U-20 Stars Make Step up to U-21


Tiago Ilori and Bruma - SportingRui Jorge announced his squad for the Portugal Under-21 team on Friday for the team’s matches against Israel and Azerbaijan, and included two of the brightest prospects in Portuguese football at the moment. Tiago Ilori and Bruma, who starred for Portugal at last summer’s U20 World Cup, have made the list, and are in line to make their debut for the team. Tiago Ilori’s good form last year for Sporting and subsequent solid display at the U20 World Cup convinced Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to splash out over seven million euros for him. Bruma, also a product of Sporting, has similar displays to that of Ilori to thank for his success. Also impressive last season, Bruma picked up the silver shoe at the U20 World Cup, and earned a move to Galatasaray, who paid in excess of eight million euros for him. Both players are enjoying solid seasons thusfar, Bruma in Galatasaray’s first team, Ilori in Liverpool’s youth side, while on the fringes of the first team. Here’s the entire list:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Fernandes (Osnabruck), José Sá (Marítimo), Luís Ribeiro (Sporting)


Defenders: Josué (Vitória Guimaraes), João Amorim (Vitória Guimaraes), Luís Martins (Gil Vicente), Miguel Rodrigues (Nacional), Paulo Oliveira (Vitória Guimaraes), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Tiago Ilori (Liverpool)

 

Midfielders: André Gomes (Benfica), Tó Zé (Porto B), João Mário (Sporting B), Luís Gustavo (Rio Ave), Rafa (Braga), Sérgio Oliveira (Paços de Ferreira), Tiago Silva (Belenenses), William (Sporting)

Forwards: Betinho (Sporting B), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica B), Ricardo Pereira (Porto), Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting B)

Who Will Make the Cut for Gabon Friendly?


The Portuguese National Team is scheduled to meet Gabon a little less that two weeks from now, and after a string of sub-par performances, they will be looking for a resounding win. International friendlies are often used to try out new players to the national team setup, but experimentation must be used in moderation. Paulo Bento surely knows this better than anyone at the moment. If he experiments too much, he risks the chance that the team may under-perform  If he doesn’t experiment enough, he will be accused of failing to change a team that isn’t getting results. In other words, Bento must find the right balance for the team. Let’s take a look at who may make the cut.

Goalkeepers

The goalkeeper situation is surely one that Bento won’t lose sleep over. With Beto (Braga), Rui Patricio (Sporting), and Eduardo (Istanbul BB) all regulars for their respective clubs, he can easily justify their inclusion. In fact, all three are enjoying wonderful seasons. Rui Patricio’s heroics have ensured that Sporting isn’t having an even worse season, while Beto has sparkled for Braga, both in the Champions League, and also the Liga Zon Sagres, where the team sits just behind Benfica and Porto, in third. Even Eduardo, who hasn’t had an easy time lately, is playing well for Istanbul BB, currently at 12th place in the Turkish league.

The main other contender is Mario Felgueiras, who has been in scintillating form for Romanian outfit CFR Cluj this season, namely in the Champions League. Felgueiras joined the Romanian team from Braga after an extremely successful loan to Brasov last season, and at only 25, Felgueiras still has much of his career ahead of him, as opposed to Eduardo and Beto, who are both 30.

Bento, however, will likely call only two goalkeepers for this friendly, as it is not sensible to have one goalkeeper sit the bench for no reason. Rui Patricio is a shoo-in, with the other spot up for grabs between Beto, Eduardo, and Mario Felgueiras.

Prediction: Rui Patricio, Beto

Defenders

On the contrary, picking defenders will be much more of a labored task for Bento. Pepe (Real Madrid) and Bruno Alves (Zenit) have been the foundation for the Seleccao defense ever since Ricardo Carvalho stormed out, and have generally impressed. Because Bento is not really one for experimentation, those two look certain picks. Elsewhere in the center of defense may be Sereno (Valladolid), Neto (Siena), Nuno Andre Coelho (Braga), Rolando (Porto), or Jose Fonte (Southampton). Sereno and Neto are starters for their respective clubs, and have accordingly been called to the Seleccao for some previous games, but have not made their debuts. Due to an injury to Douglao, Nuno Andre Coelho is getting a chance to shine at Braga, and much the same as Sereno and Neto, has yet to earn his first cap, despite having been called before. Rolando and Jose Fonte are not enjoying good seasons, however, but for different reasons. Rolando is not a starter for Porto anymore after the emergence of the Otamendi-Maicon partnership. For Jose Fonte, however, holding down a starting spot is the least of his worries. His defense at Southampton is the worst in the Premier League this season, having already let in 26 goals, only 9 games in. Nevertheless, he is playing at a more competitive stage than both Rolando and Nuno Andre Coelho, so a call may not be out of the question.

On the wings of defense, it seems Portugal has almost an embarrassment of riches. The obvious choices are Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid) on the left and Joao Pereira (Valencia) on the right. Though neither of their respective seasons have been strong, they are still definite picks, though Fabio Coentrao is injured, and thus ineligible for selection. The last spot must be picked from Miguel Lopes (Porto), Eliseu (Malaga), Nelson (Real Betis), and possibly even Cedric (Sporting). Eliseu is currently in the form of his career for Malaga, both in the Champions League and La Liga, while Nelson is also having a good time of it in La Liga for Real Betis. Miguel Lopes is seeing intermittent playing time for Porto this season, while Cedric has established himself as a starting right-back for Sporting.

Prediction: Pepe, Bruno Alves, Neto, Nuno Andre Coelho, Miguel Lopes, Joao Pereira, Eliseu

Midfield

Bento will likely be pulling out his hair when he begins to choose the midfield. Joao Moutinho (Porto) and Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev) both are obvious choices. They have enjoyed successful starts to the season in their respective leagues, but success has also come in the Champions League. Whereas Moutinho and Veloso are obvious choices, Raul Meireles (Fenderbahce), Custodio (Braga), Ruben Micael (Braga), and Hugo Viana (Braga) aren’t as much. While Ruben Micael, Custodio, and Hugo Viana are both enjoying wonderful seasons for Braga, and Raul Meireles is enjoying a good start to life in Turkey at Fenerbahce, none are guaranteed call-ups.

Three other midfielders who may earn the call are Manuel Fernandes (Besiktas), Carlos Martins (Benfica), and Ruben Amorim (Braga). Manuel Fernandes has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the Turkish league at the moment, while Ruben Amorim is becoming an integral part of the successful Braga team this season. Carlos Martins, however, is not having a good season at Benfica. He has hardly seen any playing time, and a call-up may only happen on the basis that he has been with the Seleccao for some time now. Also, Danny (Zenit) has recovered from his injury, and though he is out of match practice, a call-up is certainly not out of the question. Paulo Machado (Olympiakos) has enjoyed a good start to life in Greece, and is currently impressing in the Champions League.

Prediction: Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Ruben Micael, Hugo Viana, Custodio, Manuel Fernandes

Forwards

The striker position is one that arguably needs the most tinkering out of all other positions. Though Helder Postiga’s (Zaragoza) scoring rate for the Seleccao has been impressive, he has been accused (rightfully so) of missing crucial opportunities. Hugo Almeida (Besiktas) is considered even more of a culprit, so much that he wasn’t even called on for the Seleccao’s previous selection. Both strikers, however, have been in good form for their respective clubs so far this season, so a call-up would be merited, but possibly not a starting spot. Eder (Braga), Nelson Oliveira (Deportivo), and Nuno Gomes (Blackburn Rovers) have all been in varying degrees of form for their respective clubs, and a call-up is possible for any of them also. Eder’s inclusion in the squad is almost a definite. The striker has risen to prominence this season after his performances for Braga in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Champions League. He is currently the Liga Zon Sagres top scorer with six goals (in five games), and a starting spot is probable. Nelson Oliveira is certainly a star for the future, and his performances for Deportivo at the beginning of the season were promising, but he has since failed to live up to the hype. That having been said, a call-up is certainly not out of the question. While Nelson Oliveira is just beginning his career, Nuno Gomes is at the end of his. Gomes made a surprise move to England this summer to join up with second-tier side Blackburn Rovers. He has since shown that he still has the killer instinct in front of goal after scoring four so far this season. Due to his age, and the other striking options, a call-up is unlikely, but still possible.

One of Portugal’s strongest positions is on the wing. Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (Porto), and Pizzi (Deportivo) are shoo-ins to make the squad. Ronaldo has enjoyed a wonderful season to date, and being our captain and a former world player of the year, his inclusion is a no-brainer. Nani, on the other hand, is not having a wonderful season. The winger has been in and out of the team at Manchester United, and a recent row with coach Sir Alex Ferguson has all but ensured his departure this January. That having been said, his skill is undeniable, and a spot in the team is practically guaranteed. Varela has been in great form this season for Porto, having won the starting wing spot back after the departure of Hulk to Zenit, and a call-up is likely. Another player in great form is Pizzi, who is playing at Deportivo, currently on loan from Atletico Madrid. The winger has established himself as one of the most vital parts of the team at Deportivo, with his double against Barcelona proving just that. Though he hasn’t made his debut for the Seleccao yet, it surely isn’t that far away.

Other wingers that may make the grade are Bruno Gama (Deportivo), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), and Salvador Agra (Real Betis). All three have been in and out of their respective teams, but all possess undeniable talent.

Prediction: Nelson Oliveira, Eder, Helder Postiga, Pizzi, Ronaldo, Nani, Varela

Full Predicted Squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio, Beto

Defenders: Pepe, Bruno Alves, Neto, Nuno Andre Coelho, Miguel Lopes, Joao Pereira, Eliseu

Midfielders: Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Ruben Micael, Hugo Viana, Custodio, Manuel Fernandes

Forwards: Nelson Oliveira, Eder, Helder Postiga, Pizzi, Ronaldo, Nani, Varela

 

*Ricardo (Academica), Ruben Ferreira (Maritimo), and Nuno Andre Coelho (Braga) have been pre-selected, but are not necessarily guaranteed a spot in the final squad.

Who should make the Portuguese team for Euro 2012: Goalkeepers


As is the case before any major tournament, a number of players are vying for a limited amount of spots for their respective national teams. The Portuguese team is no different. Many Portuguese players are enjoying stellar seasons for their clubs, and are certainly hoping for a call to represent their country at this summer’s Euro 2012. We’ll break down these candidates position-by-position, in an effort to predict how Paulo Bento will choose the final squad. First up is the goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers

Definites: Rui Patricio (Sporting)

Maybes: Eduardo (Benfica), Beto (CFR Cluj), Quim (Braga)

Outsiders: Ricardo (Vitoria Setubal), Hugo Ventura (Olhanense), Daniel Fernandes (Twente)

 

The goalkeeping position is rarely a problem for the Portuguese team. There has always seemed to be a strong goalkeeper at the start of every major tournament. For the 2002 World Cup, Vitor Baia was the undisputed choice. For Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup, and Euro 2008, Ricardo was between the sticks, and for the 2010 World Cup, Eduardo was first-choice. These keepers certainly met all expectations, and have established the fact that the goalkeeping position is consistently one of the strongest on the Portuguese team.

This time around, Rui Patricio is our man. A major part of Sporting’s success in the Europa League this season is down to his heroics in goal. It’s not just for Sporting, however. Patricio has emulated his club form on a national stage for Portugal. Our former stalwart is Eduardo. Arguably just as talented as before, a lack of playing time has been Eduardo’s main problem. After lackluster performances last season for Genoa, Eduardo was shipped off to Benfica for a season-long loan. Unable to dislodge Artur Moraes as first choice, Eduardo has been warming the bench ever since joining the club. Although his playing time has been scarce, his proven ability in the past will most likely win him a place on the team at Euro 2012. Another goalkeeper that has been loaned this season is Beto. Beto was the standout performer in the 2008-2009 season for newly-promoted Leixoes. His performances caught the eye of Porto, who snapped him up for a nominal fee. Despite possessing proven talent, Beto has never earned a starting spot over first-choice Helton. This season, in search for regular playing time, Beto was loaned to Romanian side CFR Cluj. Since then, he has played regularly, and a call-up to Euro 2012 may not be too unrealistic. Braga has continued to establish itself as one of Portugal’s top teams, and right at the heart of it all is Quim. Formerly the undisputed first-choice at Benfica, and even earlier at Braga, Quim has played a pivotal role in Braga’s surge to third-place this season. Although he has amassed 32 caps for the Seleccao, he has only appeared once at a major tournament. His performances this season show that he still has it, even at 36, but will that be enough for Paulo Bento? The outsiders looking in at a spot at Euro 2012 with Portugal are Daniel Fernandes, Ricardo, and Hugo Ventura. None of the three have appeared very much, if at all for Twente, Vitoria Setubal, and Olhanense respectively, and a spot on the Portuguese bus to Euro 2012 looks unlikely.

 

Probable bus-riders: Rui Patricio, Eduardo, Beto

 

Name

Club

Age

League Apps

Cup

Apps

Continental

Apps

Total

Apps

Rui Patricio Sporting

24

25

5

12

42

Eduardo Benfica

29

0

8

0

8

Beto Cluj

29

21

0

0

21

Quim Braga

36

26

2

10

38

Ricardo Setubal

36

3

3

0

6

Daniel Fernandes Twente

28

0

0

0

0

Hugo Ventura Olhanense

24

0

0

0

0

Rocha and Teixeira Make Late Moves


For some reason, all of the good moves happen late. Former Benfica defender Ricardo Rocha, who has played for the likes of Tottenham and Standard Leige, has recently been without a club. Portsmouth, trying to fill the void that will be left from Kaboul’s departure to Tottenham, snatched up the injury-prone defender.

Elsewhere, Felipe Teixeira has made a loan move from West Brom to Barnesley. This move will be good for the Portuguese midfielder who has gotten limited playing time for the Championship side.