Part II: Primeira Liga 2014/2015 Top 10 Under-24…Outside the “Big Three”


Danilo (left) was superb this season at Maritimo

Danilo (left) was superb this season at Maritimo

Two weeks ago, PortugalFutbol announced Part I of the Primeira Liga’s Top 10 Under 24 from last season. In Part I, we announced who were the honorable mentions, and promised the full list to follow. These are ten of the best under-24 Portuguese players from last season playing outside of the “Big Three.” The data has been gathered and the decisions made. Here’s the list. Continue reading

Hélio Sousa Announces U-20 World Cup Squad


Rony Lopes in action last summer for the Portugal U-19s

Rony Lopes in action last summer for the Portugal U-19s. Lopes is possibly the most well-known name to be included in Sousa’s team.

Portugal U-20 head coach Hélio Sousa announced today Portugal’s 21-man squad for the U-20 World Cup, which begins later this month. The team is largely comprised of players who featured for the Portugal U-19 at last summer’s U-19 European Championship. Continue reading

Primeira Preview & Prediction (PPP) – Round 19


Paulo Fonseca's touchline ban can only hurt Pacos Ferreira's chances against Porto this weekend. Photo: Publico

Paulo Fonseca’s touchline ban can only hurt Pacos Ferreira’s chances against Porto this weekend. Photo: Publico

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. You won’t find a better analysis of last weekend’s Primeira Liga action than Charles Dickens’ introductory sentiment in his classic A Tale of Two Cities. It was as if the Portuguese soccer world turned on its head overnight: All the minnows became giants and all the winners became losers. All, that is, except for the Lions of Lisbon, who were the only top-five team to escape the round with a victory.

Depending on where you pledge your allegiance, you were either thrilled or distraught; no doubt most neutrals loved the results as they blew what was once a foregone conclusion of a title race wide open to a three team race that, if last week’s scores are anything to go by, could go either way down the stretch.

As Portuguese football fans, we were treated to a number of curious results and shock upsets that thoroughly entertained us in one way or another; as Portuguese football prognosticators, however, we were made complete fools of and left to pick up the pieces of our shattered confidence.

My confidence in particular has left the building along with Elvis: I only correctly guessed the winner of one match (Sporting over Academica) and came away from the weekend with an embarrassing 1-8 record. I now have an overall record of 6-12. Yikes. I guess my new approach didn’t pay off huh?

Something tells me I wasn’t the only one cryin’ like a hound dog when it was all over though. I mean, who in their right mind would’ve tipped Vitoria de Guimaraes to drop points at home against last place Gil Vicente, or, Benfica, Porto, AND Braga to lose to the likes of Pacos de Ferreira, Maritimo, and Boavista? It’s insanity I tell ya – insanity!

But, let’s be honest, that’s what makes betting – even just friendly betting with no money involved – fun. Nothing is a sure thing no matter how much we’d like to believe it is, and, it’s the mystery that keeps us engaged.

Speaking of a mystery, who knows how my picks will play out this week? If I have another terrible showing I might just revert to flipping a coin or pulling teams out of a hat to see if my record becomes more respectable. But, for the time being, I’m taking one more chance without literally resorting to chance. Here are my inclinations for the 19th round of play: Continue reading

Primeira Liga Week in Review


Rafa Silva was hugely impressive for Braga against Pacos Ferreira. Photo: Getty Images

Rafa Silva was hugely impressive for Braga against Pacos Ferreira. Photo: Getty Images

It was an exciting weekend in the Primeira Liga, with a lot of movement in the table. Victories from Braga, Porto, Benfica, and Sporting all helped cement their places high up the table, while further losses from Gil Vicente, Nacional, and Vitoria Setubal slipped them further down the table. The match of note this weekend was Braga’s convincing 3-0 victory over the impressive Pacos de Ferreira. Let’s take a look at all the action. Continue reading

Primeira Liga Roundup: Round 1


Primeira Liga

The Portuguese league kicked off this past weekend, much to the delight of the followers of the Portuguese game. Here’s the round-up by Mitchell Rua of all the matches played this weekend. 

A Dream Debut (FC Porto 2-0 Marítimo)

FC Porto opened their campaign with a solid display against European hopefuls Marítimo in front of a packed Estádio do Dragão, capped off by goals from teenage debutant Ruben Neves Jackson Martinez.

Neves, the youngest player to start a league match for the Dragões opened the scoring after just 12 minutes, as the young Tripeiro rifled a shot from inside the penalty area past keeper Salin after receiving a deflected cross from the left.

Leonel Ponte’s men tried to respond, with Diego Sousa and Fran Sergio testing Fabiano, but to no avail, as Porto controlled most of the first-half. Oliver Torres was at the heart of each attack, with impressive ball circulation as both Quaresma and Brahimi wreaked havoc on the wings.

The second half brought an improved display as Marítimo’s resolve waned. Jackson began to rise to the occasion, with a couple of half-chances falling his way. Pontes threw on former Guimaraes striker Maazou in the hope of salvaging a point but opportunities were few and far between as the Madeirenses rued missed chances.

It was Lopetegui’s substitutes, Evandro and Tello that brought some much needed attacking penetration. The latter’s jinking run from the right and pass into the path of Cha Cha Cha was converted at the second attempt at the death as Porto got the deserved three points.

Gaitán answers his critics as Benfica break the curse (Benfica 2-0 Paços de Ferreira)

Benfica put in a dominant performance against last year’s bottom dwellers Paços in a match earmarked by the in-from Nicolas Gaitán, breaking a 10 year drought of opening games without a win.

Fonseca’s troops started the better of the two sides, wasting a golden opportunity from the penalty spot as Manuel Joe’s spot kick was saved by Artur with a diving save in potentially his last game for the Águias.

Gaitán found a vein of form sorely missed from his early Benfica days with two assists. The Argentine ran riot as Os Castores undoubtedly rueing missed opportunities as Maxi Pereira and Salvio netted a goal in each half.

The only blip on the Benfica radar came with an injury to combative workhorse Enzo Perez in potentially his last game for the club with the rumour mill in full swing over a potential transfer.

False start for Silva and co. (Académica 1-1 Sporting CP)

Sporting disappointed in their opening tie of the season, dropping two points to The Students. Os Verde-e-Brancos came into the tie having not lost in 36 years in Coimbra, and after Carillo’s header from a fine Jefferson cross it looked as if this trend would continue.

Marco Silva’s side took advantage of an Académica side under renovation, with sixteen departures and a new-look defence accounting for Sporting’s dominance, although the tie had not yet been put to bed after a flurry of opportunities to the visitors.

As the game wore on, Sporting’s stranglehold gradually weakened. Missing Slimani’s presence in the final third due to disciplinary measures, an out-of-touch William, sent off for a second bookable offence, and a Cédric injury opened the door for the home side.

In the end, Académica were able to salvage a point with from a Carrillo error as a last-gasp equaliser from Rafael Lopes sharing the points, much to the delight of the Mancha Negra faithful and coach Paulo Sergio: “There’s merit, but it’s only a point.”

Reality check for the Panthers (Braga 3-0 Boavista)

One of only two clubs outside the ‘Big Three’ to have won the league, Boavista was given a huge wakeup call against the Arsenalistas.

Six years after being demoted to the second division, and subsequently the third tier, Os Axadrezados, and former player, turned coach Petit, have a lot of hard work to do, conceding a goal to Pedro Tiba inside a minute.

History aside, the gulf in class was evident as Ruben Micael and Éder added further misery. A leaner footballing calendar for Sérgio Conceição could spell European football next season and a tilt at the coveted title that alluded them three years prior.

Guimaraes and Belenenses impress as Moreirense surprise

Belenenses and Vitoria Guimaraes both impressed away from home with 3-1 wins. Rui Vitória was “satisfied with the result” as a brace from B team graduate Hernani sandwiched a Bernard strike against Os Galos in Barcelos.

Newly-promoted Penafiel’s frailties were exposed Lito Vidigal’s Belenenses as the Lisbon-side left with three points thanks to goals from Sturgeon, Deyverson and Miguel Rosa, with Joao Martin’s penalty doing little to stop the organised outfit from Belem.

In Vila do Conde, European debutants Rio Ave continued to ride a wave of from after a solid 2-0 victory in a game with three red cards. Pedro Martins’ ten men took the lead through Diego Lopes having gone a man down, with a red card from Setubal’s Zequinha followed by Marcelo’s strike in the 77th minute, putting the game to bed. A late Manu sending off made little difference as Paciência made a poor start in his return to Portuguese football.

The biggest surprise of the round came with victory from Moreirense at the Choupana against Nacional, with Miguel Leal’s side finding the back of the net through substitute Ramon Cardozo. The former Setubal striker is known to have a keen eye for goal and he was the difference in the 80th minute as Machado’s men were left with egg on their face.

Jose Couceiro’s first game in charge of the league’s surprise package over the last couple of seasons, Estoril, ended in a stalemate. Last year’s new boys Arouca opened the scoring through Pintassilgo in the 17th minute, making the most of a Ruben Fernandes error. Estoril quickly responded; the Canarinhos scoring through former GD Chaves striker Kuca. Neither side could settle the tie, Couceiro venting his frustrations: “We created various opportunities on goal, but we paid for our mistakes.”

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.