Danny Dropped, Varela his Replacement

Danny has dropped out of the Portuguese squad for their upcoming crunch games against Iceland and Denmark, attributing his absence to personal reasons. Following the Ricardo Carvalho debacle, many are speculating whether Danny indeed left for personal reasons, or if it is an elaborate story to cover up some more disputes. The vice-president of the Portuguese Football Federation, Amandio de Carvalho, denied any controversy whatsoever, stating that the winger simply left for personal reasons. Regardless, Silvestre Varela has been called up as his replacement. This decision has baffled many, who feel that Varela’s poor form this season does not merit an international call-up, and players such as Helder Barbosa and Vieirinha deserve one more. Frankly, I agree with them, but I also see Bento’s reasoning. Varela has been with the squad for some time now, already having played three times for the Seleccao, as compared to Barbosa and Vieirinha, who have yet to debut. Bento is searching for consistency and team chemistry for the two upcoming games, which are crucial.

Manuel Da Costa Double Sinks Zenit

Manuel Da Costa scored a brace in Lokomotiv Moscow’s 4-2 win over Zenit on Saturday. A Zenit side featuring Danny and Bruno Alves went into the locker room ahead 2-0 at the interval, but the game changed soon after. Obinna and Caicedo, both of whom were picked up in the off-season, scored to level the scores at 2-2. The scoreline didn’t stay that way for very long, however, as Manuel Da Costa leaped above Zenit’s goalkeeper to nod the ball into the net. Da Costa furthered Zenit’s pain when he smartly dove in for the header at the backpost from a corner kick. Such a comeback is rarely seen in football, especially against such a team as Zenit, and Manuel Da Costa will have to take some of the credit. Da Costa moved from recently-relegated West Ham to the Russian side this summer, and has since settled in just fine, as evidenced with his showing this weekend.


Portugal Blow Away Cyprus

Euro 2012 Qualification Group H

Cyprus 0-4 Portugal

Portugal look to be on the right track in Euro 2012 qualification after a comprehensive 4-0 win over “minnows” Cyprus. Minnows is exactly what everyone thought they were this time last year, before the two teams met. That game ended 4-4, much to the surprise of everyone. Now, with a new (and much better) coach, we waltzed to a comfortable 4-0 victory. The game started off well, with Joao Pereira and Pepe coming close just minutes after the game commenced. The deadlock was broken on 34 minutes, when a Cyprus defender handled the ball in the area. The referee awarded a penalty, which Ronaldo slotted away with ease. The two teams soon after went into the locker rooms at half time, with the score at a comfortable 1-0 for Portugal. The Portuguese came out in the second half slightly on the backfoot, with Cyprus looking stronger. Portugal silenced any whispers of a Cyprus comeback when Ronaldo played a one-two with Nani, juked out a defender, and finished strongly with his left foot to make it 2-0. That goal is Ronaldo’s sixth under coach Paulo Bento’s one-year reign to date, as compared to just two he scored in the two-year Carlos Quieroz era. Just a couple minutes later, Portugal scored again, this time through Hugo Almeida. Ronaldo broke free on the left and cut the ball back for Almeida, who finish was as simple as they come. But the scoring didn’t end there. Portugal added to Cyprus’s misery once more when Danny broke free on the left, out-muscled a defender, and slotted the ball away coolly to make the final score 4-0.

Rui Patricio, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Joao Pereira, Fabio Coentrao, Raul Meireles, Nani (Danny), Joao Moutinho, Ruben Micael (Miguel Veloso), Ronaldo, Helder Postiga (Hugo Almeida)


Zaragoza Negotiating for Meira

Zenit central-defender, Fernando Meira, who has found playing time hard to come by lately at the Russian club, is currently negotiating with La Liga strugglers, Zaragoza. Meira currently plays alongside fellow Portuguese players, Bruno Alves and Danny, but has not enjoyed as much success as those two at the club. Zaragoza reportedly tried to sign Meira earlier in the season, to no avail. Now, a deal could be completed as early as later this week.

Benfica Want Danny

Liga Zon Sagres powerhouse, Benfica, is currently tracking Zenit’s Portuguese midfielder, Danny. Danny, who recently won the award for the best player in Russia, is reportedly also being courted by Chelsea and Manchester United. Although no formal contact has taken place, Benfica are still likely to make a bid in January.

Defensive Mistakes Leave Portugal Reeling

An uncharacteristically poor defensive showing left the Seleccao in a poor position in their Euro 2012 qualification group after a 4-4 draw against minnows Cyprus. At least, we thought they were minnows. Cyprus started the night off well with a goal from Anoleftis after some horrible defending from Miguel. Hugo Almeida got the game going for Portugal just five minutes later when he headed in a pin-point Nani cross. Konstantinou then put Cyprus back in front after taking advantage of a mistake from Raul Meireles to slot home past Eduardo. Portugal were then level after Raul Meireles sent a low left-foot drive past the Cyproit goalkeeper. That is how Portugal went into the locker room, level with Cyprus at 2-2. Portugal’s attack had been fluent, even if it was unorganized, but their defense was unorganized and chaotic, with Miguel and Meireles to blame for the first and second goals, respectively. Portugal walked out of the locker room knowing that they would have to step up if they were going to even have a chance of winning. Portugal did step up, with Quaresma proving his worth with a series of surging runs. Portugal got off to a great start after Danny headed in from a Coentrao cross to make the score 3-2 Portugal. But of course, Cyprus scored again. This time, a perfect defense-splitting ball was enough to send Okkas one-on-one with Eduardo, and the Cypriot player made no mistake in his finish. Portugal had something else to say, though. Quaresma took the corner kick, which was headed straight into the path of the on-rushing Manuel Fernandes, who hammered the ball into the upper left hand corner of the net. Sadly, it wouldn’t end that way. Avraam scored the late equalizer to give Cyprus a well-deserved 4-4 draw against Portugal.

Final score – Portugal 4-4 Cyprus

Portugal – Eduardo, Miguel, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao, Manuel Fernandes (Joao Moutinho, 79), Raul Meireles, Danny (Liedson, 61), Nani, Hugo Almeida (Yannick, 89), Ricardo Quaresma

Portugal Ease Past Mozambique

Danny was the man of the match as Portugal crushed their African opposition 3-0 on Tuesday. This was the final test for the Seleccao before their first World Cup match on June 15th against the Ivory Coast. The first half looked much the same as their goalless draw against Cape Verde just two weeks earlier. News had come in before the game that Nani would miss the World Cup due to injury, so there was a slight sadness in the air. Danny, however, filled the void exceptionally well, putting in a man-of-the-match performance, scoring one and assisting another.

The first goal came after halftime as Danny latched on the a perfect Deco through-ball, took it around the keeper, and finished in the open net. Danny was involved in the second goal also. Fabio Coentrao played the Zenit man through, who teed Hugo Almeida up perfectly for the goal. The third goal came late in the game when Ronaldo’s shot was puched by the keeper right to Almeida who made no mistakes in finishing.

Eduardo, Miguel, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Carvalho, Fabio Coentrao, Pedro Mendes (Pepe), Raul Meireles (Miguel Veloso), Deco (Tiago), Simao (Ronaldo), Liedson (Hugo Almeida), Danny (Duda)

Queiroz Releases 24-man Squad

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz released a 24-man squad for next month’s World Cup. Due to Pepe’s questionable fitness, Queiroz released a 24-man list instead of the official 23-man list, so that if Pepe is deemed unfit, he can drop him, or if Pepe turns out to be ready, Ze Castro or Ricardo Costa can be dropped. Surprise inclusions are Beto, Daniel Fernandes, Ze Castro, and Ricardo Costa. Moutinho was not included in the squad most likely due to his mediocre season.

Here’s the list:

Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Braga), Beto (FC Porto) Daniel Fernandes (Iraklis)

Defenders: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Miguel (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Benfica), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Ricardo Costa (Lille), Rolando (FC Porto), Pepe (Real Madrid), Duda (Malaga) Ze Castro (Deportivo)

Midfielders: Tiago (Atletico Madrid), Deco (Chelsea), Raul Meireles (FC Porto), Miguel Veloso (Sporting), Pedro Mendes (Sporting), Danny (Zenit St Peterburg)

Wingers/Forwards: Simao Sabrosa (Atletico Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Liedson (Sporting), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen)

Queiroz also released a list of 6 reserves, just in case any of the players in the squad of 23 get injured. Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Amorim, Manuel Fernandes, Eliseu and Makukula all have an outside chance of playing in the World Cup after being included in this list.

Petit, Danny On Score Sheets

It was a terrific Saturday for Portuguese players trying their trade abroad. Petit scored his first of the season in attractive fashion after a pinpoint Maniche cross found him wide open. Here’s the Goal. Danny scored his second of the season, and with just two games under his belt for the season, that says a lot. A perfect through ball was sent to him, and the Portuguese forward made no mistakes in one-touching the ball past the keeper with his left foot. Here’s the Goal. Over in England, Nani put in a Man-of-the-match performance as United cruised to a crushing 4-0 victory. Paulo Ferreira and Deco also were involved in another slaughtering. This time 7-1. Chelsea surprisingly demolished Aston Villa with Lampard and Malouda grabbing hat-tricks.