Few of the players in Portugal’s squad which finished as runners-up at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup have experienced success. Out of the squad of 21, only two have earned caps with the senior national team, and only Cedric Soares has really shown the promise of a bright future. One player, however, is beginning to show his true colors, despite not being one of the more talked about players in the 2011 team. Mario Rui has enjoyed a successful start to the season at Empoli in Italy’s Serie A, winning a starting spot at left-back. His performances have established himself as one of the most important members of the squad. Continue reading
Following Portugal’s stellar performance at the recent U-20 World Cup, many wondered whether the crop of players who went so far in the tournament would continue their form for their club teams. Let’s take a look at how the 2011-2012 season is going for each of those young, talented players.
Mika – The best goalkeeper of the tournament was swiftly snapped up by league giants Benfica, but has since found playing time non-existent. While he has appeared a couple of times for the Portugal U-21 team, he has not been as lucky at Benfica. He is currently third in the pecking order, behind Artur Moraes and Eduardo, first and second respectively.
Tiago Maia – Maia is in a similar predicament as Mika, only instead of moving to a big club in the summer, he dropped down a division to promotion-hopefuls Santa Clara. The playing time hasn’t come as easily as he must have expected, however. He is third in the goalkeeping order, behind Stefanovic and Brice. Maia has only appeared on the bench twice, and is yet to make his official debut.
Luis Ribeiro – Last but not least on the list of goalkeepers is Luis Ribeiro, currently on loan at Sertanense from Sporting. Sertanense is currently competing in the third division in Portugal, but nevertheless, Ribeiro has yet to make an appearance for the club.
Tiago Ferreira – The David Luiz lookalike has not featured for Porto’s first team, which comes as no surprise as he is still 18 years old. He has been a regular for the team’s youth setup, and continues to be a player to watch for the future.
Nuno Reis – The U-20 captain has built off what was a successful first season in Belgium last term. The defender has made five appearances so far this season, helping Cercle Brugge, where he is on loan from Sporting Lisbon, to second in the Belgian league.
Roderick – Clearly the second choice for the U-20 team’s center defense, his pairing with Nuno Reis was one to remember. Currently on loan from Benfica to Swiss side Servette, Roderick has excelled. The defender has played in six of Servette’s matches this season, and looks to have a successful season.
Cedric Soares – The right back/right midfielder/everything else has joined Academica on loan from Sporting Lisbon for the entire season. At Academica, he has established himself as their first-choice right-back. In doing this, he has also put in a case for a starting spot in the Portugal U-21 team.
Luis Martins – Benfica coach Jorge Jesus surprised everyone when he named Martins over Joan Capdevila in the team’s Champions League squad. By doing that, he was hinting that Martins could become Benfica’s second choice left-back. He has since appeared on the bench three times, further confirming the theory that he is their second-choice left back at age 19.
Mario Rui – The left-back has joined Serie B side Gubbio on loan from Parma. Rui was snapped up by Parma in the off-season, but was immediately loaned out to Gubbio to gain experience. The defender has since made six appearances, mainly from the substitute’s bench, all the while staking a claim for a starting spot in the Portugal U-21 team.
The Portuguese Under-20 Team is through to the second round after two 1-0 wins over Cameroon and New Zealand each. Portugal’s overall play improved from their lackluster display against Uruguay in their opening match. The team added to their rock-solid defense a creative offense, and while it hasn’t gotten them goals, it has helped them just enough to reach the next round.
Portugal vs Cameroon
Portugal earned a deserved 1-0 victory over their African opponents on Tuesday. Nelson Oliveira scored the Seleccao’s only goal, which was enough to get them the win. Portugal controlled the majority of the match, and enjoyed much more success in their attack than they did against Uruguay. Their attack all payed off when two poor clearances from Cameroon’s defenders gave Nelson Oliveira a one-on-one situation. The Benfica man took his goal well, calmly lobbing it over the keeper to make the score 1-0. Portugal continued to control the match, but the game would end at 1-0.
Mika, Nuno Reis, Roderick, Cedric, Luis Martins(Mario Rui), Pele, Danilo Pereira, Julio Alves(Ricardo Dias), Alex, Nelson Oliveira, Caetano(Amidio Balde)
Portugal vs New Zealand
The Seleccao U-20 sealed their place in the second round with their 1-0 win over New Zealand. Mario Rui scored the only goal of the match, but that was enough to give Portugal a deserved 1-0 win. Many are wondering, however, how the score was not more than 1-0. Portugal had many opportunities, mainly through Nelson Oliveira, who enjoyed a splendid game.
Mika, Nuno Reis, Roderick(Tiago Ferreira), Mario Rui, Cedric, Pele, Danilo Pereira(Sergio Oliveira), Alex, Julio Alves, Nelson Oliveira, Caetano(Ricardo Dias)
The Portuguese Under-20 team will now face Guatemala in the Round of 16 of the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Guatemala have not looked impressive at all, losing 6-0 to Saudi Arabia and 5-0 to Nigeria, so a comfortable win should be in the bag. The quality of this Portuguese team is evident, and will continue to grow as the team finds its feet in this competition. Nelson Oliveira and Caetano have already shown that they are destined for bigger things, and players such as Pele, Danilo Pereira, and our entire defense have shown what they are capable of. Portugal will go far in this tournament. Mark my words.