Helder Postiga Leaves Valencia


Portugal vs Sweden - Helder Postiga

Helder Postiga

Valencia to Deportivo

Valencia striker Helder Postiga has sealed a move to Deportivo on a one-year deal. The striker rescinded his contract with the Spanish outfit prior to signing for Deportivo, reports from Portugal claim. Postiga was signed by Valencia at the beginning of last season, but only managed three goals in 15 appearances before moving on loan to Lazio in January. His time in Italy was not a happy one. In the six months he was at Lazio, Postiga only made four appearances, as he battled with indifferent form and injuries.

At the beginning of this season, new Valencia coach Nuno Espirito Santo made it clear that Postiga did not enter into the team’s plans this season, and that he was free to search for a new club. Since that time, the striker has been linked with moves to Sporting, Braga, and Benfica, though none materialized. Postiga will likely be Deportivo’s first-choice striker, but will face competition from Toche and Lucas Perez.

 

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.

Paulo Bento Names 23 for World Cup Squad


Paulo Bento

Paulo Bento announced yesterday a list of 23 players that will represent Portugal at this summer’s World Cup. Seven players who were included in last week’s 30-man squad announcement were dropped. Some exclusions were predictable. Some not. Let’s look closer.


 

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Andre Almeida (Benfica)

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Eder (Braga), Varela (Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)

 

Standby players (dropped players): Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rolando (Inter), Vitorino Antunes (Malaga), Quaresma (Porto), Andre Gomes (Benfica), Joao Mario (Vitoria Setubal), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica)


 

Statistics

(2014, 2010, 2006)

Average Age of Squad: 28 years old, 27.8 years old, 27.9 years old

Average Caps of Squad: 35.9 caps, 27 caps, 34.5 caps

Number of Players from Liga Zon Sagres: 7, 10, 8

Number of Players from Premier League: 1, 3, 6

Number of Players from La Liga: 6, 6, 2

Number of Players from Serie A: 1, 0, 1

Number of Players from Ligue 1: 1, 1, 2


 

Analysis

Goalkeepers:

The inclusion of Rui Patricio and Beto are completely warranted. Few can argue that both Patricio and Beto are two of Portugal’s most in-form goalkeepers at the moment. Beto is coming off a successful season that saw him win the Europa League with Sevilla (and saving two penalties in the shoot-out in the final). Rui Patricio is already established as Portugal’s no.1, and his performances for Sporting Lisbon did nothing to hurt that this season, leading the Lisbon-based team to a second-placed finish in the Liga.

The last goalkeeper spot was between Anthony Lopes and Eduardo. While Anthony Lopes enjoyed a decent debut season for Lyon, establishing himself as the team’s starting goalkeeper, Eduardo has World Cup experience. During the previous World Cup, Eduardo was Portugal’s starting goalkeeper, and lest we remind you that his performances at the last World Cup earned him a move abroad to Genoa. While Anthony Lopes has an extremely bright future, and his performances this season may merit inclusion, the decision to choose Eduardo over him is one that I understand and agree with.

Defenders:

Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira, and Fabio Coentrao are all staples in the Portuguese team. Pepe and Bruno Alves have flourished at Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, respectively. Alves played in 25 league games, helping Fenerbahce to their first Turkish League title since 2011. Though Real Madrid didn’t manage to win the title this season, Pepe performed admirably in 30 league games, firmly establishing himself as a starter. While Fabio Coentrao didn’t receive as much playing time as he may have liked, he did perform well when he did manage to get a game. According to WhoScored.com, Coentrao managed a 6.96 match rating in the 15 games he participated in in all competitions. While this is nothing spectacular, it shows that Coentrao has the ability to play at the top level, an ability he has shown time and time again while donning the Portugal jersey. His inclusion is a no-brainer. Joao Pereira is another player whose previous performances for the Seleccao merit an automatic call. Currently playing at Valencia, Pereira managed 25 league appearances, as the team only finished 8th in La Liga.

Ricardo Costa has proven himself in a Portugal shirt in the past, and though he 33 years old, he is still an important part of both Valencia and the Seleccao. This was an interesting decision from Bento. Rolando, who spent this past season on loan at Inter from Porto, performed admirably in the Serie A. Some would argue that this season was his finest of his career to date. An outcast at Porto, Rolando managed 29 appearances at Inter, a team many would argue are among the best in Europe. I think the issue of experience is the factor at play here. This World Cup will be Ricardo Costa’s third, while if Rolando was included, it would be his second. Costa also played more of a part in qualifying, most notably scoring in the team’s 1-1 draw with Israel. Moving to Russia, Luis Neto enjoyed a wonderful sophomore year at Zenit. Though the team were pipped by CSKA Moscow for the Russian Premier League title, Zenit performed well this season, and Neto was at the heart of the team’s defense, completing the season with 25 league appearances. The inclusion of Andre Almeida was an interesting one, but one that makes sense once thought about. Many have clamored for Cedric Soares, of Sporting Lisbon, to be called, and for good reason. Cedric impressed for the Portugal U-20 team as they finished runners-up to Brazil at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, then for Academica on loan from Sporting, then the Portugal U-21 team, and finally Sporting’s first team. This season, Cedric was the undisputed starter at right-back for Sporting, amassing 28 league appearances in the process. Andre Almeida, on the other hand, only managed 10 appearances in the league for Benfica. Why should Almeida be included over Cedric you may ask? This is why. Andre Almeida began his career in midfield, but has been transformed into a solid right-back. Also capable of filling in at left-back, Almeida has extreme versatility. By calling up Almeida, Bento essentially did not need to call up another left-back, due to Almeida’s versatility. This meant that there were more spots open for other attackers. Also, Almeida participated in three finals (two domestic Portuguese cups, one Europa League final). In addition to this, Almeida was a part of a title-winning team in Benfica. Cedric, while he performed magnificently for a Sporting team which managed a second-place finish, is simply not the best choice. There will come a time for Cedric, but this World Cup is not it.

Midfielders:

The core of Portugal’s midfield in Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, and Raul Meireles are all obvious choices, though some not quite as obvious as in the past. Joao Moutinho has established himself as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders plying his trade in Europe at the moment. His performances for Monaco further proved it this season. Helping Monaco to a second-place finish in Ligue 1 this season, Moutinho made 31 league appearances in the process. His performances for the Seleccao have been nothing short of wonderful lately, and many are looking to Moutinho to continue making the Portuguese midfield “tick” at this summer’s finals. Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso have lost a considerable amount of stock lately. Though they have both put in performances ranging from solid to spectacular for Portugal in recent years, their performances have begun to noticeably decline.  While Raul Meireles helped Fenerbahce win the Turkish League this season, Miguel Veloso only managed 20 league appearances, as Dynamo Kiev finished a disappointing 4th in the Ukrainian League. Even though Veloso and Meireles are noticeably on the decline, their spot is a certainty, due to prior performances. Even if they do not start, they offer a great deal of experience off the bench. William Carvalho, though he’s only appeared twice for the Seleccao, is another obvious inclusion. Carvalho’s performances this season for Sporting Lisbon have been nothing short of astounding. A virtual unknown before the start of the season, William Carvalho is now the subject of transfer speculation, most notably from Manchester United, who allegedly have a 37 million pound transfer in the works. And it’s no wonder. Carvalho won four of nine Liga Zon Sagres Player of the Month awards and six of nine Liga Zon Sagres Young Player of the Month awards. Many are clamoring for Carvalho to take Miguel Veloso’s spot in Portugal’s starting eleven as the midfield’s anchor. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.

Rafa is a slightly surprising inclusion to the team. An extremely attack-minded midfielder, Rafa made the move from Feirense to Braga at the beginning of the season, and has absolutely flourished in Braga. Teams such as Roma and Southampton are hot on his tails, and for good reason. Though Braga’s season went south very quickly, Rafa’s performances were certainly not a disappointment. The midfielder’s inclusion naturally comes at the expense of another. Josue made a highly-anticipated move from Pacos Ferreira to Porto at the beginning of the season. A regular under Porto coach Paulo Fonseca, Josue has found playing time and form very hard to come by since Fonseca was sacked. Many view Josue to be the successor to Raul Meireles in Portugal’s midfield, but it appears that that definitely won’t occur during this World Cup. Bento’s final midfield inclusion is perplexing for most: Ruben Amorim over Adrien Silva. Adrien Silva has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Portugal at the moment, and some would argue he’s one of Portugal’s finest midfielders. Silva is in a similar position to Cedric. Silva was an integral part of Sporting’s team which finished second in the league this season, and many are rightly perplexed by his omission from the squad. Adrien is yet to make an appearance for the Seleccao, while Ruben Amorim has managed 10 appearances thus far in his career. Though Amorim is older, he has more experience on the national level for Portugal, while Adrien has none whatsoever. Amorim, like Andre Almeida, is a much more versatile player than Adrien. Amorim can fill in at right-back aptly, and can also fit in anywhere in the midfield. Ruben Amorim was also part of a team which won the domestic treble, and also participated in the Europa League final. Though he only made 17 league appearances this season, Amorim gained priceless experience at Benfica. This is not to say Adrien deserved to be included; just that Amorim is perhaps a bit better qualified. Adrien Silva will certainly have his time after the World Cup. Not to forget anyone, Andre Gomes and Joao Mario are both very talented players with bright futures ahead of them, but with all respect to Paulo Bento, their inclusion in the 30-man provisional list is laughable.

Forwards:

Ronaldo is really the only staple in Portugal’s forward line. The forward has enjoyed yet another wonderful season, scoring 31 goals in 30 games for Real Madrid, a statistic that normally is otherworldly. But for Ronaldo, it’s just another season. Nani, Hugo Almeida, and Helder Postiga are all favorites of Paulo Bento, and though none have enjoyed fruitful seasons respectively, they still have the ability to offer something for the Seleccao. Nani’s season at Manchester United was a mix of injury and lack of form, combining into a horrendous season, even worse than the rest of Manchester United’s season. Hugo Almeida enjoyed a decent season at Besiktas, managing to put the ball in the back of the net 13 times in 31 appearances. Helder Postiga’s season was not quite as fruitful as Almieda’s, but not as disastrous as Nani’s. After moving from Zaragoza to Valencia in the off-season, Postiga established himself as Valencia’s starting striker following the sale of Soldado to Tottenham. Only scoring three goals, most notably scoring two against Barcelona, Postiga was sent on loan to Lazio, where he has struggled with injury, and has only managed five appearances with no goals. Moving to the wing position, Varela has enjoyed another successful season at Porto. The winger amassed 48 appearances in all competitions, as Porto finished third in the league behind Benfica and Sporting. Few can forget Varela’s wonder-strike in Portugal’s group stage game against Denmark at Euro 2012. His goal gifted Portugal the victory, and many will hope that similar super-sub feats can be achieved by him this summer in Brazil. The final winger included in the squad is Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha. After starting the season promisingly, Vieirinha suffered an injury that has kept out until last month. Now fully recovered, Vieirinha  managed a handful of appearances for Wolfsburg before the season ended. The final striker spot on the call goes to Eder, of Braga. After enjoying a wonderful season for Braga last season, Eder could not manage to replicate his form this season. Only scoring three goals this season, Eder never fully recovered from a loss of form due to injury. Can he find his form this summer? He might have to if/when Almeida and Postiga don’t perform. Can you sense my cynicism?

Cavaleiro and Rafa Earn First Senior Calls


Rafa - Braga Preseason 2013-2014Paulo Bento announced the squad today for the Portuguese National Team’s upcoming match against Cameroon, to be played on March 5th. With Helder Postiga and Eder both injured, Bento called on Edinho, currently on loan at Kayseri Erciyesspor from Braga. Should Edinho make an appearance for the Seleccao, it will be his first in almost 5 years. Bento also took the opportunity to call up Rafa and Ivan Cavaleiro, who have both impressed for the Portugal Under-21 team and Braga and Benfica, respectively. Other surprise inclusions were Miguel Lopes, who has enjoyed a successful season on loan at Lyon from Sporting, and Rolando, who has established himself as a starter at Inter, where he is on loan from Porto. Paulo Bento did not call up Rui Patricio, who is undoubtedly the team’s first-choice goalkeeper, instead opting to call up Eduardo, Beto, and Anthony Lopes, most likely to test out who the second-choice will be.

Here’s the full list:

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Miguel Lopes (Lyon), João Pereira (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Rolando (Inter), Antunes (Málaga)

Midfielders: Josué (Porto), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dínamo Kiev), Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), William Carvalho (Sporting).

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Edinho (Kayseri Erciyesspor), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), Silvestre Varela (Porto)

Portugal Roll Past Luxembourg


Nani and Varela - Portugal vs Luxembourg

Portugal 3-0 Luxembourg

2014 World Cup Qualification

Portugal clinched a play-off berth last week as they defeated Luxembourg 3-0. The Seleccao were clear favorites coming into the match, and played up to expectation. The flow of the match was in Portugal’s favor for the majority of the match, and the score could have easily been greater than 3-0. Portuguese goals came from Varela, Nani, and Helder Postiga, with Joao Moutinho the clear man-of-the-match.

The game started brightly for the Seleccao. Fabio Coentrao and Helder Postiga had resumed their places in the starting lineup, but it was Joao Moutinho and Nani who were the main instigators for Portugal. The first real chance of the game came in the 8th minute, when a fierce Nani shot was palmed directly into the path of Helder Postiga. The striker managed to get a shot off, only for the goalkeeper to save yet again. Soon after, Portugal came desperately close to opening the scoring. A magnificent ball from Andre Almeida (who kept his starting spot at right-back) found an unmarked Fabio Coentrao, whose header thundered back off the crossbar. On the 27 minute mark, however, Portugal’s job got much easier. A Luxembourg player went into a tackle on Andre Almeida studs-up, and was shown a straight red card. That was exactly the catalyst that Portugal needed. Just two minutes later, Joao Moutinho sent a beautiful defense-splitting pass into the path of Varela, who rounded the keeper and finished into the back of the net. And just minutes later, more Joao Moutinho magic added to the scoreline. Nani picked up the ball on the right hand side of the field, passed it to Moutinho, who promptly back-heeled the ball into the path of Nani. The winger made no mistake, drilling the ball into the top left hand corner of the goal. It was a goal of great beauty for Portugal; a goal that represents Moutinho’s importance in the team. That was how the first half ended: 2-0 in favor of Portugal.

The second half began without much incident. Ricardo Costa came off injured around the hour mark, and was replaced by Sereno, who made just his second appearance for the team. Ten minutes later, a corner kick from Josue (who made his debut) found the head of Nani, whose header was well saved by the opposition goalkeeper. Minutes later, a beautiful lofted ball from Josue was headed into the path of Helder Postiga, who made no mistake with his finish. That goal put Helder Postiga at number 6 in Portugal’s all-time goalscorers. Just minutes later, Portugal almost added further to the scoreline. A split ball put Andre Almeida free in the box. Almeida squared the ball perfectly to Hugo Almeida, who cannoned the ball onto the crossbar. It was a shocking miss, one that unfortunately has defined Hugo Almeida’s career with the Seleccao. That was how the game ended: 3-0 in favor of Portugal. Now, the team waits to hear who they will face in the play-off in November.

Rui Patricio, Andre Almeida, Fabio Coentrao(Antunes), Neto, Ricardo Costa(Sereno), Miguel Veloso(Hugo Almeida), Joao Moutinho, Josue, Nani, Varela, Helder Postiga

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Machado and Silvio Earn Portugal Call


Paulo Bento named a 23 man squad today for the team’s upcoming game against Gabon, on November 14th. Two surprise inclusions were Paulo Machado, who has been impressive for Olympiakos both in the Greek Superleague and the Champions League, and Silvio, who has found playing time hard to come by at Atletico Madrid. Bento has overlooked Eliseu for the second time in a row, which has baffled many supporters of the team, as the winger is in arguably the form of his life at Malaga. Another surprise exclusion is that of Manuel Fernandes, who has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Turkey. Nani was originally called, but has been replaced by Helder Barbosa, due to an injury. Here’s the full squad:

Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo (Isanbul BB), Beto (Braga)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Siena), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Silvio (Atletico Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Nelson (Real Betis)

Midfielders: Custodio (Braga), Joao Moutinho (Porto), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Paulo Machado (Olympiakos), Ruben Micael (Braga), Ruben Amorim (Braga)

Forwards: Nani (Manchester United), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Braga), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Helder Postiga (Zaragoza), Pizzi (Deportivo), Varela (Porto)

Hapless Portugal Tie Northern Ireland


Portugal 1-1 Northern Ireland

The Portugal National team failed to bounce back from their disappointing loss to Russia, as they could only muster a boring draw against Northern Ireland. The team dropped further points, and now sit in third in the group, behind Russia and Israel, who is level on points but is second by virtue of goal difference. Portugal has a nasty habit of playing to their opponent’s level. During last summer’s European championship, Portugal was one of the few teams who could play Spain well. Along the way, they held their own with Germany, and defeated Denmark and Holland. Yet somehow, this team cannot even muster a win against lowly Northern Ireland.

Much of the pre-match buzz was over Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese captain was to win his 100th cap for the Seleccao, and a gala ensued before the match. Consequently, much of the attention was on Ronaldo to make magic happen, and the winger recorded the team’s first shot soon after the starting whistle. The play from Portugal was lethargic in nature, and the team were punished on the half-hour mark by what was becoming a more and more resilient Northern Ireland side. The Irish struck on a counterattack. Lafferty found the onrushing McGinn, who poked the ball over Rui Patricio to give the Northern Irish the lead. Pepe and Joao Pereira were both grossly out of position in the play leading up to the goal. Try as they might, Portugal simply could not find the deadlock. The Seleccao was playing with uncharacteristically low cohesion, which is usually the team’s strong-suits. Portugal went into the half knowing that they needed to improve their performance in the second half.

Portugal came out in the second half and immediately improved the quality of their play. The team peppered the Northern Irish goal with shot after shot, but still could not find that all-important goal. That goal duly arrived in the 80th minute. Bruno Alves sent in an arching cross, which Eder expertly headed down into the path of Helder Postiga, who swiveled and shot into the bottom corner. Postiga had not been enjoying a good night up until that point, but that goal sent the fans into raptures. No matter how hard Portugal tried, they could not beat the resolve of the Northern Ireland defense, who held firm, as the game ended at 1-1.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira(Eder), Bruno Alves, Pepe, Miguel Lopes(Ruben Amorim), Miguel Veloso, Ruben Micael(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani, Helder Postiga

HIGHLIGHTS

Portugal Dominate in Azerbaijan Encounter


Portugal 3-0 Azerbaijan

A dominant display from the Portuguese National Team led them to a 3-0 victory over a lowly Azerbaijan side. The hosts showed much of the attacking prowess that they lacked against Luxembourg, and were unlucky that the scoreline was not higher in their favor. The team struck the crossbar an astonishing five times, as they ruthlessly attacked the Azerbaijani goal.

The game started brightly, which could not have been said about last week’s game against Luxembourg. Portugal were fully in the driving seat against Azerbaijan, and almost all of the action came from the home side. Joao Pereira and Raul Meireles both had efforts beaten away by the opposition goalkeeper in the opening exchanges between the two teams, before Helder Postiga almost finished off a wonderful team move, only to be denied by the crossbar. Joao Moutinho would then feel unlucky to see two excellent shots not translate into a goal, when one was saved by the keeper and the other thundered back off the crossbar. Portugal would continue to press, with Raul Meireles and Helder Postiga both coming close (the latter of which hit the crossbar). The half ended with the scores still even at 0-0 and Portugal wondering how they were not yet winning.

The second half started much the same as the first. It was evident that Portugal was hungry for a goal, and their play reflected that. Bruno Alves had a header saved soon after the restart, and Ronaldo went close soon after that on three different occasions. The goal was not far off, however. Silvestre Varela was substituted on for Miguel Veloso just after the hour mark, and the substitute made an immediate impact. Some sloppy defending from Azerbaijan opened up a golden opportunity for Varela, who calmly slotted the ball home for his third international goal. That goal did not cause Portugal to slow their attack, however. The Seleccao continued to press, but were constantly thwarted by either the post or the Azerbaijani goalkeeper. The second goal duly arrived a little more than twenty minutes after the first one. A pinpoint cross from Raul Meireles found Ronaldo, whose redirected his header into the path of the onrushing Helder Postiga, who poked the ball home. Portugal was not done, however. Joao Moutinho’s corner kick soon after was met with a thumping header from Bruno Alves into the upper right-hand corner to make the score 3-0. In the dying minutes of the match, Eder was substituted on to make his debut for the Seleccao. That was how the game ended: a comprehensive 3-0 victory for the hosts.

Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Fabio Coentrao, Miguel Veloso(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Ronaldo, Nani(Ruben Amorim), Helder Postiga(Eder)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Portugal Edge Luxembourg


Luxembourg 1-2 Portugal

Portugal were lucky to beat a defensive-minded, physical Luxembourg team today. This game marked the beginning of qualification for the 2014 World Cup for both teams, and both were looking for a positive result. Portugal were riding high after their positive showing at Euro 2012 and their victory over Panama last month, while Luxembourg were the wild card, as ever.

Surprisingly, it was the hosts who started the brighter of the two teams. Left midfielder Joachim shot just over for Luxembourg, before Daniel Da Mota opened the scoring in spectacular fashion. The striker’s first touch out of the air took him around Joao Pereira, and he shot confidently past Rui Patricio. The goal was certainly a wake-up call for the Seleccao, as they began to press harder. Luxembourg poured more men back on defense, but were certainly not content on keeping the score at 1-0. Fifteen minutes after Luxembourg opened the scoring, Ronaldo tied the game up at 1-1. Some chaos on the edge of Luxembourg’s box allowed Joao Moutinho to poke the ball to Ronaldo, whose shot bounced in off the post. Following the goal, Portugal’s play improved considerably. Ronaldo came close with a free kick, and then hit the post after a wonderful lob from Raul Meireles. Soon after, Helder Postiga had a wonderful header saved by the goalkeeper. That was how the half ended: 1-1. Portugal’s play was noticeably improved, but a goal had not come yet.

That goal came soon after the second half commenced.  Joao Moutinho played a ball over the top for Helder Postiga, who side-footed the ball past the keeper to make the score 2-1 in Portugal’s favor. After the goal, the game was badly officiated, as Luxembourg became more physical by the minute. Both the side referees and main referee made blatantly incorrect calls, mostly in Luxembourg’s favor. Nevertheless, Portugal controlled the rest of the match, kept their head, and ground out a victory.

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

Man-of-the-Match: Ronaldo

Crutch-of-the-Match: Miguel Veloso

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

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)