusted well to the Italian game, helping Novara to promotion the following season and earning a move to Udinese last summer.

Fernandes started last season in Udinese’s reserve squad, but eventually earned his way into the starting line-up.  He impressed with his vision, technical skill and creativity, playing mainly in the ‘Number 10’ position behind the striker. Fernandes would make 24 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals.  And he is finally receiving some recognition in his home country, having been selected for the U-19 and U-20 youth squads.

Tozé, Attacking Midfielder, Estoril-Praia

A supremely-gifted attacking midfielder who will be officially on-loan for the next two seasons at Estoril. The 21-year-old is a graduate of FC Porto’s youth academy and has been a regular player for Portugal at every youth level. He was dominant last season playing for Porto’s reserve squad in the Segunda Liga, scoring 21 goals in 40 appearances.

As well as having an eye for goal, Tozé has a well-rounded game. He is technically skilled and is versatile as well. He could play in the centre of the pitch, as well on the wings. He should receive more playing time with Estoril, who will be playing in the Europa League this season. Current manager José Couceiro, did an excellent job with a young squad at Vitória de Setubal last season.  Tozé appears ready to make the next step.

Marcos Lopes, Attacking Midfielder, Lille OSC

Perhaps the most talked-about teenager in world football.  Marcos Lopes first made a name for himself as a Benfica youth player, before leaving for Manchester City in 2011. He would score in his first ever appearances for The Citizens in a January 2013 FA Cup match against Watford, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. He continued his dominant performances for Manchester City’s youth squad.

Lopes played for Portugal this summer at the U-19 UEFA Championships, helping his country to the final where they eventually lost to Germany. An attacking midfielder, with exceptional technical ability and vision, Lopes feels most comfortable on the left side of the pitch. His style of play has often been compared to Ronaldinho.  The 18-year-old will spend this season on loan at Ligue 1 club Lille.

Ricardo Horta, Winger, Málaga CF

19-year-old Ricardo Horta was one of the top revelations last season in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The supremely talented winger is a former Benfica youth player, who moved south to Vitória Setúbal in 2011. He started playing regularly for the club last season, eventually helping them finishing a better than expected seventh in the league table. Horta would score seven goals for the club along the way.

It came as no surprise when La Liga club Málaga signed him this summer. Horta has not wasted any time impressing his new fan base. He scored a beautiful long-range goal in the pre-season against Australian club Perth Glory in late July. And he has dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, making him one of the top young players to watch this season in La Liga.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray S.K.

Once hailed as ‘Portugal’s next big thing,’ Bruma’s career has stalled due to a serious knee injury sustained last January. The timing for the winger’s injury could not have been worse. He was just beginning to find his feet at Galatasaray with a series of positive performances in both the Turkish league and the Champions League.

Bruma was selected to the national team for the first time in October 2013, just a few months  before his injury. Any hopes he had of representing his country at the World Cup were all but finished.  But Bruma is now healthy and back playing football.  He had a positive pre-season, which is something that his new manager  Cesare Prandelli should take note of. At only 19-years-old, Bruma already has the tools to become an elite player and soon.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

 

 

 

 

William Carvalho Called for Play-off


William CarvalhoWilliam Carvalho has earned his first call-up to the Portuguese National Team for the World Cup playoff matches against Sweden on the 15th and 19th. The holding midfielder’s performances this season have been nothing short of spectacular, and many believe that this call is overdue. So impressive are his performances that Barcelona, Manchester United, and Arsenal are all seriously interested in acquiring his services.

The Seleccao face Sweden at home on the 15th, and in Sweden on the 19th. This is a do or die situation for Portugal, with qualification for their eighth consecutive major tournament on the line. Here’s the entire list:

Goalkeepers – Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders – João Pereira (Valência), Ricardo Costa (Valência), André Almeida (Benfica), Antunes (Málaga), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Pepe (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Luís Neto (Zenit)
Midfielders – Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), William Carvalho (Sporting), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Rúben Micael (Braga), Josué (Porto)
Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (Porto), Bruma (Galatasaray), Hélder Postiga (Valência), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Éder (Braga)

U-21s Thump Israel


Portugal vs Israel U21 - Ricardo Esgaio

Portugal 3-0 Israel

2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification

The Portuguese Under-21 team continued their perfect start to 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship qualification with a resounding 3-0 victory at home to Israel. Goals from William Carvalho, Bruma, and an Israeli own goal were enough to give Portugal the 3-0 victory. The team dominated the majority of the match, and the scoreline duly reflects Portugal’s dominance. Bruma and Tiago Ilori both debuted for the team, and their debuts were impressive ones, with Ilori playing the entire match in the heart of the team’s defense, while Bruma managed to get on the score sheet. Also debuting for the team was To-Ze, who appeared for the final quarter of an hour.

Jose Sa, Tiago Ilori, Paulo Oliveira, Luis Martins, Ricardo Esgaio, William, Rafa, Joao Mario(Tiago Silva), Sergio Oliveira(To-Ze), Bruma(Ricardo), Ivan Cavaleiro

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U-20 Stars Make Step up to U-21


Tiago Ilori and Bruma - SportingRui Jorge announced his squad for the Portugal Under-21 team on Friday for the team’s matches against Israel and Azerbaijan, and included two of the brightest prospects in Portuguese football at the moment. Tiago Ilori and Bruma, who starred for Portugal at last summer’s U20 World Cup, have made the list, and are in line to make their debut for the team. Tiago Ilori’s good form last year for Sporting and subsequent solid display at the U20 World Cup convinced Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to splash out over seven million euros for him. Bruma, also a product of Sporting, has similar displays to that of Ilori to thank for his success. Also impressive last season, Bruma picked up the silver shoe at the U20 World Cup, and earned a move to Galatasaray, who paid in excess of eight million euros for him. Both players are enjoying solid seasons thusfar, Bruma in Galatasaray’s first team, Ilori in Liverpool’s youth side, while on the fringes of the first team. Here’s the entire list:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Fernandes (Osnabruck), José Sá (Marítimo), Luís Ribeiro (Sporting)


Defenders: Josué (Vitória Guimaraes), João Amorim (Vitória Guimaraes), Luís Martins (Gil Vicente), Miguel Rodrigues (Nacional), Paulo Oliveira (Vitória Guimaraes), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Tiago Ilori (Liverpool)

 

Midfielders: André Gomes (Benfica), Tó Zé (Porto B), João Mário (Sporting B), Luís Gustavo (Rio Ave), Rafa (Braga), Sérgio Oliveira (Paços de Ferreira), Tiago Silva (Belenenses), William (Sporting)

Forwards: Betinho (Sporting B), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica B), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting B)

Bruma Moves to Turkey


Bruma - Portugal vs Nigeria - 2013 U20 World Cup

Bruma

Sporting to Galatasaray

After a summer of upheaval, Bruma has finally made the move away from the Estadio Jose Alvalade. Galatasaray had been interested for a while, and a 12 million euro move has finally gone ahead. Following his stellar displays for Portugal at this summer’s U-20 World Cup, Bruma had a predictably long list of suitors. Chelsea was heavily linked with a move for the defender, and then the craziness began. A story appeared that stated that Sporting supporters supposedly kidnapped Bruma. In response, Bruma and his father attempted to have his contract rescinded, and the case was brought to the Arbitration Committee, who ruled in favor of Sporting. This meant that Bruma still had a valid contract due to expire at the end of this season. There was talk that Bruma could remain at Sporting, and be assimilated into the first team, but interest abroad appears to have appealed to him more.

Transfer Rumors – 10/26/10


As the winter transfer window nears, the rumors have started to heat up. Here’s the latest:

Bruma Still Being Tracked

16-year-old Portuguese starlet, Bruma, is reportedly still being tracked by Manchester City and Chelsea. Already a regular for the Portuguese Under-19 Team, Bruma has made a name for himself as the next of the talented youngsters to come out of the academy. After signing a pro-contract last week, interest in the player was thought to be diminished, but Tottenham has now joined Chelsea and City in the race for his signature.

Liverpool Watching Coentrao

English giant Liverpool are reportedly tracking Benfica winger Fabio Coentrao. Coentrao was of the few players who actually impressed for the Seleccao at last summer’s World Cup. Since then, he has become a regular for both the Portuguese National Team, and Benfica. Coentrao would be the second Portuguese at the club, after Raul Meireles. Would he be joining a “sinking ship?”

Juventus and City Tabling Bids

Sporting captain Daniel Carrico is currently being tracked quite closely by Manchester City and Italian giants, Juventus. Carrico has been tracked for some time now by top clubs, most recently by Spartak Moscow, but has pledged his future to the club. Delneri, the Juventus coach, spoke of Carrico, saying: “Carriço is a fantastic player with great potential, which we followed for some time. Juventus is always attentive to the great values that stand in world football and a player Carriço is very interesting, still relatively young”

Sporting Starlet Tracked by City and Chelsea


Sporting youth academy player Bruma is apparently a target for Manchester City and Chelsea. The speedy winger has been dubbed “the new Ronaldo” and is one of the more promising players currently enrolled in the academy. Bruma, who is currently 15, is celebrating his 16th birthday on the 24th. Because he is now turning 16, he will be eligible for a professional contract. Bruma started all three of the Portugal U-17 team’s group stage matches at this last summer’s UEFA U-17 Championship. Since then, still at age 15, he has gone on to be a regular for the Portugal U-19 team. It’s no wonder that some of the top teams in the world are after him.