Portugal U-20s: What We Learned


Portugal U-20 coach Hélio Sousa, seen here, led the team to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

Portugal U-20 coach Hélio Sousa, seen here, led the team to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U-20 World Cup.

The Portuguese Under-20 team was unfortunate to bow out of the 2015 U-20 World Cup at the hands of Brazil on Sunday. The team’s level of play throughout the tournament was of a high standard, so much so that many touted them as potential victors. Unfortunately, luck was not on their side, as they were narrowly defeated by Brazil on penalties in the quarter-final. Despite this disappointing end, there are many positives to take away from Portugal’s encouraging run. Continue reading

U-20s Edged Out on Penalties


Andre Moreira - Portugal vs Brazil - 2015 U20 World Cup

Portugal 0-0 Brazil (1-3 Penalties)

2015 U-20 World Cup Quarterfinal

In an entertaining encounter, the Portuguese Under-20 team was defeated on penalties by Brazil in the quarterfinal of the 2015 U-20 World Cup. The defeat sees Portugal exit the tournament, despite some excellent performances earlier in the tournament. Brazil was the most difficult opposition Portugal had faced in the tournament thus far, and if this match was anything to judge off of, Portugal could have progressed further.  Continue reading

Portugal Roll Over Senegal in U20 World Cup Opener


The Portuguese team celebrates with Nuno Santos, following the team's third goal.

The Portuguese team celebrates with Nuno Santos, following the team’s third goal.

A goal in the first minute of the match and two goals in the dying minutes were enough to push the Portuguese Under-20 team past Senegal in the Seleção’s opening match of the 2015 U-20 World Cup. Martins scored 26 seconds into the match, but Portugal would have to wait until the last minutes of the match to add to their tally. Substitute Nuno Santos first assisted André Silva, and then scored a wonderful attempt of his own. Continue reading

U-20 World Cup Preview: Portugal’s Team


Portugal head coach Hélio Sousa has a wealth of talent at his disposal. Photo: FPF

Portugal head coach Hélio Sousa has a wealth of talent at his disposal. Photo: FPF

In a little over a week, the Portuguese U-20 Team will kick off their much anticipated U-20 World Cup campaign with their first match against Senegal. The U-20’s participation in this summer’s tournament will be the third consecutive finals appearance, after a runners-up finish in 2011 and a second round exit in 2013. Expectations are high for the Portuguese, with many of the players included in the squad touted to be stars of the future. But, as has been the case with Portugal’s involvement in the U-20 World Cup, many players are not as well-known as some of their older counterparts. So let’s take a look at the team: Continue reading

Portugal U-19s Fall at Last Hurdle, But Have Reason to Hope


Tomas Podstawski and Gelson Martins - Portugal U19 vs Germany - 2014 U-19 Euro

Portugal 0-1 Germany

Final

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

The Portuguese Under-19 team was outclassed Thursday as they were defeated by Germany in the final of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. The Portuguese, who were favorites to win the tournament, did well to reach the final, but the Germans were clearly superior. Though the scoreline was a narrow 1-0 victory for the Germans, the Portuguese can count themselves lucky that they did not lose by a wider margin.

The Portuguese predictably fielded a strong team, which, apart from Raphael Guzzo replacing Francisco Ramos, was identical to the team that faced Serbia just three days earlier. That team had served them well against Serbia, but they surely knew that Germany posed a much different threat, essentially rolling over all opposition this entire tournament. Portugal, on the other hand, had scraped past two of their opponents, and were not as much of a physical threat as the Germans.

Essentially from the opening whistle, Germany controlled the match. Portugal had their moments of brilliance, but it was Germany who looked much more comfortable on the ball. The Germans played a high-pressure, physical, possession-based game, which the Portuguese struggled to cope with. The Portuguese’s style of play this tournament was much less physical, and can be likened to Spain’s quick-passing possession style of recent years. Despite Portugal’s obvious skill, the Germans were simply the better team. Their goal came in the first half, and while Portugal came close to scoring after the goal, the result was rarely in question.

Looking forward


The Portuguese may be disappointed to not have finished as champions, but looking back on the tournament, the Portuguese showed that they are a team to be reckoned with. Many of the problems facing the current Portuguese National Team do not appear to be facing this team. Namely, this team has an intelligent, skilled, quick striker in Andre Silva, who is capable of holding up play and both fashioning chances for himself and his teammates. The Seleccao has been desperate for a striker with those qualities for some time, and should he continue to develop at a steady rate, it should be no time at all before Andre Silva is in contention for a place on the team. And that’s the case with almost this entire team. This team possesses great individual talent, and even greater potential, both on the individual and team basis. Should these players continue to develop, Portugal could have another “Golden Generation.” But there are “ifs” associated with such as assertion, the biggest one being the subject of playing time at club level. If Benfica, Sporting, and Porto (where the majority of these players play their club football) continue the trend of choosing to give playing time to foreigners rather than young Portuguese talent, this “Golden Generation” will certainly fall by the wayside, as countless have before.

Players who starred for the past few weeks such as Andre Silva, Tomas Podstawski, Ivo Rodrigues, and Gelson Martins (among others) need to be given regular playing time, whether that’s for their club’s first team, B team, or out on loan. It needs to happen, and if this team can continue to develop, we could see another impressive U-20 team at next summer’s U-20 World Cup, or even further down the road an impressive Portuguese National Team. But that very statement hinges on the way these players’ clubs handle them in the next few years.

Andre Moreira, Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa, Marcos Lopes, Tomas Podstawski, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Gelson Martins(Jorge Intima), Ivo Rodrigues(Romario Balde), Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Portugal Are Going to the Final!


Joao Nunes - Serbia V Portugal - 2014 U19 Euro

Portugal 0-0 Serbia (4-3 on penalties)

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Semi-Final

The Portuguese Under-19 team has accomplished something that has not been done in some time by the team. The U-19s edged out Serbia in an exciting semi-final encounter of the U-19 European Championships on Monday, booking a meeting with Germany in the final. This will be the first time the Portuguese have been in the final of a U-19 Euro since 2003, when a Portuguese team containing both Joao Pereira and Hugo Almeida fell 2-0 to Italy. There is every reason to be excited for this crop of players, with many feeling that the team has all the tools at their disposal to displace Germany on Thursday and capture the title. Let’s take a quick look at the match against Serbia:

The Portuguese were likely seeing red before the match, as it was Serbia who knocked Portugal out in last year’s edition of this competition. Portugal had a point to prove, but they knew that this Serbian team was no push-over, having impressively drawn Germany 2-2 in the group stage. Serbia was a team that had apparent quality, which was something that Portugal had not truly faced. In their final match of the group, Portugal faced Austria, and while Portugal did struggle to win, it should also be noted that many of Portugal’s starters were being rested, such as Gelson Martins and Marcos Lopes. This time out against Serbia, however, Portugal was at full strength.

Andre Moreira resumed his starting position in goal, with the usual four suspects in front of him: Domingos Duarte and Joao Nunes in the middle and Rafa and Mauro Riquicho on the left and right, respectively. In the midfield, Marcos Lopes returned and was joined by Francisco Ramos and captain Tomas Podstawski. On the wings were Ivo Rodrigues on the left and Gelson Martins on the right, and were both joined by Andre Silva up front. It was the strongest lineup Portugal could field, and one that has brought the team success thus far in this tournament.

As would be expected, both teams were largely even during the match. Portugal continued to change their style of play between direct (long-passes and deep crosses) and short (tiki-taka style quick passing), much the same as during their previous match against Austria. The game ebbed and flowed, with Serbia dominating for a period, then Portugal for a period, and so on and so forth. This was how the rest of the match played out. Both teams came very close to scoring, but neither did. This evenness and lack of scoring brought the game into extra time, where Portugal raised their intensity. The Portuguese were the team that was playing for the win, while Serbia looked content to simply bide their time until penalties. Portugal were unable to break the deadlock and Serbia got their wish: penalties.

Andre Moreira had sustained an injury during extra time, so the team’s back-up keeper Tiago Sa was Portugal’s goalkeeper for the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Marcos Lopes was the first to step up, coolly slotting his penalty home. Just after, Serbia’s no. 10 sent his penalty very high and wide, giving Portugal an advantage. After that, both Serbia and Portugal converted their next two penalties, with Andre Silva and Raphael Guzzo scoring for the Portuguese. But then Portugal captain Tomas Podstawski took a nervous penalty that was easily saved by the Serbian goalkeeper. Just after, Serbia scored their penalty, and the two teams were level again at 3-3. Ivo Rodrigues scored the next penalty for Portugal, and it all came down to Serbia’s final penalty. The Serbian shot, and Tiago Sa guessed the correct way, expertly saving the penalty, thus giving Portugal the win and booking a place in the final. There were wonderful scenes, as the players stormed the field. Portugal were through to the final.

Portugal will now face a very impressive and dominant Germany side, who defeated Austria 4-0 in the semi-final to reach the final, the same team that Portugal scraped past 2-1. It will be a very difficult game for the Portuguese, who will need magic from their talisman Marcos Lopes, leadership from their captain Tomas Podstawski, and goals from their target man Andre Silva.

Andre Moreira(Tiago Sa), Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa, Mauro Riquicho, Tomas Podstawski, Francisco Ramos(Raphael Guzzo), Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Romario Balde), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U19s Edge Austria in Even Encounter


Tomas Podstawski - Portugal V Austria - 2014 U19 Euro

Portugal 2-1 Austria

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

The Portuguese gained a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Austria Friday to advance to the semi-finals of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Though the Austrians were worthy opponents and may have deserved to get more out of the game, goals from Tomas Podstawski and Romario Balde were enough for Portugal to squeeze through. This victory means that Portugal finished first in Group A, and is set to face Serbia in the semi-final match tomorrow, the very team that knocked Portugal out in last year’s edition of the tournament. Things look different this time around, but it will certainly be an entertaining encounter. Let’s take a look at how Portugal fared Friday against Austria.

Because they were already guaranteed a semi-final spot going into this match, the Portuguese fielded a noticeably weaker side than in their first two matches. Andre Moreira retained his spot inbetween the sticks, while the back four in front of him was much changed. Rafa and Domingos Duarte started in their usual spots, on the left and in the center, respectively, while Jordan Machado and Rebocho replaced regulars Joao Nunes and Mauro Riquicho, respectively. In midfield, captain and midfield anchor Tomas Podstawski retained his starting position and was joined by Joao Palhinha and Raphael Guzzo. Marcos Lopes was left on the bench to avoid suspension, due to a yellow card he picked up in the game against Hungary. On the wings were Ivo Rodrigues and Jorge Intima, while Andre Silva spearheaded the attack up front.

Portugal were a bit spoiled in their first two matches, defeating both Israel and Hungary by large margins. The difference in quality was evident between Portugal and their opposition, and they defeated them accordingly. Austria was in much the same boat, also defeating both Israel and Hungary in their first two matches. As a result, the Austrians and the Portuguese were largely evenly-matched teams, and the beginning of the match reflected that perfectly. Neither side looked truly any better than the other, and both teams pressed each other a great deal. As a result, the match began with a high intensity that lasted straight until the half.

Portugal have gained quite a reputation this tournament for their superior technical ability. They have used this ability to their advantage by playing a quick, short passing game, much like the Spanish have done in recent years. To be able to play this way is impressive, but also can be a liability. Teams can easily shot down this playing style, so a lack of tactical flexibility can sometimes hurt a team. In this game against Austria, the Portuguese played a much more direct game, constantly firing long passes up-field and into the box. This was a smart tactic by the Portuguese, who knew that Austria’s tenacity and defensive discipline would not bode well for their short-passing offensive game. And while the Portuguese’s direct play did not get them a goal, it certainly gave the Austrians problems.

Soon before the end of the half, Portugal reverted to their short passing game, and to good effect. The Portuguese began to dominate the match, and it paid off just minutes later. Portugal won a free-kick in the Austrian half, and the kick was swung in by Ivo Rodrigues. His cross was met by the head of captain Tomas Podstawski, whose header guided the ball into the back of the net. It was the perfect time to score, because Portugal went into the half the better side and with a goal to show for it.

As predicted, the Austrians came out in the second half with much more attacking intent, and were almost immediately rewarded. The Austrians scored not even two minutes after the restart and leveled the game at 1-1. And they didn’t stop there. Constantly pressing, Austria truly was the better side for the majority of the second half. Portugal looked keen on sitting back and playing to the draw, a result that would still see them top of Group A on goal difference. Despite this, Portugal did score late in the game through the team’s youngest player, Romario Balde. Rafa was sent free on the left and passed the ball to Balde, who expertly touched the ball into a shooting position and shot the ball into the bottom corner. It was impressive play from a 17 year old, and one that many players much older than Balde would be proud of. That goal was enough to give the Portuguese a 2-1 victory in a game that was largely even.

Portugal will now face Serbia, the very team which knocked the Seleccao out last year. But it is worth noting that this year’s Serbian side is not nearly as impressive as last year’s side, which went all the way and won the tournament. This year’s side is certainly not one to laugh at, but one may feel that the Serbians are not as strong as last year.

Andre Moreira, Rebocho, Jordan Machado, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Palhinha, Raphael Guzzo(Mauro Riquicho), Tomas Podstawski, Ivo Rodrigues, Jorge Intima(Gelson Martins), Andre Silva(Romario Balde)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

2014 U-19 European Championship Preview: Portugal


Portugal U19 vs Lithuania - 2013The UEFA U-19 European Championships have long been a showcase for some of the brightest young talent in Europe, and this year looks to be no different. Players such as Daniel Sturridge and Mesut Ozil have shone in the tournament in the past, and more recently, players such as Paul Pogba have found success. And while each team is playing to win, there is an added benefit.  The top three teams from each group earn passage into the following summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. It was how the Portuguese qualified for the past two U-20 World Cups (in 2011 and 2013), and there is the hope that they can emulate that success again.

The Portuguese Under-19 Team will begin their European Championship campaign tomorrow, as they face Israel in their first match. This Portuguese team is much heralded, and is widely considered as one of the favorites coming into the tournament. And for good reason. The team has three of possibly the brightest Portuguese Under-19 prospects in the country in Andre Silva, Tomas Postawski, and Marcos Lopes. Silva is the spearhead of the team’s attacks, scoring 6 in qualification. Currently on the books at Porto, Silva split his time between Porto’s B team and the U19 team. Despite this, the striker managed 15 goals in 20 appearances for the U19 team and scored three for the B team. All at 18 years old. Another Porto prospect, Podstawski, who also holds Polish citizenship, appeared 24 times for Porto’s B team last season, following a stellar season with Porto’s U19 team. And finally, we come to Marcos Lopes. Widely believed to be “the next big thing” in Portugal, Rony Lopes, as he is called, has gained notoriety as a result of his performances at Manchester City. After impressive performances for first the club’s development squad and then the reserve squad, Lopes made his debut in City’s first team during the 2012-2013 season. Brought on late into an FA Cup tie against Watford, Lopes scored a tap-in from close range following a save from the opposition goalkeeper. This goal, scored just after Lopes’ 17th birthday, made him the Manchester City first team’s youngest ever goal scorer in a competitive match. But he hasn’t stopped there. More impressive performances in cup ties this season at Manchester City have earned him a season-long loan move to French side Lille OSC.

This Portuguese Under-19 side will face stiff competition in their quest for victory. On paper, one may dismiss the opposition joining Portugal in Group A, but upon further inspection, Portugal may face some challenges. Alongside Portugal in Group A are Israel, Austria, and Hungary. The threat that both Austria and Israel face is the strength in defense. In the six games Israel  and Austria each played in qualifying, each only conceded three goals. In the same amount of games, Portugal conceded six, against teams like Wales and Norway. Clearly, Portugal’s strength is in attack and not in defense. But one can hope that with players of the caliber of Podstawski, Lopes, and Silva, Portugal’s attacking prowess will greatly outweigh the defensive expertise of their opponents in Group A.

This competition is also known for being largely unpredictable. For instance, last year’s edition saw Serbia crowned as champions. Not many predicted a victory from a nation such as Serbia over teams like Spain, France, and the Netherlands. So, while Portugal is considered favorites to win the tournament, and some would argue have the tools at their disposal for victory, it’s all up in the air.