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

Rui Jorge Names Squad of 23 for Playoff Matches

Rui JorgePortugal Under-21 coach Rui Jorge named yesterday a 23 man squad to face the Netherlands in the playoff for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The playoff is a two-match series, with first played in Netherlands on the 9th and the other in Portugal on the 14th.  Needless to say, these two matches are of great importance. This is the closest the U-21 team has come to qualification to a major tournament since 2007, which is the last time the team appeared in a U-21 Euro.  Continue reading

Porto Edge out Lille in 1st Leg of Playoff

Photo: Lusa

Photo: Lusa

2014-15 UEFA Champions League Play-Off Leg 1

LOSC Lille 0-1 FC Porto

Chances at a Premium as Tello Makes the Difference

In a game that could potentially impact European coefficients, FC Porto met French side Lille at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in the first of two legs in qualifying for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League group stage. Both sides came into the match in good form, taking home three points in the last round of domestic play with professional displays. Ambitious clubs with European pedigree, both camps were confident of a positive result in the North of France; with anything but qualification expected, but a Herrera strike in a scrappy, albeit professional display, from the Dragons put them in the driving seat ahead of the second leg at the Dragão.

LOSC Lille: Enyeama; Souaré, Baša, Kjaer, Béria; Mavuba, Balmont (Lopes 62), Gueye; Kalou (Roux 76), Corchia, Origi (Mendes 72)

FC Porto: Fabiano; Alex Sandro, Maicon, Martins Indi, Danilo; Neves (Evandro 74), Casemiro, Herrera; Oliver (Quaresma 88), Brahimi (Tello 60), Jackson Martinez

René Girard played a defensive-minded 4-3-3 with playmaker Marvin Martin out with a hamstring injury from the win against Caen. Mavuba played as the holding midfielder, with fullback turned winger Corchia operating on the right. Belgian World Cup star Origi operated on the left flank, with Salomon Kalou the playing through the middle.

Lopetegui lined up with an adaptable 4-3-3 formation, sometimes resembling a 4-2-3-1, with Casemiro’s inclusion raising some eye brows, coming in for sacrificed captain Quaresma, as the ‘number 6.’ This liberalised Ruben Neves in a more advanced position, becoming the youngest Portuguese player since Cristiano Ronaldo to play in the Champions League. Herrera set up shop further forward, with Brahimi and Oliver Torres on the flanks.

Lille tentative in scrappy half

FC Porto started the opening period the better of the two sides; occupying space well and demonstrating quality through the middle in accounting for 70% of possession in the opening thirty minutes.

In this regard, the Dragons lacked quality in the final third as they struggled to carve out opportunities against a stubborn Lille defence with a tentative approach. The first instant of danger came in the 12th minute from a Neves effort that was always going wide, saved by Nigerian keeper Enyeama.

Jackson tried his best to change this, involving himself as much as possible, running in behind the Lille back four and dropping back in support. Neves continued to impress in a largely uneventful encounter, playing in a beautiful free kick for Jackson, who just missed it with his head. The difference was a tug on the Colombian’s jersey with a decent penalty shout.

On the other side, Lille continued to struggle; mustering their first shot on goal on the 34th minute mark with a tame deflected effort from Corchia. But the best chance of the match by a mile fell to the French from an Origi cross on the cusp of half time. Having turned Maicon inside out, the Liverpool loanee, quiet up to that point, teed up the lively Corchia for a blocked shot only yards out from goal, wastefully skying the second effort over the bar.

Lopetegui makes his move

The complexion of the match in the second half remained unchanged from its predecessor, with opportunities at a premium, as Porto dominated possession with little to show for it and Lille happy to sit back.

Brahimi and Torres both looked lively going forward, with some fine touches and ball movement, as well as Ruben Neves, emitting an air of confidence from the deal ball, taking on shots from distance and the opposition.

Origi attempted to change the match’s rhythm, trying to stretch the Porto defence in drifting to the left with Kalou down the middle, unusual considering Origi’s pace in one-upping Maicon on a few occasions.

At the hour mark Lopetegui decided to play his first hand with the bright Brahimi coming off for Tello. The Barcelona loanee made an instant impact similar to that a few days prior against Maritimo, exchanging a neat one-two with his head as Neves played him into space, leaving Souaré in his wake. The Spaniard checked his run and delivered a sumptuous cross to Martinez, whose magnificently saved effort on goal from a leap was dispatched emphatically into the back of the ol’ onion bag from Herrera, much to the delight of the travelling Tripeiro faithful.

Lille up the tempo

Immediately afterward the goal, Girard made his first move, throwing on Manchester City loanee and Portuguese youngster Marcos Lopes, joining Neves with his European debut, for the largely ineffective Balmont.

Tello continued to run riot, nicking the ball of Mavuba and following it up with a lovely ball to Jackson who got too excited in being caught offside.

Origi, continued to show promise as the game wore on, taken off for boyhood Porto fan Mendes.

In open play, Lille still continued to struggle to muster opportunities, although a different story from the deal ball, with a drilled free kick from Corchia evading a Souaré header as Fabiano made a clutch save; Mendes close on the follow up.

The largely ineffective Kalou was brought off for Roux with Girard playing with two recognised strikers. Lopes sat behind, with Mendes and Corchia adding width in a largely attacking formation.

Lille continued to gain a strangle hold of proceedings, although still not troubling the Porto back four in the final third, as The Great Danes lacked fluidity in their passing game. Porto was fine to sit back and play on the counter; Herrera dropping back in midfield with Casemiro as Evandro, took up the number 10 role.

The last opportunity for the game came from Lille. Lopes raced past Casemiro with a burst of speed after a couple of step overs, playing a ball into the box, with Corchia leaving it for substitute Roux. The Frenchman’s expertly taken touch made space for a shot, only to be denied the shared spoils by Maicon.

At the half-way point of the tie it is Porto that holds all the cards. René Girard will regret not forcing the issue on home turf, with late flurries not hiding this fact. Lille will rue golden opportunities from Corchia and Roux after a tentative start, but based on the balance of play, the better side won. Lopetegui and his men will take a crucial away goal back to the Dragão in vying for their 19th appearance in the Champions’ League group stage as they meet in six night’s time.


Mitchell Rua

Portugal Edge Sweden

Portugal vs Sweden - Helder Postiga

Portugal 1-0 Sweden

2014 World Cup Playoff Leg 1

The Portuguese National Football team edged Sweden 1-0 in the first leg encounter of the playoff for next summer’s World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo was the lone scorer in a match which was focused on the rivalry between two of the world’s finest footballers at the moment: Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Each are the face of their national teams, and much was made pre-game about how the two would fare against each other. It was Cristiano who came out on top, giving Portugal an advantage before the return leg in Sweden.

It became evident soon after the start of the match that Sweden would take a defensive stance, with the team essentially playing a 4-4-1-1, with Johan Elmander playing directly behind Zlatan. Portugal countered this by playing with more of an attacking mindset, and though they seemed vulnerable to a counterattack, controlled the match well. The first half ended without much incident, with both teams unable to break the deadlock, despite coming close.

The second half was a much more lively affair, with Portugal throwing more men behind the ball. Ronaldo became more of an active participant, while Ibrahimovic became more of a bystander in the match. This highlights the shift in the match. And this came to fruition in the 80th minute. Veloso picked up the ball down the left flank, and sent in a peach of a cross, which was met by a diving header from Ronaldo to open the scoring in Portugal’s favor. That was how the match ended: 1-0 to Portugal.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Veloso, Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles(Josue), Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Hugo Almeida)


William Carvalho Called for Play-off

William CarvalhoWilliam Carvalho has earned his first call-up to the Portuguese National Team for the World Cup playoff matches against Sweden on the 15th and 19th. The holding midfielder’s performances this season have been nothing short of spectacular, and many believe that this call is overdue. So impressive are his performances that Barcelona, Manchester United, and Arsenal are all seriously interested in acquiring his services.

The Seleccao face Sweden at home on the 15th, and in Sweden on the 19th. This is a do or die situation for Portugal, with qualification for their eighth consecutive major tournament on the line. Here’s the entire list:

Goalkeepers – Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders – João Pereira (Valência), Ricardo Costa (Valência), André Almeida (Benfica), Antunes (Málaga), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Pepe (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Luís Neto (Zenit)
Midfielders – Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), William Carvalho (Sporting), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Rúben Micael (Braga), Josué (Porto)
Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (Porto), Bruma (Galatasaray), Hélder Postiga (Valência), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Éder (Braga)

Portugal Draw Sweden

Paulo BentoSweden will be the final test for the Portuguese National Football team in their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, as the two-legged draw will decide which team will earn a spot in Brazil. While Sweden will be a stern test for the Seleccao, the team did manage to avoid drawing France, who are a very strong side at the moment. The two legs of the playoff will happen on November 15th (in the Estadio da Luz) and on November 19th (in Sweden). Should Portugal fail to defeat Sweden in the play-off, it would mean that the Seleccao would not qualify for the World Cup. This would be a huge disappointment, seeing as Portugal has qualified for every major tournament since 2000.

Portugal Dismantle Bosnia

Portugal 6-2 Bosnia

Portugal defeated Bosnia by a thrilling scoreline of 6-2 to book their place in Euro 2012. Ronaldo was the star of the show, recording a brace, while Helder Postiga also scored twice. Nani added a spectacular long-ranger, and Miguel Veloso scored his second-ever goal for the Seleccao with a sumptuous free-kick. Portugal were too hot for Bosnia to handle, and while the visitors did make life uncomfortable at times for the Seleccao, Portugal always looked the clear winners.

The game started off almost spectacularly after Raul Meireles failed to finish off a rebound from a Ronaldo shot. That was quickly forgotten when Ronaldo opened the scoring by rifling in a spectacular free kick: his third during Paulo Bento’s reign so far. The team the doubled their lead soon after. Raul Meireles’ simple ball found Nani in quite a bit of room. The winger turned, looked up, and unleashed a ferocious shot that gave the Bosnian goalkeeper no chance. With Portugal up 2-0, the team started to step off the accelerator a bit. They were punished accordingly, if harshly, when Fabio Coentrao handled in the box. The referee awarded a penalty, which Misimovic slotted home cool-as-you-like past Rui Patricio. That was the last event of note that occurred in the first half. The two teams went into their respective locker rooms with the score at 2-1 in Portugal’s favor.

Soon after the break, Portugal were at it again. This time, however, ended in a goal. Some quick thinking from Joao Moutinho put Ronaldo through on goal. The captain rounded the keeper and finished emphatically with his left foot. Once again, with a two-goal cushion, Portugal eased off the pedal. They were once again punished when some lax defending from the team gave Spahic the simplest of finishes. With the scoreline once again within one goal, the Seleccao pushed for more breathing room. They were rewarded on 72 minutes, when a quick pass from substitute Ruben Micael opened up a shot from Helder Postiga, who made no mistakes with his left footed shot, which he buried in the bottom corner. With breathing room restored, Portugal still continued to press for another goal. Just minutes later, the team won a free-kick on the edge of the box. Miguel Veloso struck the ball, which dipped over the wall and into the empty net. The goalkeeper was bamboozled. That goal was only Veloso’s second goal for the National team; the first coming late in 2009 against Malta. The team wasn’t done just yet, however. Almost immediately, Fabio Coentrao was found on the left flank. He surged forward and somehow crossed the ball at the last moment. Helder Postiga was on hand to head the ball home to make the final score 6-2 Portugal and seal their place in next summer’s Euro 2012.

Man-of-the-match: Ronaldo

Crutch-of-the-match: Joao Pereira

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Fabio Coentrao, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Raul Meireles(Ruben Micael), Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Ronaldo, Nani(Quaresma), Helder Postiga(Carlos Martins)

Portugal Grind Out for Draw

Bosnia 0-0 Portugal

The Portuguese National team is one step closer to qualifying for Euro 2012 after a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Bosnia on Friday. The team will now rally for a victory on Tuesday in Lisbon, on a much better pitch than the one used on Friday. Concerns had been raised about the quality of the Bosnian field, and those concerns were certainly valid, as the pitch played a role, albeit minor, in the outcome of the match.

The game started in Portugal’s favor after Raul Meireles connected with his volley, only for the Bosnian goalkeeper to punch away at the near post. The team was relying mainly on aerial passes, most likely due to the state of the playing surface, and their strategy was winning them chances. Coentrao sent in a lofted ball, which found Joao Moutinho, whose clever header teed-up Helder Postiga for a volley, which he rocketed over. Ronaldo then spurned two good chances, once with a blocked right-foot shot, and the other a free-kick that sailed over the goal. Overall, the first half was one way traffic as Portugal looked the more likely to break the deadlock.

In the second half, however, Bosnia began to flex their muscles. The home team had a number of chances to open the scoring, and would have, if it were not for the excellent Pepe and Bruno Alves. The center-backs were immense during the entire match, especially during the second half. Portugal had their own set of chances in the second half, with none of them amounting to anything. The pitch had much to do with the low scoreline, as it hindered many a shot.

Man of the match: Pepe

Crutch of the match: Joao Moutinho

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Raul Meireles(Ruben Micael), Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Hugo Almeida)