Recently, rumors have surfaced linking Braga’s Pedro Tiba to a transfer to French side Marsielle. For those who have followed the Primeira Liga since last season, this rumor comes as little surprise. Pedro Tiba has been immense since his debut in the league last season, and his move to Braga this summer and subsequent National Team selection highlight how impressive his performances have been. But just two seasons ago, Tiba was playing in the Portuguese Second Division, which is the country’s third division. Now, he’s a starter for a Primeira Liga team and is being linked to the current Ligue 1 leaders. Let’s take a closer look at his meteoric rise. Continue reading
Portugal vs Albania
The Portuguese National Team will kick off their UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign tomorrow when they host Albania. Portugal is also joined in Group I by Denmark, Armenia, and Serbia. France will also play all of the teams in Group I, but the matches will not count towards the final group standings, as France is automatically qualified as host of Euro 2016. With Serbia, Denmark, and Armenia all wildcards capable of giving Portugal trouble, one feels that the matches against Albania are must-wins for the Portuguese.
Paulo Bento named a decidedly new-look Portuguese team for this match, most likely as a response to team selection criticism after the World Cup. Bento has earned a reputation lately for being set in his ways. Many believe he is too much set in his ways, but the fact that he has stuck with players who are past their prime is one that cannot be overlooked. Players such as Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga, and Miguel Veloso have all seen better days, but are still automatic starters under Bento. Players such as William Carvalho, Jose Fonte, and Adrien Silva have been given few opportunities, despite stellar performances. In fact, with the example of Fonte and Adrien, Bento has not even selected these players, despite their solid performances in the Premier League and the Portuguese Liga, respectively.
When it was announced that Paulo Bento would stay on as coach until at least Euro 2016, many fans feared more of the same favoritism for two more years. This favoritism, many fear, could cost the team qualification for Euro 2016, which could be the first time Portugal has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But, with the team that Bento selected for tomorrow’s match against Albania, many of the hardcore opponents will be appeased. In the team that Bento named, no less than seven players have the opportunity to make their debuts. These players are Pedro Tiba (Braga), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), and Adrien Silva (Sporting). All seven are enjoying positive starts to their respective seasons, and it is encouraging that Bento is giving opportunities to young, capable players. And there are some statistics that show Bento’s change in heart:
Average age of 2014 World Cup squad: 27.9 years old
Average age of squad named for Albania game: 25.6 years old
Average number of appearances for 2014 World Cup squad: 34.5 caps
Average number of appearances for squad named for Albania Game: 23.4 caps
As the numbers show, the team that Bento named for tomorrow’s match is both drastically younger and more inexperienced. This decision to boot experience and age in favor of younger, more inexperienced players could prove to be a positive decision. The Portuguese are coming off of a tournament that they were expected to perform much better than they did. With their star man Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly at his height as a footballer at the age of 29, the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s. Portugal had an experienced team, which was led by arguably the finest player in the world at the time of the tournament, and the team was expected to beat out the United States and Ghana easily to earn a second-place spot behind Germany (at least) in Group G. The rest is history, and the decision by Bento now to bring in new faces suggests that he is preparing the team to move on and look ahead to future challenges (such as Euro 2016).
Portugal last met Albania in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the team was led by Carlos Queiroz, who if nothing else, instilled a defensive solidarity in the team. In the 10 matches during qualification, the team only conceded five goals in total. When the team met Albania in those qualifying matches, both teams’ tactics cancelled each other’s out. Both were defensive-leaning teams, and though Portugal possessed much greater talent, the outcomes were stale matches. The two times the teams played, the outcomes were a 0-0 draw and a last-minute 2-1 victory for Portugal.
This time around, Portugal plays a much more open, attacking style of play, one that can be used towards a much more positive result against Albania. Though the team will be lacking their start man, Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no shortage of talent and dynamism in the team. As this is a qualification match, Paulo Bento will likely keep his experimenting to a minimum.
Rui Patricio is a no-brainer to start in goal as a result of solid performances both for Sporting at the Seleccao recently. In front of Patricio will likely be a familiar back-line, something that Bento may be reluctant to change. Fabio Coentrao merits inclusion at left-back, while Joao Pereira could very well start on the right. There is a possibility that Joao Pereira could be benched in favor of Andre Almeida. Pereira’s future at Valencia is currently up in the air, and Bento has given hints that his starting spot is not set in stone. Pepe will likely start, seeing as he has been Real Madrid and Portugal’s starter for some time. The other center-back spot will likely come down between Ricardo Costa and Luis Neto. Though Ricardo Costa is 33 and not playing in a major league, Bento will likely choose him to start.
In midfield, Bento will likely have learned his lesson with William Carvalho. Carvalho will most likely start ahead of Miguel Veloso. Ahead of Carvalho will likely be Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles, who is one of the players whose lackluster performances lately have been noticed, may be benched in favor of Adrien Silva, whose performances for Sporting have been wonderful. On the wings, Nani will likely resume his starting position, after playing regularly for Sporting. Filling the hole left by Ronaldo will likely be Vieirinha, who is impressing at Wolfsburg. Up top should be Eder, who is the team’s most viable option as striker. Bento has also hinted that Ivan Cavaleiro could be used as striker for the team, but it remains clear who will start.
Here’s the full lineup, as predicted:
If the team can learn from its previous mistakes, Portugal should have no problem with this game. The fact that Bento is giving opportunities to younger players, the morale and drive of the team should be very high. A positive performance in this game could very well put their underwhelming performances at the World Cup behind them. Put simply, a win tomorrow can be the first step towards a new chapter in Portuguese football.
PortugalFutbol prediction: Portugal 4-1 Albania
Paulo Bento announced today a 24 man squad for the Portuguese National Team’s inaugural Euro 2016 qualification match against Albania on September 7th. The squad is markedly different from the one Bento named for this summer’s World Cup, with the likes of Ricardo Horta, Ruben Vezo, Adrien Silva, Pedro Tiba, Bruma, and Andre Gomes all new to the team. Bento has been criticized for his lack of flexibility both in team selections and tactics in recent months, and has received much of the blame for Portugal’s sub-par showing at the World Cup this summer.
While it appears that Bento looks to be changing things around (which is something that many will agree desperately needs to happen), there are still some signs that Bento still has a long way to go. Ricardo Costa, who was on the Portuguese squad this summer in Brazil, is included in this squad, despite being 33 and playing in the middle east.
One of the biggest exclusions of this squad was of Ronaldo. The Real Madrid and Portugal star will miss out against Albania, after it was discovered that he was not in sufficient physical condition to appear for the Seleccao. The team will surely miss the talented Ronaldo, but one would hope that other players can step up in his place, especially against a team like Albania.
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: André Almeida (Benfica), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valência), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Al-Sailiya), Ruben Vezo (Valência), Antunes (Málaga)
Midfielders: Adrien (Sporting), André Gomes (Valência), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Pedro Tiba (Braga), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), William Carvalho (Sporting)
Forwards: Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Bruma (Galatasaray), Éder (Braga), Ivan Cavaleiro (Deportivo), Nani (Sporting), Ricardo Horta (Málaga)
Parma to Sassuolo
After a limited amount of playing time so far for Serie A side Parma, Pedro Mendes has sealed a free transfer to league-strugglers Sassuolo.
Braga to Gil Vicente (loan)
After moving to Braga from Benfica this summer, Vieira has found playing time hard to come by this season. In the opportunities he was given at Braga, Vieira failed to impress. Now, Vieira will join the club where he made his start seasons ago.
Sporting to Vitoria Setubal (loan)
After impressing this season for Sporting B, scoring nine in 17 games, Betinho will now have his first opportunity at playing in the Liga Zon Sagres, joining Vitoria Setubal on loan until the end of the season.
Real Betis to Academica (loan)
Salvador Agra has joined Academica on loan until the end of the season after a disappointing loan spell at Braga during the first half of the season.
Benfica to ?
Benfica announced today that Andre Gomes has been sold to an unnamed team for 15 million euros. After a promising start to his Benfica career, Gomes has found playing time very limited, and although Matic has departed the team for Chelsea, it does not appear that Gomes will see more playing time. Liverpool have been touted to make a move for the midfielder, and Anfield could very well be where Gomes ends up at the end of the day.
Portugal U-21 coach Rui Jorge has named a squad of 21 for a training session during next week. The team is preparing for the upcoming U-21 Euro qualifying matches, and will hope to build on what has arguably been a successful campaign thus far.
Goalkeepers: Luis Ribeiro (Camacha), Mika (Benfica), Anthony Lopes (Lyon)
Defenders: Cedric (Academica), Andre Almeida (Benfica), Luis Martins (Benfica), Ivo Pinto (Leiria), Roderick (Servette), Pedro Mendes (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Pedro Coronas (Penafiel), David Simao (Academica), Flavio Ferreira (Academica), Pele (Milan), Diogo Rosado (Feirense), Ludovic (Feirense), Josue (Pacos Ferreira), Paulo Grilo (Santa Clara)
Forwards: Abel (Belenenses), Nelson Oliveira (Benfica), Fredy (Libolo), Joao Silva (Vitoria Setubal)
Portugal 1-1 Poland (U21)
The Portuguese Under-21 picked up an unlucky point against Poland in their second match of Euro 2013 qualification. The game started off perfectly for the home side, with Pedro Mendes heading in a Josue cross to give Portugal an early 1-0 lead. That goal was virtually the first thing of note to occur in the match. Instead of dropping back in intensity as we have seen much too often, the team pressed forward. Wilson Eduardo came close after a brilliant turn and pass from Sana set him up, but he lifted his shot above the goal. Portugal then came within a whisker away from doubling their lead. A curling cross from the left was sent in, and the youngster’s deft header clipped the crossbar as it bounced out. Poland then surprised everyone when they grabbed a goal to level the scores at 1-1. Some sloppy defending and some neat link-up play gave Poland a shock equaliser. Not at all put off, Portugal continued their charge forward. Wilson Eduardo was next to join the list of misses, and his was certainly the worst. After a blatantly errant back pass from a Pole, Wilson Eduardo was one-on-one with the opposition goalkeeper, only to be brought down by the keeper in the box. The referee made no hesitation as he showed the keeper red and pointed to the spot. Wilson Eduardo stepped up and struck the penalty, which hit the left-hand upright post and rolled agonizingly close along the goalmouth to the opposite side. Portugal continued their dominance, but luck was not on their side. Wilson Eduardo tried two speculative efforts, but they fizzed wide and high, respectively. After Diogo Viana’s well-struck free kick was saved by the Polish goalkeeper, Andre Almeida came agonizingly close to sealing the win for the Seleccao. A fine cross was sent in from the right, which picked up Andre Almeida’s run perfectly. The midfielder’s header cannoned back off the upright. That miss summed up the night for Portugal, who just couldn’t find Lady Luck. The final score: 1-1. Portugal may not have won, but the skill and understanding of the players is an encouraging sign. With some work, this team has the ability to be great.
Mika, Cedric, Pedro Mendes, Joao Pereira, Mario Rui, Andre Almeida, Andre Martins(David Simao), Sana(Nelson Oliveira), Josue, Wilson Eduardo(Diogo Viana), Rui Fonte
Youngster Pedro Mendes has been included by Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho in the team’s champions league roster. His inclusion comes as a surprise as he is currently playing for Real Madrid Castilla (the club’s B team) on loan from Sporting Lisbon. The defender featured for the team in preseason, but, to no one’s surprise, has failed to feature since. He is competing for a spot in the team against the likes of Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Raul Albiol, and Raphael Varane, among others. His inclusion shows the faith that Mourinho has in him, faith that the coach made quite clear when the loan was secured.
According to reports coming out of Portugal, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho is interested in acquiring Pedro Mendes’s services. This Pedro Mendes is not the one that played for Portugal in last summer’s World Cup. This Pedro Mendes currently plays for Sporting Lisbon, after returning from his loan last season to Servette. According to the reports, Jose Mourinho sees immense potential in the 20 year-old. Standing at 1.84 meters, he is the perfect size for a central defender. Mourinho is interested in snapping him up and putting him in Madrid’s B team for further development. Mourinho is obviously very interested in the player, but as to whether the move will be a loan or a permanent one remains to be seen.
Despite it being quite far away from any transfer window, the rumors are still heating up. So, here are the major stories:
1. Ruben Pinto Tracked by Arsenal
The Portuguese Under-19 captain is currently being tracked by Premier League giants Arsenal. Pinto, who models his style of play after Rui Costa, has recently turned down other offers to the Premier League. He has, however, a contract tying him down to Benfica until 2012, so a move probably won’t be likely. Ruben has fancied a move to the Premier League for some time now, and with his heroics against Spain in this last Euro U-19 tournament, maybe that move can finally happen.
2. Milan Keeping Tabs on Coentrao and Periera
Italian giants A.C. Milan are allegedly watching Portuguese National Team fullbacks Joao Pereira and Fabio Coentrao. Coentrao was a bright spot in Portugal’s muddy World Cup campaign, and has since become a vital player for Benfica. He currently is tied to Benfica with a release clause of 30 million pounds. Joao Pereira moved from Braga to Sporting Lisbon earlier this year, and has since impressed enough to earn a call-up to the National Team.
3. Juventus in Miguel Veloso Swap Deal
Juventus are supposedly making a deal with Genoa for the trade of Sissoko and Miguel Veloso. The deal would see Miguel Veloso leave Genoa, who he joined in the summer, and meet up with Juventus, who was tracking him earlier this year. I do not foresee this move happening.
4. Pedro Marques to Make Portugal Switch
Real Madrid C midfielder Pedro Marques is reportedly being watched by Olhanense. Olhanense are currently third in the Liga Zon Sagres, having enjoyed an impressive start to their second consecutive season in the Portuguese top-flight. Marques has been playing in Spain for some time now, but it has been speculated that Olhanense want his services.
5. Chelsea Want Pepe in 2012
Following Pepe’s statement that he plans to leave Real Madrid in 2012 whan his contract is up, Chelsea have come out and said that they want him for free in 2012. Pepe has been rock-solid in his partnership with Ricardo Carvalho not only at Real Madrid, but also for the Seleccao.
Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz has released the starting lineup for the Portuguese National Team, who play Cape Verde later today. Queiroz has raised some eyebrows with his selection of Miguel Veloso and Fabio Coentrao in the starting eleven. Miguel Veloso has enjoyed an above average season, even though Sporting were abysmal. Fabio Coentrao, however, has enjoyed a spectacular season with Benfica, playing a major role in their championship success, which is why Real Madrid are currently courting him.
Here’s the lineup: