Vitor Pereira on his Way to Crystal Palace?


Photo: Paulo Santos/ASF

Photo: Paulo Santos/ASF

Vitor Pereira, the former manager of FC Porto and, more recently Saudi club Al-Ahli, is the latest name to be added to the short-list of the vacant Crystal Palace job. At 46, the two-time Portuguese Champion is not unfamiliar to the English media rumour mill, having been considered a strong contender to succeed David Moyes at Everton before the appointment of current manager Roberto Martinez.

Now, nearly two years on from that aforementioned speculation, Pereira is a free agent set for discussions with Glaziers boss Steve Parish after the sacking of Neil Warnock following a 3-1 defeat to Southampton as Selhurst Park. Continue reading

U-19s Qualify for Elite Round


Renato Sanches - Portugal U19

Renato Sanches is one of the stars of the team. Pictured here after scoring against Albania. Photo from FPF.PT

Following three successive wins, the Portuguese Under-19 team has qualified for the Elite Qualification round for next summer’s UEFA U-19 European Championship. Led by rising stars such as Renato Sanches, Gil Dias, and Goncalo Guedes, the team qualified with relative ease, which shows just how strong Portugal’s youth system is at the moment. Should Portugal qualify for next summer’s tournament, it will be the fourth year in a row that the team has managed an appearance in the competition. That statistic is encouraging, and with players such as Marcos Lopes, Bernardo Silva, Andre Gomes, Joao Mario, and Bruma in recent years, there is every reason that this current group of U-19s is destined for success.  Continue reading

U-21s Qualify in Rollercoaster Match


Portugal U21 - After Playoff with Netherlands for 2015 U-21 Euro qualification

Portugal 5-4 Holland

2015 U-21 Euro Qualifying Playoff Leg 2

The Portuguese Under-21 team defeated the Netherlands yesterday 5-4 in the second leg of a playoff for qualification to the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. With the 2-0 victory in the first leg, Portugal qualified comfortably by a margin of 7-4. Goals yesterday came from Ricardo (2), Ruben Vezo, Ruben Neves, and Bernardo Silva, and although the scoreline appears close at 5-4, the match was much more one-sided (as was the case in the first leg). Continue reading

U-21s Roll Past the Dutch


Photo: Portuguese Football Federation

Photo: Portuguese Football Federation

Netherlands 0-2 Portugal

2015 U-21 Euro Playoff 1st leg

The Portuguese Under-21 team claimed a potentially priceless away victory over the Netherlands, defeating them 2-0 in the Netherlands. This win puts the Portuguese in the driver’s seat ahead of the return leg, which will be played on October 14th in Portugal. Goals tonight from Sergio Oliveira and Carlos Mane, one in each half, were enough for Portugal to earn the victory. Continue reading

Paulo Bento Relieved of His Duties


Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

News came today that Portugal National Team head coach Paulo Bento had been fired/let go/relieved of his duties. Whatever you want to call it, Paulo Bento will no longer serve as the team’s head coach, following dismal displays both at this summer’s World Cup and last weekend against Albania. Many Portuguese fans will feel that this announcement is long overdue; that Portugal’s quality of play over the past two years has declined drastically as a result of Bento’s stubbornness. This brings an end of Bento’s reign, which lasted almost four years. Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Albania


Paulo Bento - Portugal

Portugal vs Albania

Match Preview

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:

Portugal-Albania predicted lineup

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

U-21s Edge Norway


Photo: Portuguese Football Federation

Photo: Portuguese Football Federation

Norway 1-2 Portugal

2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification

The Portuguese Under-21 team defeated Norway 2-1 yesterday to continue their perfect qualification campaign for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The game was a much different encounter than the last time the two teams met, which ended in a 5-1 demolition by Portugal. This time out, the two teams were much more evenly-matched, and Portugal was not able to waltz to victory. This win kept Portugal at the top of Group 8 with a perfect record. The team has only conceded five goals in the seven matches thus-far in qualification, and has retained positive results throughout qualification, despite losing players such as Andre Gomes, Ivan Cavaleiro, and William Carvalho to the Senior National Team.

The Portuguese came into this game already qualified for the playoffs, having secured a top spot in the group. The only real reason for this match was to build confidence and gain more time on the field as a team. Also, Portugal was defending their perfect record in qualifying thus far. And early into the game, it appeared that this match would go much like the last time they played Norway. The Portuguese team dominated the opening exchanges, though the match took time to settle. Once both teams found their rhythm, the match was a lively, even affair, with both Portugal and Norway playing impressively. Though both teams appeared adept at possession, it was Portugal who fashioned the better chances on goal. And it was Portugal who opened the scoring. Some lax defensive work from Norway gave over possession in their midfield. Ricardo Esgaio picked up the ball and passed the ball upfield to Goncalo Paciencia. Paciencia then had the clarity of mind to look up and feed the ball to the on-rushing (and un-marked) Carlos Mane. Mane picked up the pass, took a few touches to steady himself, and calmly slotted the ball home. It was a confident goal that perfectly encapsulated Portugal’s play up to that point. The ease at which Portugal scored their goal left the feeling that they would run away with the game, as they have done countless times in this qualification cycle. That didn’t quite prove to be the case, as Norway defended diligently and capably. Just before half-time, however, Goncalo Paciencia pulled up injured after an awkward fall. The striker was substituted off for Ricardo, of Porto. Ricardo was moved to the left wing, and the goalscorer, Carlos Mane, was moved to the central role of striker.

The second half began with little incident, with both teams settling evenly into a flow. After the game settled down, it was Norway that looked the more lively, with the young 15 year-old Martin Odegaard proving difficult to handle for the Portuguese. Norway, realizing that anything less than a win would effectively eliminate the possibility of qualification, were a much different-looking team in the second half, dominating most of the proceedings. Despite this domination, Portugal still continued to have the cutting edge that Norway lacked. And this cutting edge paid off right around the hour mark. Joao Mario fed a ball to Ricardo Pereira, who, surrounded by Norwegian defenders, took a touch and skillfully finished near-post (and with his weaker left foot) past the Norwegian ‘keeper. Overall, a 2-0 scoreline was justified at that point, as Portugal had dominated the majority of the game up until that point. Norway were threatening, and their pressure paid off just minutes after Ricardo’s goal. The Norwegians pulled on back through Bakenga, who is the spearhead of the team’s attack. With the score now at 2-1, the remainder of the game was a tense one, with Norway within one goal of ruining Portugal’s loss-less record. Portuguese wonderkid Marcos Lopes had been brought on before the second-half goals, and his play proved to be a highlight in the time remaining in the match. Lopes hit the post with one play and one surging run and subsequent shot forced an excellent save out of the Norwegian goalkeeper. With Portugal looking comfortable and able to defend their lead, debutant Helder Costa, of Benfica’s B team, came on for Carlos Mane. Though the scoreline was close going into the final minutes of the match, little of note occurred, and Portugal walked away with a well-fought 2-1 victory.

The team will now face Azerbaijan in their final 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification match, to be played on September 9th. For that match, Ruben Pinto (Benfica B), Andre Silva (Porto B), and Tiago Silva (Belenenses) have been called.

Bruno Varela, Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Miguel Rodrigues, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Oliveira, Rafa(Marcos Lopes), Carlos Mane(Helder Costa), Goncalo Paciencia(Ricardo)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Valencia Secure Andre Gomes


photo courtesy abola.pt

photo courtesy abola.pt

Andre Gomes

Benfica to Valencia

After a convoluted and confusing transfer saga, Andre Gomes has officially joined Valencia CF from Portuguese giants Benfica. In January, it was announced that Meriton Capital Limited had purchased his rights for a hefty 15 million euros. While it is becoming more common place for third parties to purchase percentages of players in Portugal, until this January, it was very uncommon for a third party to purchase an entire player. With Gomes essentially owned by a corporation, he continued at Benfica for the rest of the season, playing huge roles in Benfica’s quest to both the Primera Liga and to the Europa League final. Speculation around his future began to build when it was discovered that Meriton’s owner, Peter Lim, was on the verge of purchasing Spanish side Valencia CF. It was widely believed that Gomes would move to Valencia, but Lim’s takeover of the club stalled any movement.

Finally, it was announced that Andre Gomes would travel to Valencia today to undergo medical examinations and be presented officially. When looking at Gomes’ statistics, the 15 million euro price-tag seems quite inflated. But upon further examination, 15 million euros looks like a reasonable amount. Though he has only appeared 13 times for Benfica in the past two seasons in the league, he has amassed 41 appearances in all competitions, including runs in both the Champions League and the Europa League. And it was this season in the Europa League where Gomes truly shone, being named to the Europa League team of the tournament. One must keep in mind that Gomes is still only 20 years old.

Andre Gomes will join fellow compatriots Ruben Vezo, Ricardo Costa, Joao Pereira, and Helder Postiga at Valencia, as well as the team’s coach, Nuno, who is also Portuguese. With Valencia recruiting heavily after disappointing last season, Gomes will surely have to fight for his place in the team. But one feels that if he earns a spot in the team, this move will do wonders for his development.

Top 5 U-24 Liga Players from 2013/2014 Season…Outside the Top 3


Some players come into the spotlight because of playing for a big club. Their performances may not be any more noteworthy than other players’, but they continue to get press recognition because of the club that they play for. As a result, there are sometimes players whose solid performances fly under the radar; players who do not get as much hype. In Portugal, there has become a domination from teams known as “The Big Three.” Made up of Sporting, Benfica, and Porto, the “Big Three” has not been as clearly defined in recent seasons (Pacos Ferreira finished third in 2012/2013, Braga has risen to prominence, as has Estoril). This past season, however, “The Big Three” were back again with Benfica finishing 1st, Sporting 2nd, and Porto 3rd. As stated above, players from clubs outside of the “Big Three” in Portugal sometimes don’t really rise to prominence until they earn a move to one of the “Big Three” or abroad. That’s not to say their performances aren’t worthy of recognition. So, Portugal Football has decided to list the…

Top 5 Under-24 Liga Zon Sagres Players from the 2013/2014 Season…Outside the “Big Three”

Joao Mario - Vitoria Setubal1. Joao Mario – Vitoria Setubal (on loan from Sporting Lisbon)

The very fact that Joao Mario tops our list despite only spending half of a season at Vitoria Setubal says a lot. A center midfielder by trade, Mario is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s top prospects. In his 15 league appearances for Setubal, Mario helped his team to notable draws against Benfica and Sporting, and played a large role in the team’s impressive season. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a starting spot with the Portuguese Under-21 team and a role in Sporting’s first team for this season.

Andre Andre - Vitoria Guimaraes2. Andre Andre – Vitoria Guimaraes

The oldest on our list, Andre Andre has become an irreplaceable part of Rui Vitoria’s side. Andre has garnered attention abroad from his performances this season, and it comes as no surprise. The center midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions, leading the team through a campaign both in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb are said to be interested in Andre, but if he gets another solid season under his belt, there will likely be larger clubs interested.

Bebe - Pacos Ferreira3. Bebe – Pacos Ferreira (on loan from Manchester United)

Bebe was the laughing stock of English football after his ill-fated move from Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010. And to a certain extent, he still is. But not in Portugal. Bebe was on loan this season at Pacos Ferreira from Manchester United. Though the side struggled, barely managing to avoid relegation, Bebe shone. The Manchester United man struck 12 times for the team in only 27 appearances. These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that he scored these from his primary position out wide. His scoring exploits made him the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and Manchester United have opted to take him on their pre-season tour most likely as a result of his performances. But Manchester United will have to fend off interest from Benfica, who are reportedly very interested in acquiring his services.

Ricardo Horta - Vitoria Setubal4. Ricardo Horta – Vitoria Setubal

Last season was possibly the best debut season Ricardo Horta could have hoped for. A product of both Benfica’s and Vitoria Setubal’s youth setups, Horta was promoted to Setubal’s first team this season. After impressive performances early in the season, Horta was awarded a starting spot and never looked back. Finishing the season with seven goals in 34 appearances on the wing, Horta was named to the Portuguese Under-20 team’s Toulon Tournament squad, scoring the deciding goal in the third place match against England. Malaga are said to be very interested and extremely close to signing the player, and it comes as no surprise. And he’s only 19!

Danilo Pereira - Maritimo5. Danilo Pereira – Maritimo

A product of Benfica’s famed youth academy, Danilo Pereira first rose to prominence at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he performed admirably in Portugal’s midfield, helping them to a second place finish. A move abroad ensued, and after some more spells abroad, Pereira ended up at Maritimo last season. Pereira appeared 28 times for the Madeira-based club, helping them to a mid-table finish. His performances drew the interest of Sporting, who many speculate see him as the natural successor to William Carvalho.