Portugal Under-21 coach Rui Jorge named yesterday a 23 man squad to face the Netherlands in the playoff for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The playoff is a two-match series, with first played in Netherlands on the 9th and the other in Portugal on the 14th. Needless to say, these two matches are of great importance. This is the closest the U-21 team has come to qualification to a major tournament since 2007, which is the last time the team appeared in a U-21 Euro. Continue reading
Portugal 3-1 Azerbaijan
2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification
The Portuguese Under 21 team maintained their perfect record today, as they ran out 3-1 winners against Azerbaijan in their final 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification match. Having already qualified for the play-off, this match was more or less a formality for Portugal. Despite this, the team managed a convincing victory, with goals from Rafa, Edgar Ie, and Ricardo Esgaio all on the score-sheet for the team. Continue reading
Norway 1-2 Portugal
2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification
The Portuguese Under-21 team defeated Norway 2-1 yesterday to continue their perfect qualification campaign for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The game was a much different encounter than the last time the two teams met, which ended in a 5-1 demolition by Portugal. This time out, the two teams were much more evenly-matched, and Portugal was not able to waltz to victory. This win kept Portugal at the top of Group 8 with a perfect record. The team has only conceded five goals in the seven matches thus-far in qualification, and has retained positive results throughout qualification, despite losing players such as Andre Gomes, Ivan Cavaleiro, and William Carvalho to the Senior National Team.
The Portuguese came into this game already qualified for the playoffs, having secured a top spot in the group. The only real reason for this match was to build confidence and gain more time on the field as a team. Also, Portugal was defending their perfect record in qualifying thus far. And early into the game, it appeared that this match would go much like the last time they played Norway. The Portuguese team dominated the opening exchanges, though the match took time to settle. Once both teams found their rhythm, the match was a lively, even affair, with both Portugal and Norway playing impressively. Though both teams appeared adept at possession, it was Portugal who fashioned the better chances on goal. And it was Portugal who opened the scoring. Some lax defensive work from Norway gave over possession in their midfield. Ricardo Esgaio picked up the ball and passed the ball upfield to Goncalo Paciencia. Paciencia then had the clarity of mind to look up and feed the ball to the on-rushing (and un-marked) Carlos Mane. Mane picked up the pass, took a few touches to steady himself, and calmly slotted the ball home. It was a confident goal that perfectly encapsulated Portugal’s play up to that point. The ease at which Portugal scored their goal left the feeling that they would run away with the game, as they have done countless times in this qualification cycle. That didn’t quite prove to be the case, as Norway defended diligently and capably. Just before half-time, however, Goncalo Paciencia pulled up injured after an awkward fall. The striker was substituted off for Ricardo, of Porto. Ricardo was moved to the left wing, and the goalscorer, Carlos Mane, was moved to the central role of striker.
The second half began with little incident, with both teams settling evenly into a flow. After the game settled down, it was Norway that looked the more lively, with the young 15 year-old Martin Odegaard proving difficult to handle for the Portuguese. Norway, realizing that anything less than a win would effectively eliminate the possibility of qualification, were a much different-looking team in the second half, dominating most of the proceedings. Despite this domination, Portugal still continued to have the cutting edge that Norway lacked. And this cutting edge paid off right around the hour mark. Joao Mario fed a ball to Ricardo Pereira, who, surrounded by Norwegian defenders, took a touch and skillfully finished near-post (and with his weaker left foot) past the Norwegian ‘keeper. Overall, a 2-0 scoreline was justified at that point, as Portugal had dominated the majority of the game up until that point. Norway were threatening, and their pressure paid off just minutes after Ricardo’s goal. The Norwegians pulled on back through Bakenga, who is the spearhead of the team’s attack. With the score now at 2-1, the remainder of the game was a tense one, with Norway within one goal of ruining Portugal’s loss-less record. Portuguese wonderkid Marcos Lopes had been brought on before the second-half goals, and his play proved to be a highlight in the time remaining in the match. Lopes hit the post with one play and one surging run and subsequent shot forced an excellent save out of the Norwegian goalkeeper. With Portugal looking comfortable and able to defend their lead, debutant Helder Costa, of Benfica’s B team, came on for Carlos Mane. Though the scoreline was close going into the final minutes of the match, little of note occurred, and Portugal walked away with a well-fought 2-1 victory.
The team will now face Azerbaijan in their final 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification match, to be played on September 9th. For that match, Ruben Pinto (Benfica B), Andre Silva (Porto B), and Tiago Silva (Belenenses) have been called.
Bruno Varela, Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Miguel Rodrigues, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Oliveira, Rafa(Marcos Lopes), Carlos Mane(Helder Costa), Goncalo Paciencia(Ricardo)
Sporting Braga are looking to put a disappointing season behind them. After the arrival of club legend and proven tactician Jesualdo Ferreira at the beginning of last season, much was expected of the team. But after a string of bad results, the Minho club found themselves at 9th place in the league by the end of the season, their worst finish since the 2002-2003 season. And that finish was all the worse as Braga was not even present in European competition, after failing to qualify for the Europa League(knocked out in the play-off by Romanian side Pandurii).
This season looks to go better. Antonio Salvador, the frugal and competent president of the club, immediately signed Sergio Conceicao as the head coach. Conceicao, who was a regular for the national team during his playing days, joined from Academica, where he guided the team to an 8th place finish. Since taking charge at Braga, Conceicao has made a number of transfers, most notably of Danilo Barbosa da Silva, who is a highly-regarded Brazilian midfield prospect, and Matheus Magalhaes, a 21-year old Brazilian goalkeeper.
But Conceicao is not just looking to Brazilian talent. Aves winger Fabio Martins is another of Conceicao’s recruits. Martins joins after an impressive season for Aves, where he managed 33 league appearances, helping the team to an impressive 4th placed finish in the Segunda Liga. A product of Porto’s youth academy, Martins made his senior debuts in the 2012-2013 season for Porto’s B team, appearing 29 times for the team. After that season, Aves signed Martins on a free transfer, and with another impressive season under his belt, he looks set to join Braga and show his skills on a larger stage.
With the advent of the B-team system in Portugal two seasons ago, teams such as Braga, Benfica, and Sporting (among others) had the opportunity to give their younger players valuable playing time in the Segunda Liga while also keeping them close enough to track and influence their development. Benfica, Porto, and Sporting have all found success with their B-teams, with all three finishing well last season. Braga’s team was not as fortunate. Only managing a 20th place finish, the Minho team barely escaped a disastrous season. Braga is a team that has historically not been gifted with many financial resources, and their lack of investment in the B-team last season shows the lack of resources perfectly. Likely looking to build the team and the future of the club, Conceicao has signed 19 year old Portuguese striker Carlos Fortes from Spanish club Racing Santander. Fortes had spells with various youth teams in Portugal before moving to Spain. In Spain, though he did not manage a single senior appearance for Santander, Fortes caught the attention of the Portuguese U-20s coach. The striker went on to make three appearances for the U-20 team. There is every indication that Fortes is set to join Braga’s B team and spearhead their attack next season. This signing, coupled with players promoted from the U-19 youth team (who won the Portuguese U-19 championship last season), may prove to be exactly what the team needs.
Newly appointed Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has made sweeping changes at the club since his arrival. Always in favor of the youth, Rodgers has introduced a handful of Liverpool’s brightest talents into the first team. Raheem Sterling, who, even at age 17, has already earned a senior England call, and Suso, who started and impressed in Liverpool’s last game, are already making the move to Liverpool’s first team. Not only that, but they’re becoming important players for the team. This situation highlights Brendan Rodger’s youth policy. He has given chances to many youth players since arriving in the summer, and one may wonder: who’s next?
One of the main contenders to make the move to the Liverpool first team is Joao Carlos. Carlos played a central role in Sporting Lisbon’s run to the quarterfinals of last season’s NextGen Series, a sort-of U-19 Champions League. Along the way, Sporting demolished Liverpool twice, first 3-0, then 5-1. The midfielder was instrumental in both wins, most notably scoring the opening goal in the 3-0 victory. These performances, along with others throughout the team’s NextGen campaign, earned him a move to Liverpool in the winter transfer window. Since then, he has been training with the reserve team, along with the likes of Suso, Raheem Sterling, and Andre Wisdom, all of whom are playing in the first team. Now, some are wondering if Joao Carlos will be the next to roll out on the seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of young talent.
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.
Carlos Martins and Silvestre Varela have both left the Portugal National team squad due to injury. Martins was injured in Grenada’s match against Osasuna, while Varela was injured in today’s match between Porto and Feirense. Paulo Machado has been called as a replacement for Carlos Martins, but there will be no replacement for Varela, as it is too short-notice.
The transfer window was unusually quiet this winter in Portugal, as it was all around Europe. Despite the lack of activity, some potentially major moves did occur. These players all have the capability to be important players for their new clubs in the near future.
Yannick had been without a club since his failed transfer to French club OGC Nice from Sporting Lisbon. The winger/striker’s skill is undeniable, but his consistency certainly is lacking, as he showed at Sporting. Yannick was reportedly close to a move to Porto and a trial at Aston Villa, but neither moves materialized. Benfica promptly snapped up the forward on deadline day, and he has already made his debut, in the League Cup.
Daniel Fernandes has performed well when given the chance to succeed. When he played in Greece, he was extremely successful. His time more recently in Germany did not go as planned, and a move to Romania looked to increase playing time. Things did not go as planned once again, and after making just two league appearances for Cluj, Twente promptly snapped up the experienced goalkeeper on a free transfer. It may take a lot to dislodge the current Twente goalkeeper, but Daniel Fernandes will work through it, just as he has before.
After his release from Bolton in 2010, Vaz Te looked set for a career in the lower leagues of Greece, Cyprus, or Romania. After two unsuccessful stints in Greece and Scotland, Vaz Te was signed on a free by Barnsley. Not much was expected of the striker, but after ten goals in twenty-two appearances, that all changed. West Ham, who look certain for promotion, promptly snapped up the striker from Barnsley, after Vaz Te had only spent half a season with them. The striker has already made his debut for the club, and looks set for a successful last half of the season with what is a very talented squad.
At the age of just 18, Joao Carlos was called up to Sporting’s first team at the beginning of this season. He trained with the squad throughout the pre-season, but rejoined the Under-19 team, as did many players, once the season was underway. The center midfielder, who has been compared to Deco, was an integral part of the Sporting U-19 team that decimated all opposition in the group stage of the Next-Gen Series. One of his finest performances came when the squad travelled to Liverpool. The midfielder bagged a wonderful goal, and his performance must have caught the eye of Liverpool first-team manager, Kenny Dalglish, who promptly signed him at the next possible opportunity: the January transfer window. Joao Carlos will now join Liverpool’s reserve team, and hope to win a starting spot in Liverpool’s first team in the future.
After multiple seasons of solid performances, Abel Camara finally made the step up from the Liga Orangina to the Liga Zon Sagres. Already a regular for the Belenenses team and the Portuguese Under-21 Team, Abel was a well-established striker in Portugal. Now, he has the opportunity to prove his skills on a bigger stage for Beira-Mar.
Denmark 2-1 Portugal
The Portuguese National Team put in a sub-par performance and were punished as Denmark ran out easy 2-1 winners. Portugal’s loss placed Portugal at second in the group, with Denmark winning the group and thus qualifying for Euro 2012. Throughout the match, Denmark controlled the tempo, constantly forcing the Portuguese team into making mistakes, mistakes that they would pay for. This game was tough to swallow for me. Despite the 3-1 scoreline from the last time the two teams met, this was always going to be a tough game for the Portuguese. The Danish team plays all of their matches in the Parken Staduim, in Copenhagen. Teams typically have a hard time earning points in this stadium, for some reason. It is a bit like Stoke City, who has a reputation for their imperious home form. The Danish coach, Morten Olsen, stated before the match that Denmark had a plan for dealing with Portugal. Oh how he was right.
The game started off in Denmark’s favor, with the Danes having a goal disallowed after it was adjudged offside. That should have been a wake-up call for Portugal, but unfortunately, it really wasn’t. Denmark then proceeded to take the lead after a Michael Krohn-Dehli shot took a slight deflection off the face of Rolando. Denmark were ahead, and so far, they deserved it. Soon after, however, Rolando had a golden opportunity to redeem himself and open his account for Portugal. Carlos Martins swung a free kick in from the left, which fell to an unmarked Rolando, whose side-footed shot scooted wide. Portugal began to find their feet in the match after Rolando’s miss, most notably shown through Carlos Martins and Ronaldo’s shots, which were easily held by the keeper. A quickly taken free kick was passed to Joao Moutinho, whose pass to the middle for an open Helder Postiga was snuffed out by a Danish defender. After the half, Denmark pounced slightly out of the blue. Some lax defending from Eliseu and Rolando allowed a perfect split ball to be played, which was then squared expertly for Bendtner to finish to give Denmark a 2-0 lead. The Danish continued to go close and Portugal continued to disappoint. Finally, in extra time at the end of the game, Portugal were rewarded for what they didn’t deserve. Ronaldo hit a marvellous free-kick to give Portugal a consolation goal and to make the final score 2-1 Denmark.
Portugal will now play in the play-offs, which will occur in November and will be a two-legged match system.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Eliseu(Quaresma), Rolando, Bruno Alves, Carlos Martins(Miguel Veloso), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Nuno Gomes)
With this game, Ronaldo has moved into the top five in the list of all-time appearances. Also, with his goal, he has moved to fourth in the all-time goals list.
Man of the Match: Nani
Crutch of the Match: Rolando/Carlos Martins
Portugal 5-3 Iceland
Portugal have raised the eyebrows of many with their slightly unconvincing 5-3 victory over Group H minnows Iceland. The game started off perfectly for Portugal when they took the lead through Nani. A corner was taken short to Eliseu (who was the starting left-back), who hit in a low cross, which Nani deftly got his head to and redirected the ball past the Icelandic keeper. Nani then doubled his tally and Portugal’s lead when he pounced on a very poor clearance from an Icelandic defender and tapped the ball past the onrushing keeper. Portugal appeared to be cruising by this point. The team was hassling their opponents and causing them to make mistakes. Portugal looked to run away with the game. That theory was strengthened when Helder Postiga added Portugal’s third of the night after he connected with a pinpoint Bruno Alves cross. That is how the half ended: 3-0. Portugal’s complete domination was no surprise, and many were looking forwad to more goals in the second half. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what they got.
The second half started off very well when Cristiano Ronaldo’s shot cannoned off the crossbar. Many interpreted this as a sign of what was to come. Iceland pulled a goal back soon after the restart, when Jonassen headed past Rui Patricio. The goal was largely a product of Rolando’s poor defensive work, which was also the problem when Iceland socred again. A corner was whipped in for Iceland, and Jonassen was there again, this time at the near post, to poke the ball into the net. With a 3-2 scoreline a bit too worrying, Portugal put their gear into hyper-drive. Eliseu raced down the left flank excellently and cut the ball back for Joao Moutinho, whose one touch shot hit the back of the net. That goal was only Moutinho’s second goal for the Seleccao, despite being an undisputed starter in the team for some time. Portugal didn’t stop there, however. Eliseu opened his account for Portugal and made the scoreline 5-2 when he scored the goal of the match. Eliseu, a naturally left-footed player, curled his right-footed shot on the edge of the box past the Icelandic keeper to give Portugal some breathing room. But the scoring was not over. Rolando added to his disappointing display when he fouled Bjarnason in the box. Sigurdsson converted the penalty with ease to make the final score 5-3. Portugal will now face Denmark on Tuesday in their final Euro 2012 qualification match.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Rolando, Eliseu, Joao Moutinho, Carlos Martins(Ruben Micael), Raul Meireles(Miguel Veloso), Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Nuno Gomes)
Man of the Match: Eliseu
Crutch of the Match: Rolando