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

The Curious Case of Andre Moreira


Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Andre Moreira

Atletico Madrid to Moreirense (loan)

News came today that Portugal U-19 European siver-medalist Andre Moreira had joined Liga side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid. A move for the goalkeeper came as little surprise, as he was playing his club football at lowly third division Ribeirao before impressing for the U-19s this summer. But what came as a surprise was not that he had joined a top-flight side, but instead that he was joining on loan from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

Moreira enjoyed a very positive Euro U-19 Championship tournament this summer. Despite only playing in the third division leading up to the tournament, Moreira secured the starting position in goal ahead of Tiago Sa, who is a regular for Braga B in the second tier. This alone raised some eyebrows, and it was all the more impressive when one considers that Andre Moreira was one of the younger participants in the team at 18 years old.

In the time around the tournament, clubs such as Manchester United, Benfica, Valencia, and Monaco were all interested in Moreira. This comes as no surprise from his solid performances at such a young age. It’s not everyday that an 18 year-old goalkeeper becomes a starter for his club.

Around the time that the interest in Moreira was beginning to ramp up, it was announced by his club, Ribeirao, that he his rights had been purchased by Jorge Mendes’ agency, Gestifute. Mendes is the notorious agent who represents players such as Ronaldo, Helder Postiga, David De Gea, and others. He is partially responsible for the transfers of many talented players in the league over the past seasons, and has gained a reputation for earning players big moves. Gestifute bought Andre Moreira for 220,000 euros and apparently negotiated a move to Atletico Madrid.

Though I have been unable to find any confirmation that Andre Moreira did indeed end up at Atletico Madrid, all major Portuguese sports news outlets are reporting that he did indeed sign for them. And it’s easy to believe. Mendes has strong ties to the big clubs in both Spain and England.

Now, Andre Moreira will join newly-promoted Liga Zon Sagres side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid for the season, a move which will surely give him some playing time. Moreira will have to compete with first-choice Marafona, as well as Ricardo Ribeiro and new signing Gideao.

Portugal U-19s Fall at Last Hurdle, But Have Reason to Hope


Tomas Podstawski and Gelson Martins - Portugal U19 vs Germany - 2014 U-19 Euro

Portugal 0-1 Germany

Final

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

The Portuguese Under-19 team was outclassed Thursday as they were defeated by Germany in the final of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. The Portuguese, who were favorites to win the tournament, did well to reach the final, but the Germans were clearly superior. Though the scoreline was a narrow 1-0 victory for the Germans, the Portuguese can count themselves lucky that they did not lose by a wider margin.

The Portuguese predictably fielded a strong team, which, apart from Raphael Guzzo replacing Francisco Ramos, was identical to the team that faced Serbia just three days earlier. That team had served them well against Serbia, but they surely knew that Germany posed a much different threat, essentially rolling over all opposition this entire tournament. Portugal, on the other hand, had scraped past two of their opponents, and were not as much of a physical threat as the Germans.

Essentially from the opening whistle, Germany controlled the match. Portugal had their moments of brilliance, but it was Germany who looked much more comfortable on the ball. The Germans played a high-pressure, physical, possession-based game, which the Portuguese struggled to cope with. The Portuguese’s style of play this tournament was much less physical, and can be likened to Spain’s quick-passing possession style of recent years. Despite Portugal’s obvious skill, the Germans were simply the better team. Their goal came in the first half, and while Portugal came close to scoring after the goal, the result was rarely in question.

Looking forward


The Portuguese may be disappointed to not have finished as champions, but looking back on the tournament, the Portuguese showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. Many of the problems facing the current Portuguese National Team do not appear to be facing this team. Namely, this team has an intelligent, skilled, quick striker in Andre Silva, who is capable of holding up play and both fashioning chances for himself and his teammates. The Seleccao has been desperate for a striker with those qualities for some time, and should he continue to develop at a steady rate, it should be no time at all before Andre Silva is in contention for a place on the team. And that’s the case with almost this entire team. This team possesses great individual talent, and even greater potential, both on the individual and team basis. Should these players continue to develop, Portugal could have another “Golden Generation.” But there are “ifs” associated with such as assertion, the biggest one being the subject of playing time at club level. If Benfica, Sporting, and Porto (where the majority of these players play their club football) continue the trend of choosing to give playing time to foreigners rather than young Portuguese talent, this “Golden Generation” will certainly fall by the wayside, as countless have before.

Players who starred for the past few weeks such as Andre Silva, Tomas Podstawski, Ivo Rodrigues, and Gelson Martins (among others) need to be given regular playing time, whether that’s for their club’s first team, B team, or out on loan. It needs to happen, and if this team can continue to develop, we could see another impressive U-20 team at next summer’s U-20 World Cup, or even further down the road an impressive Portuguese National Team. But that very statement hinges on the way these players’ clubs handle them in the next few years.

Andre Moreira, Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa, Marcos Lopes, Tomas Podstawski, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Gelson Martins(Jorge Intima), Ivo Rodrigues(Romario Balde), Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U-19s Top Hosts in Thrilling Encounter


Andre Silva's 4 goals led the team to victory

Andre Silva’s 4 goals led the team to victory

Hungary 1-6 Portugal

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Andre Silva put in a man-of-the-match as Portugal defeated Hungary 6-1 in both teams’ second match of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Silva scored 4, while Gelson Martins and Ivo Rodrigues scored one apiece. The performance was an impressive one from Portugal, especially considering the horrid conditions the match was played in, with the teams having to battle through torrential rain throughout the match. It was an impressive performance from the Portuguese (who struck the post multiple times) against a very determined Hungarian side. Let’s look more in-depth:

As is the style in modern football, national youth teams typically employ the same tactics as their senior counterparts. This meant that Portugal set up today in a 4-3-3 (as they also did against Israel). This 4-3-3 is a bit different from the full national team because of the mobility of the team’s star man, Marcos Lopes. Lopes is given the freedom to surge forward, and at times almost plays as a second striker to Andre Silva. Despite this, Lopes was seen many times tracking back to help the team defend, showing that he is tactically aware. The starting lineup was not much different to the way the team came out against Israel just three days ago. Andre Moreira was given the start in goal, while the back-four was unchanged in front of him. Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, and Rafa all started in defense. In midfield, Francisco Ramos replaced Raphael Guzzo, with Tomas Podstawski and Marcos Lopes alongside him. The forwards were unchanged as well, with Ivo Rodrigues and Gelson Martins on the wing and Andre Silva in the middle.

The game started brightly for the team, although the poor weather meant that the pitch quickly deteriorated. Despite being the better side, Hungary’s determination and tenacity meant that it took 32 minutes for Portugal to score. Ivo Rodrigues picked up the ball and ran into the box. A challenge from a Hungarian defender brought down Rodrigues, and the referee awarded a penalty. Rodrigues stepped up confidently, and gracefully struck the ball into the back of the net, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead. Portugal continued pressing, and were rightfully rewarded just before the stroke of halftime. Andre Silva released Ivo Rodrigues on the right, and the winger looked to not be able to get to the ball before the Hungarian defender marking him. His marker slid into the ball, presumably to clear the ball out of play, but instead overshot the ball due to the huge amount of water on the field, and Ivo Rodrigues was gifted with the ball. Rodrigues cut the ball back to the on-rushing Andre Silva, who calmly side-footed the ball into the net. And that goal meant that Portugal went into the locker room at halftime deservedly up 2-0.

Hungary came out in the second half with a much more attacking-minded game-plan, likely as an attempt to get back into the match, which had been largely dominated by Portugal in the first half. And their attacking intent worked well for them early in the second half, as the Hungarians looked the better team for the opening 15 minutes. But Portugal began to gain control over the game again, with Marcos Lopes, who had not had a great game until this point, beginning to find his stride. Just past the hour mark, Andre Silva missed a sitter. Good work from Gelson Martins put Silva through on goal. The striker rounded the keeper, and struck the ball into the post when it seemed easier to score. It was a howler, but Silva made quick amends. Just minutes later, Francisco Ramos aimed a peach of a cross into the far post where Silva was lurking. Silva deftly headed the ball into the bottom corner, and Portugal was up 3-0. With Portugal up 3-0 and dominating, few predicted Hungary could stage a comeback. But after they scored minutes later, there was the feeling that a comeback from Hungary could be made reality. That feeling was promptly quashed by Gelson Martins, who has been hugely impressive over these two games. Martins dribbled through one, then another, then another, then another, and then dinked the ball with his left foot past the Hungarian goalkeeper. It was a truly spectacular goal from a player who before this tournament was a virtual unknown. That goal visibly deflated Hungary, whose defense looked ill-equipped to handle Portugal’s attacking prowess. That very point was shown just before the end of the game. Substitute Raphael Guzzo attempted to dribble through the heart of the Hungarian defense, and was predictably stopped, but the rebound fell to an un-marked Andre Silva, who composed himself and slotted the ball home. It was the goal that completed his hattrick, and one that perfectly represents Silva’s playing style. He’s calm on the ball, has great awareness and positioning, and is capable of holding the ball up or even taking on defenders himself. In short, he’s the striker that Portugal has needed ever since the retirement of Pauleta in 2006. But Silva wasn’t done. Three goals was not enough for him. Minutes later in stoppage time, Rafa found himself free on the left wing and aimed a cross into the box, which was met by Andre Silva. It was his fourth goal of the night and Portugal’s six. That proved to be the last event of note in the match, with the game ending 6-1 in favor of the Portuguese.

Now, Portugal faces Austria, who have also won their first two matches. Whoever wins that match will top the group, though both teams are guaranteed advancement to the next round. By winning their first two matches, Portugal has also managed to qualify for next summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is to be held in New Zealand. The U-20 World Cup is a tournament that Portugal has found success in over recent years, finishing runners-up in 2011 and reaching the second round last summer.

Andre Moreira, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Nunes, Mauro Riquicho, Francisco Ramos(Joao Palhinha), Marcos Lopes(Raphael Guzzo), Tomas Podstawski, Gelson Martins(Jorge Intima), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

2014 U-19 European Championship Preview: Portugal


Portugal U19 vs Lithuania - 2013The UEFA U-19 European Championships have long been a showcase for some of the brightest young talent in Europe, and this year looks to be no different. Players such as Daniel Sturridge and Mesut Ozil have shone in the tournament in the past, and more recently, players such as Paul Pogba have found success. And while each team is playing to win, there is an added benefit.  The top three teams from each group earn passage into the following summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. It was how the Portuguese qualified for the past two U-20 World Cups (in 2011 and 2013), and there is the hope that they can emulate that success again.

The Portuguese Under-19 Team will begin their European Championship campaign tomorrow, as they face Israel in their first match. This Portuguese team is much heralded, and is widely considered as one of the favorites coming into the tournament. And for good reason. The team has three of possibly the brightest Portuguese Under-19 prospects in the country in Andre Silva, Tomas Postawski, and Marcos Lopes. Silva is the spearhead of the team’s attacks, scoring 6 in qualification. Currently on the books at Porto, Silva split his time between Porto’s B team and the U19 team. Despite this, the striker managed 15 goals in 20 appearances for the U19 team and scored three for the B team. All at 18 years old. Another Porto prospect, Podstawski, who also holds Polish citizenship, appeared 24 times for Porto’s B team last season, following a stellar season with Porto’s U19 team. And finally, we come to Marcos Lopes. Widely believed to be “the next big thing” in Portugal, Rony Lopes, as he is called, has gained notoriety as a result of his performances at Manchester City. After impressive performances for first the club’s development squad and then the reserve squad, Lopes made his debut in City’s first team during the 2012-2013 season. Brought on late into an FA Cup tie against Watford, Lopes scored a tap-in from close range following a save from the opposition goalkeeper. This goal, scored just after Lopes’ 17th birthday, made him the Manchester City first team’s youngest ever goal scorer in a competitive match. But he hasn’t stopped there. More impressive performances in cup ties this season at Manchester City have earned him a season-long loan move to French side Lille OSC.

This Portuguese Under-19 side will face stiff competition in their quest for victory. On paper, one may dismiss the opposition joining Portugal in Group A, but upon further inspection, Portugal may face some challenges. Alongside Portugal in Group A are Israel, Austria, and Hungary. The threat that both Austria and Israel face is the strength in defense. In the six games Israel  and Austria each played in qualifying, each only conceded three goals. In the same amount of games, Portugal conceded six, against teams like Wales and Norway. Clearly, Portugal’s strength is in attack and not in defense. But one can hope that with players of the caliber of Podstawski, Lopes, and Silva, Portugal’s attacking prowess will greatly outweigh the defensive expertise of their opponents in Group A.

This competition is also known for being largely unpredictable. For instance, last year’s edition saw Serbia crowned as champions. Not many predicted a victory from a nation such as Serbia over teams like Spain, France, and the Netherlands. So, while Portugal is considered favorites to win the tournament, and some would argue have the tools at their disposal for victory, it’s all up in the air.

Pepe on Top European Clubs’ Radars


Real Madrid central defender, Pepe, is reportedly a transfer target for Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Barcelona, after contract discussions have slowed. Pepe wants his current salary to be more-than tripled to a 6 million euro per year deal. Real is only willing to offer him five, so the negotiations have stalled. Manchester United are looking for an experienced replacement for the injury-prone Rio Ferdinand. Manchester City are interested in everyone at the moment, but the citizens may be one of the only clubs that can meet him financial demands. Pepe has been at the heart of the Real Madrid defense this season, forging an iron-clad partnership with Ricardo Carvalho. With Pepe’s contract set to expire in 2012, it may be the time for him to leave.