Fernando Santos will look to build on a sound start to his tenure in the Portuguese dugout ahead of a clash against Group I dark horses Armenia in the Algarve. Having come away with the three points in Copenhagen after a last-gasp Cristiano Ronaldo effort, A Seleção da Quinas will be confident of building on a professional display in their last hit-out in front of a packed Faro crowd. Continue reading
It took a very late goal from Cristiano Ronaldo to do it, but, Fernando Santos’ new-look Portuguese National Team picked up their first victory and first three points of Euro 2016 qualifying in Copenhagen on Tuesday, defeating Denmark 1-0. Continue reading
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)
UEFA announced the other day the qualifying groups for Euro 2016. Portugal were drawn with Denmark, Serbia, Armenia, and Albania. Portugal will be wary of facing Denmark and Albania again, having had trouble with the two in previous qualifying campaigns.
It is worth noting that qualification for Euro 2016 will be much easier than in previous tournaments. Euro 2016 will be the first European championship where the number of participating teams is 24, having been expanded from 16 in 2012. This translates into the top two teams in each group qualifying directly, while the third-place in each group qualifies for a playoff.
Portugal faced Denmark in qualification for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. The Danes proved to be worthy opponents, topping the group each time, and forcing Portugal to qualify via the play-off. In the four times Portugal and Denmark met in the two qualifying phases, Denmark won 2, Portugal won 1, and the teams drew once. It is evident that Denmark is not a team to take lightly. Though their momentum has slowed as of late (the team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup), Denmark still packs a punch.
Serbia is another team that has the potential to cause problems for Portugal in qualification. Combining proven stars like Branislav Ivanovic, Aleksandar Kolorov, Nemanja Matic, and Adem Ljajic with up-and-coming talents such as Lazar Markovic, Milos Jojic, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbia is also not a team to be taken lightly. The Serbia U-19 team was victorious last summer at the 2013 UEFA U-19 European Championships, and a few of the players from that tournament have made the move to the full national team. This mix of established, world-class stars and up-and-coming youngsters give Serbia an air of unpredictability. Though they have fallen short in recent qualification tournaments (the last tournament they qualified for was the 2010 World Cup), Serbia are a much different team now.
Armenia are somewhat of an unknown entity. Armenia is a small country of barely over three million inhabitants, bordered by Iran, Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. The team has never qualified for a major tournament, and, frankly, has hardly ever come anywhere close to qualifying. That is, until the 2014 World Cup. Armenia was drawn with Italy, Czech Republic, Malta, Bulgaria, and Denmark. The team started off slowly, losing to Bulgaria, Italy, Czech Republic, and Malta, but absolutely stunned Denmark, winning 4-0 in Denmark. The team then managed to defeat Bulgaria and Czech Republic before rounding off their campaign with a 2-2 draw in Italy. Though Armenia didn’t come very close to qualifying, they turned some heads with their impressive performances against Denmark and Italy, two of Europe’s top sides.
Portugal last met Albania in 2010 World Cup qualification, and though the team did not offer much competition, the Seleccao still only managed two draws (including one last-gasp 2-2 draw to keep their qualification hopes alive). Portugal tend to play down to their opponents level, which is why the team has had problems with Albania in the past. If the Seleccao can manage to play well, Albania should be no match.
Paulo Bento announced today a list of 23 players for the Seleccao’s upcoming matches against Northern Ireland and Brazil. The Northern Ireland match, to be played on September 6, is a crucial World Cup qualifying match for the Seleccao. Portugal currently sits in first (with a game in hand) in their qualifying group, but must win all of their remaining games for any hope of qualifying. Three days later, the team travels to the United States for a friendly match against Brazil. The squad list is below:
Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: João Pereira (Valência), Ricardo Costa (Valência), Pepe (Real Madrid), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Neto (Zenit), Antunes (Málaga)
Midfielders: Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Miguel Veloso (Dínamo Kiev), Rúben Micael (Braga), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), André Martins (Sporting), Josué (FC Porto)
Forwards: Danny (Zenit), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Hélder Postiga (Valência)
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)
Russia 2-1 Portugal (U21)
The Portuguese Under-21 team, just like their senior counterparts, put in a lackluster performance against a skillful Russian team. Russia started out on the front foot, coming close twice with two decent headers, but not forcing Mika into a save. Slightly against the run of play, Portugal took the lead through Wilson Eduardo. A surging run from Sporting youngster Andre Martins was finished with an intelligent pass into space for Eduardo, whose shot was partially saved by the keeper, but still creeped in the goal. Russia’s play, however, was becoming more organized, forcing the Portuguese players into silly and costly mistakes. The first half ended with Portugal gaining the numerical advantage, but Russia looked the better team.
The second half started in spectacular fashion after Kokorin headed past Mika to level the scores. Mika will be disappointed with his defense on the play, and also with his lackadaisical attempt at a save. Soon after, Russia poured more salt on Portugal’s already stinging wounds. The corner was whipped in, and the ball fell to Smolov, who, after juking out the entire Portuguese defense, unleashed a deft near-post shot, which squeezed in just past the diving Mika. The goal was quite impressive, and clearly highlighted the frailties of the Portuguese defense. For most of the rest of the game, thing stayed pretty even, with most teams looking equally as dangerous, although Russia looked all the more organized. The final whistle blew and the game ended in a 2-1 favor of the Russians, which they fully deserve.
Mika, Cedric, Joao Pereira, Pedro Mendes, Mario Rui, Andre Almeida, Josue(David Simao), Andre Martins(Andre Martins), Sana(Diogo Viana), Wilson Eduardo, Nelson Oliveira
Man of the Match: Andre Martins
Crutch of the Match: Cedric/Mika
Denmark 2-1 Portugal
The Portuguese National Team put in a sub-par performance and were punished as Denmark ran out easy 2-1 winners. Portugal’s loss placed Portugal at second in the group, with Denmark winning the group and thus qualifying for Euro 2012. Throughout the match, Denmark controlled the tempo, constantly forcing the Portuguese team into making mistakes, mistakes that they would pay for. This game was tough to swallow for me. Despite the 3-1 scoreline from the last time the two teams met, this was always going to be a tough game for the Portuguese. The Danish team plays all of their matches in the Parken Staduim, in Copenhagen. Teams typically have a hard time earning points in this stadium, for some reason. It is a bit like Stoke City, who has a reputation for their imperious home form. The Danish coach, Morten Olsen, stated before the match that Denmark had a plan for dealing with Portugal. Oh how he was right.
The game started off in Denmark’s favor, with the Danes having a goal disallowed after it was adjudged offside. That should have been a wake-up call for Portugal, but unfortunately, it really wasn’t. Denmark then proceeded to take the lead after a Michael Krohn-Dehli shot took a slight deflection off the face of Rolando. Denmark were ahead, and so far, they deserved it. Soon after, however, Rolando had a golden opportunity to redeem himself and open his account for Portugal. Carlos Martins swung a free kick in from the left, which fell to an unmarked Rolando, whose side-footed shot scooted wide. Portugal began to find their feet in the match after Rolando’s miss, most notably shown through Carlos Martins and Ronaldo’s shots, which were easily held by the keeper. A quickly taken free kick was passed to Joao Moutinho, whose pass to the middle for an open Helder Postiga was snuffed out by a Danish defender. After the half, Denmark pounced slightly out of the blue. Some lax defending from Eliseu and Rolando allowed a perfect split ball to be played, which was then squared expertly for Bendtner to finish to give Denmark a 2-0 lead. The Danish continued to go close and Portugal continued to disappoint. Finally, in extra time at the end of the game, Portugal were rewarded for what they didn’t deserve. Ronaldo hit a marvellous free-kick to give Portugal a consolation goal and to make the final score 2-1 Denmark.
Portugal will now play in the play-offs, which will occur in November and will be a two-legged match system.
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Eliseu(Quaresma), Rolando, Bruno Alves, Carlos Martins(Miguel Veloso), Joao Moutinho, Raul Meireles, Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga(Nuno Gomes)
With this game, Ronaldo has moved into the top five in the list of all-time appearances. Also, with his goal, he has moved to fourth in the all-time goals list.
Man of the Match: Nani
Crutch of the Match: Rolando/Carlos Martins
Portugal maintained their impressive, but accurate, status of eighth best in the world, according to the FIFA World Rankings. Portugal recently defeated Denmark and Iceland, both by a 3-1 scoreline, so I have to admit that I was quite disappointed when I saw that the Seleccao were only eighth. Spain maintained number one, with Holland coming in right behind them at second. Brazil overtook Germany for third spot, and the Germans got fourth. After the top four, I don’t know what FIFA is thinking. Argentina fifth? That’s silly. They should be more like eighth or ninth after their recent performances. England then came in as sixth. I agree that this English team should be in the top ten, but not sixth. Uruguay followed England for a well-deserved seventh place. Portugal, Croatia, and Russia the followed in that order.
Head on over to the National Team section to see the top ten.