Portugal Crush Ireland: Selecao Not a One-Trick Pony


Ronaldo - Portugal vs Ireland 2014

Portugal 5-1 Ireland

International Friendly

Portugal finished their pre-World Cup tour of America in possibly the best fashion with a 5-1 demolition of Ireland at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. Goals from Hugo Almeida (2), Fabio Coentrao, Vieirinha, and an Irish own goal contributed to the win. The wide winning margin was exactly what many speculated the team needed, after tepid performances against Greece and Mexico. The game saw Ronaldo, Raul Meireles, and Pepe all return to fitness after being out injured recently. And indeed our captain Ronaldo looked healthy and dangerous; exactly the two qualities the team needs from him most next week when Portugal kick off their World Cup campaign against Germany.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento returned to his favored 4-3-3 formation. Returning to his no.1 position in goal was Rui Patricio. In front of him were Ruben Amorim (who is adept at playing at right-back) and Fabio Coentrao on the wings. In the middle of defense was Neto and Ricardo Costa, who were presumably fill-ins for Bruno Alves and Pepe. In midfield, Bento chose William Carvalho, Raul Meireles, and Joao Moutinho, who will most likely be the starting trio that represent Portugal’s midfield next week. On the wings were a fit-again Ronaldo and Varela. They were joined up top by Hugo Almeida. Regulars Bruno Alves and Joao Pereira were given a rest for the match, but all signs are pointing toward them starting in the Seleccao’s first match against Germany next week.

The game started off brightly for the Portuguese. Within the first few minutes, the team was already 1-0 up. Great defensive work from Ruben Amorim released Varela on the right wing. The winger sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Hugo Almeida. After getting somewhat of a cushion in the form of that goal, Portugal seemed largely content with Ireland getting a hold on proceedings. But as is so common, Portugal attack against the run of play. Though Ireland was threatening, Portugal had a very good chance to double their advantage on the 13 minute mark. Some good work from Ronaldo opened room for a shot, which was parried by the Ireland goalkeeper. The rebound fell to Varela, who had the presence of mind to pick out the onrushing Raul Meireles. The midfielder’s fierce shot was well-saved, and the ball went behind for a corner kick. From the resulting kick, Hugo Almeida came within inches of doubling Portugal’s lead. From that point forward, it was largely one-way traffic. Ronaldo hit the post with another of his wonderful trademark free kicks minutes later, and it was the Real Madrid man who played a bit part in the second goal. A run forward from Coentrao was picked out by a wonderful back-heel pass from Ronaldo. The left-back crossed, and the ball took a fortunate deflection off Ireland defender Richard Keogh and looped into the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and were rewarded once again fifteen minutes later. Varela sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by the head of Ronaldo. The star man’s header was pushed away by the Irish goalkeeper, but Hugo Almeida was there to apply the finishing touch. It was the team’s third, and Almeida’s second of the night. That proved to be the last clear-cut chance of the half. Both teams went into the locker room with Portugal leading convincingly 3-0.

As could be expected, Ireland caused Portugal headaches early in the second half. And the Irish were rewarded for their hard work just 6 minutes after the restart. A well-worked set piece set winger James McClean free on the right. A simple cut-in allowed him the space to fire home past Rui Patricio. Later in the second-half, as is typical in international friendlies, there was a mass substitution. Among the players to leave the field was Ronaldo, who had performed admirably though not fully fit. Nani replaced the Real Madrid forward and was at the heart of the rest of Portugal’s forays forward. Ireland continued to threaten, and seemed determined to improve upon the momentum from their goal. Portugal managed to hold them off, and counter struck in the 77th minute. A superb cross-field pass from Joao Moutinho was taken perfectly in stride by Nani, who was motoring down the left wing. The winger took his time, and picked out the run of Vieirinha perfectly. The Wolfsburg man’s header was well saved, but he made no mistake with the rebound, shooting past the Ireland goalkeeper to record his first goal for Portugal, and stretch the scoreline to an impressive 4-1. And it was Nani at the heart of Portugal’s final goal just a few minutes later. The winger picked up the ball on the left wing once again, and instead of pressing forward, stalled a bit, and picked out the on-rushing Fabio Coentrao. The Real Madrid defender poked the ball home impressively with his right toe, and just like that, Portugal were up 5-1. And soon after, Nani was once again at the heart of another Portuguese move, and possibly one of the most exciting of which all night. The winger picked up the ball on his favored left side, and made a mazing run, playing one-two pass after one-two pass with his teammates before laying the ball off to Joao Moutinho. Moutinho dinked through a wonderful split ball to Vieirinha, whose square pass was back-heeled into the net by Nani. Alas, the wonderful move was correctly adjudged to be offside, but the point was clear. Portugal can be a mesmerizingly wonderful team.

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Much of the talk lately surrounding Portugal has been over the fitness of star man Cristiano Ronaldo. The buzz is warranted. Ronaldo won World Player of the Year for 2013, and is fresh off winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. His performances for Portugal under Paulo Bento have been nothing short of spectacular, recently surpassing Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is undoubtedly an important piece to the puzzle. But he is not the puzzle. Yes, he is the best player in the world. Yes he has the ability to change games; to improve the quality of  play; to make a difference. But pundits under-emphasize the importance of the team around him. Portugal, as a collective, is one of the most complete sides in the world currently. The team that Portugal will likely field against Germany is almost identical to the one that was named when we faced Germany at Euro 2012. The team has played together for years now, and is well-versed in the formation and tactics that Paulo Bento uses. But Portugal is not stagnant. The team has a good mix of youth and experience. Players such as Rafa and William Carvalho are wild-cards. Having not been in the international spotlight for their talent can be an asset for Portugal. Other teams won’t exactly know how to handle Rafa at full speed or William Carvalho at full-stretch. I think for people to label Portugal as a one-trick pony, and the trick to be Ronaldo, is a mistake. There is much more to a team than one man. This game highlighted this point well. Ronaldo was involved directly in two of the goals (the second and third), but Varela carved out a chance for the first goal. Nani made the chances for the other two goals. A no-Ronaldo Portugal is still capable of playing beautiful, flowing football. Ronaldo is important, but just as important are the collective around him.

Rui Patricio, Ruben Amorim(Miguel Veloso), Neto(Pepe), Ricardo Costa, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, William Carvalho, Raul Meireles(Andre Almeida), Ronaldo(Nani), Varela(Vieirinha), Hugo Almeida(Helder Postiga)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Hat-trick Hero Ronaldo Leads Portugal Past Northern Ireland


Ronaldo - Northern Ireland vs Portugal

 

Northern Ireland 2-4 Portugal

2014 World Cup Qualfication

It was a night to remember for Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain started and scored three goals in a 4-2 come-from-behind win against Northern Ireland in 2014 World Cup qualification. Accused of under-performing for Portugal in the past, those criticisms are quickly being forgotten. This win keeps Portugal at the top of their qualification group, ahead of Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, and Luxembourg (though they’ve played one more game).

The game started off as a relatively even affair between the two teams. Bento had named a familiar starting lineup, one that has worked for him in the past. The first goal came in the 21st minute. A corner kick was swung in by Joao Moutinho. The ball met the head of a Northern Ireland defender, who cleared the ball to the edge of the box. Bruno Alves was waiting, and promptly side-foot-volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net to make the score 0-1 in Portugal’s favor. This was the first clear opportunity of the night, and the quality of play was encouraging. Vieirinha, who replaced the off-form Nani in the starting lineup, came close with a near-post shot after some impressive wing-play. Play soon fell in the favor of the hosts, who began pressing Portugal more and more. Northern Ireland was soon rewarded when an in-swinging corner kick was met by the head of Gareth McAuley. With the scores leveled,  Helder Postiga very stupidly picked up a red card just before half-time because of a failure to keep his temper in check. Both the teams went into the locker room level on the scoreboard, but Northern Ireland definitely had the run of play in their favor.

The second half started in the worst possible fashion for Portugal. Another corner kick from Northern Ireland caused confusion in the Portuguese box, allowing Jaime Ward to score his first international goal. It was not the start that Portugal had been hoping for, though it came as no surprise, given the events of the first half. Portugal began to press harder and harder after the goal, with Miguel Veloso most notably coming close with a long-range bullet. The equalizer came soon after Veloso’s effort. Moutinho swung in a corner kick, which was met by the head of Cristiano Ronaldo. The header was unstoppable, and the scores were now leveled at 2-2. The momentum was starting to shift, and Portugal began pushing even more, in search of a winning goal. That search only lasted about ten minutes. Fabio Coentrao picked up the ball deep on the left side, and sent an early, looping cross into the box. Ronaldo was there to head the ball in the net, making the score 3-2 in Portugal’s favor. The Selecaao (rather Ronaldo) weren’t done just yet. Winning a free kick on the edge of the box, Ronaldo struck the ball through the wall and into the Northern Irish net to make the score 4-2, and completing his first-ever hat-trick for Portugal.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles(Nani), Vieirinha(Nelson Oliveira), Ronaldo(Ruben Amorim), Helder Postiga

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Bento Names Squad of 23 for Brazil and Northern Ireland Clashes


Portugal vs Croatia - RonaldoPaulo Bento announced today a list of 23 players for the Seleccao’s upcoming matches against Northern Ireland and Brazil. The Northern Ireland match, to be played on September 6, is a crucial World Cup qualifying match for the Seleccao. Portugal currently sits in first (with a game in hand) in their qualifying group, but must win all of their remaining games for any hope of qualifying. Three days later, the team travels to the United States for a friendly match against Brazil. The squad list is below:

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: João Pereira (Valência), Ricardo Costa (Valência), Pepe (Real Madrid), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Neto (Zenit), Antunes (Málaga)

Midfielders: Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Miguel Veloso (Dínamo Kiev), Rúben Micael (Braga), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), André Martins (Sporting), Josué (FC Porto)

Forwards: Danny (Zenit), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Hélder Postiga (Valência)

Hapless Portugal Tie Northern Ireland


Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland

The Portugal National team failed to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Russia, as they could only muster a boring draw against Northern Ireland. The team dropped further points, and now sit in third in the group, behind Russia and Israel, who is level on points but is second by virtue of goal difference. Portugal has a nasty habit of playing to their opponent’s level. During last summer’s European championship, Portugal was one of the few teams who could play Spain well. Along the way, they held their own with Germany, and defeated Denmark and Holland. Yet somehow, this team cannot even muster a win against lowly Northern Ireland.

Much of the pre-match buzz was over Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain was to win his 100th cap for the Seleccao, and a gala ensued before the match. Consequently, much of the attention was on Ronaldo to make magic happen, and the winger recorded the team’s first shot soon after the starting whistle. The play from Portugal was lethargic in nature, and the team were punished on the half-hour mark by what was becoming a more and more resilient Northern Ireland side. The Irish struck on a counterattack. Lafferty found the onrushing McGinn, who poked the ball over Rui Patricio to give the Northern Irish the lead. Pepe and Joao Pereira were both grossly out of position in the play leading up to the goal. Try as they might, Portugal simply could not find the deadlock. The Seleccao was playing with uncharacteristically low cohesion, which is usually the team’s strong-suits. Portugal went into the half knowing that they needed to improve their performance in the second half.

Portugal came out in the second half and immediately improved the quality of their play. The team peppered the Northern Irish goal with shot after shot, but still could not find that all-important goal. That goal duly arrived in the 80th minute. Bruno Alves sent in an arching cross, which Eder expertly headed down into the path of Helder Postiga, who swiveled and shot into the bottom corner. Postiga had not been enjoying a good night up until that point, but that goal sent the fans into raptures. No matter how hard Portugal tried, they could not beat the resolve of the Northern Ireland defense, who held firm, as the game ended at 1-1.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira(Eder), Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Lopes(Ruben Amorim), Miguel Veloso, Ruben Micael(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani, Helder Postiga

HIGHLIGHTS

Nelson Called to Replace Coentrao


Paulo Bento has called up Nelson to replace the injured Fabio Coentrao for the team’s upcoming match against Northern Ireland. Coentrao hobbled off the pitch during Portugal’s last game against Russia, and it appears that the defender will not recover in time for the game this week. Called to replace Coentrao and to give the Seleccao cover in the right/left back spots is Nelson, currently playing for Real Betis. Also dropped is Raul Meireles, who also cannot shake off his injury. No replacement will be called for Meireles.

2014 World Cup Qualification Groups Drawn


FIFA announced earlier this week the qualification groups for the 2014 World Cup, slated to be held in Brazil. Portugal drew a seemingly easy group with Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, and Luxembourg. This group seems easier than the ones in the immediate past, but, as we have learned, Portugal has a knack of making a mess of things. Hopefully, under Paulo Bento, those days are over. Russia will be the most likely to give the team a run for their money, and Israel has an outside chance of doing just the same.

Liga Orangina Younsters to Watch: Abel Camara


The Liga Orangina, which is Portugal’s second division, has nurtured many young talents in Portuguese Football over the past years. These talents have gone on to lead successful careers. Players such as Carlos Martins, Beto, Bruno Alves, and Raul Meireles have all, at one point in their lofty careers, plied their trade in the Liga Orangina. More recently, players such as Rafael Lopes, who represented the Portuguese team at the recent U-20 World Cup, and Joao Silva, who’s scoring exploits in the Liga Orangina earned him a move to Premier League giants Everton, have impressed.

Now, we will take a look at the new crop of players who show promise in the Liga; players who we will certainly hear much of in the coming seasons. First up is Abel Camara, of Belenenses.

Abel Camara

Belenenses

Player to Watch

Liga Orangina side Belenenses has had a reputation for some time of their youth policy. Ruben Amorim, Goncalo Brandao, and Rolando all graduated from their youth academy, and the newest starlet to come through the ranks is Abel Camara.

Abel joined Belenenses at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season, and linked up with the youth team for the season. The following season, the striker was shipped away to Estrela Amadora, who was then languishing in the third division in Portugal. There, he enjoyed success, scoring six times in the season, still only aged 19. His performances caught the eye of Belenenses, who recalled him to the first team for the 2010-2011 season. He made his debut for the team on the opening day of the season against Aves, and marked it with a goal. He went on to score three more times that season, and also picked up a couple of appearances for the Portuguese Under-21 team, most notably scoring a screamer on his debut against Ireland.

Much is expected of Abel, not only for Belenenses, but also Portugal. The Portuguese National Team has lacked a true striker in recent years, and although that problem seems to be not as pressing as it once was, Abel could fit the bill. He is fast, has a tireless work rate, and has a men shot on him. He has already debuted for the country of his birth, Guiné-Bissau, but as his debut was in a friendly match, he has the capability of switching allegiances. In the meantime, the striker is appearing for Portugal’s U-21 team.

2014 World Cup Qualification Groups Drawn


The qualification draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was today, and Portugal have been drawn in a slightly difficult group. Portugal were drawn in Group 6 alongside Russia, Israel, Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan, and Luxembourg. This group may not seem very hard, but Russia may give us a run for our money.

Russia’s squad performed well at Euro 2008, but since has not lived up to those performances, failing to qualify for last summer’s World Cup. Russia will look to Arsenal’s Andrei Arshavin and Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko for any attacking flair, while their leading midfielder, Konstantin Zyryanov, is getting on in years, currently at 33. Israel will be a little less tricky, with their main attacking threat coming through Benayoun, Ben Sahar, and Eran Zahavi. Portugal has only played Israel once before, with that game ending in a 2-1 win for the Seleccao. Northern Ireland have caused some upsets in various qualification campaigns in the past, so Portugal may need to look out for that, while Azerbaijan and Luxembourg pose little to no threat at all.