Ronaldo Hat-trick Enough to Quell Armenia Comeback


Photo: Lusa

Photo: Lusa

Armenia 2-3 Portugal

Euro 2016 Qualifying

A superb hat-trick from Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to earn Portugal a 3-2 victory against Armenia in tonight’s Euro 2016 qualification match. Portugal came into this match knowing that a win would all but guarantee them a place in next summer’s tournament. Despite going behind in the first half, Portugal responded well, scoring three goals to swell the lead to 3-1. But in the 62nd minute, Tiago received his marching orders, after picking up a second yellow. Just ten minutes later, Armenia scored, narrowing Portugal’s lead to one goal. That prompted a tense end to the match, but Portugal did enough to hold on for the win.  Continue reading

Portuguese National Team: Highs and Lows


Fernando Santos led the team to two wins against two difficult opponents

Fernando Santos led the team to two wins against two difficult opponents

It was a big week for the National team heading into games 3 & 4 of Fernando Santos’ tenure. The good news now is in competitive matches he sports a 2-0 record, and overall has a record of 3 wins from 4 matches. I for one was not a fan of the hiring because with his pending suspension it puts the team in a precarious situation, but not one to cry over spilled milk, I also like to give folks a chance before I criticize them. Continue reading

Last-Gasp Goal Pushes Portugal Past World Cup Finalists


Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Cristian Ansaldi, of Argentina. Photo: AP/Jon Super

Cristiano Ronaldo in action against Cristian Ansaldi, of Argentina. Photo: AP/Jon Super

Portugal 1-0 Argentina

International Friendly

A last-minute goal from 20 year-old left back Raphael Guerreiro was enough to give Portugal a narrow 1-0 win over Argentina in a match played at Manchester United’s home ground, Old Trafford. The build-up to the match was predictably centered around the Messi vs Ronaldo rivalry, but neither player influenced the game too heavily, and both exited play at half time. Overall, many would probably agree that the final scoreline did not reflect the way the game unfolded, but Fernando Santos and co. surely won’t complain.  Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Argentina


Ronaldo could be the star of the show against Argentina

Ronaldo could be the star of the show against Argentina

Having narrowly edged Armenia on Friday, the Portuguese national team faces much stiffer competition at Manchester United’s home ground Old Trafford as the Seleccao are pitted up against World Cup finalists Argentina in an international friendly. Cristiano Ronaldo once again saved Portuguese blushes against Armenia and the spotlight will be on the Portuguese superstar as he competes with rival Lionel Messi to steal the show at a place he once called his professional home. Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Armenia


Tiago Gomes could start against Armenia. Photo Record.xl.pt

Tiago Gomes could start against Armenia. Photo Record.xl.pt

Fernando Santos will look to build on a sound start to his tenure in the Portuguese dugout ahead of a clash against Group I dark horses Armenia in the Algarve. Having come away with the three points in Copenhagen after a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo effort, A Seleção da Quinas will be confident of building on a professional display in their last hit-out in front of a packed Faro crowd. Continue reading

Bosingwa Earns Recall


Sweden vs Portugal - 2008 - Bosingwa

Bosingwa playing for the team in 2008

Fernando Santos named a squad of 24 today for Portugal’s upcoming games against Armenia and Argentina, giving calls to a number of either new or returning players to the team. The most notable of these was Bosingwa, who was famously exiled under Paulo Bento beginning in 2011. Initially an automatic starter under Carlos Queiroz, Bosingwa’s decline under Bento was swift. Now 32, Bosingwa is still a starter at Trabzonspor in the Turkish league, which is enough for Fernando Santos. Continue reading

Fernando Santos Revolution Already Paying Dividends for Portugal


Danny is one player who has returned under Santos. Photo: Getty Images

Danny is one player who has returned under Santos. Photo: Getty Images

After a less than compelling 2014 World Cup and a humbling 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Albania to start Euro 2016 qualifying one thing was certain: Paulo Bento needed to be relieved of his duties as manager of the Portuguese National Team. While Bento’s success rate with the national team wasn’t dramatically poor, his over reliance on star Cristiano Ronaldo to carry the team along with his lack of imagination when it came to tactics and squad selection was clear as day to most supporters and a new era needed to begin.

Continue reading

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