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
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)
10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season
Portugal is once again producing quality young footballers at a scale not seen since the ‘Golden Generation’ that emerged in the late 1990s.
But at no time has there been more Portuguese youngsters playing abroad in Europe’s top leagues. Only three of the ten players on this list will be playing in Portugal this season.
Please note, this list includes only players that have yet to establish themselves as national team players but who we believe can conceivably do so during Euro 2016 qualifying. Both Bruma and André Gomes have received call-ups but have yet to establish themselves as regular players.
Here now is a list of 10 Portuguese young stars to watch this season.
Ruben Vezo , Central Defender, Valencia FC
Last season was probably the best debut season Ruben Vezo could have asked for. He was definitively promoted to Vitória de Setúbal’s first team after two successful seasons with the club’s under-19 side. And it only took him half a season to catch the eye of La Liga giants Valencia. After making 12 appearances for Vitória de Setúbal , the central defender was off to Spain. Used primarily as a backup at Valencia for the rest of the season, Vezo still managed to appear eight times, scoring once.
This season, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Vezo should play a more prominent role, especially considering Ricardo Costa and Jeremy Mathieu have left the club. Vezo will now compete with Nicolas Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi for playing time, two well-established internationals. This is no easy task, but Vezo has the tools to develop into a solid defender. And at only 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to reach that potential.
Raphaël Guerreiro , Left-Back, FC Lorient
Having been born and raised in France, it could be said that Raphaël Guerreiro is a bit different from other players on this list. Born to a French mother and a Portuguese father, Guerreiro’s allegiances thus far lie with Portugal, despite never having played in the Portuguese league. He is already an established first-team player at French side Lorient. Despite having played only one season in top-flight, Guerreiro is already viewed as one of the most promising left-backs in Ligue 1.
It appears that little will change this season, with many touting him for another good campaign. With another successful season under his belt, larger clubs will surely come knocking for Guerriero’s services. He has reportedly drawn interest from Premier League clubs West Ham and Liverpool . If he can manage to stay healthy, Raphael Guerreiro could be the subject of a bidding war next summer.
André Gomes, Midfielder, Valencia CF
The 21-year-old midfielder began making a name for himself in Benfica’s reserve squad with some dominant performances at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. He would make his senior debut with the club that season in a Portuguese Cup match against Freamunde, scoring a goal in a 4-0 victory. His performances would earn him some playing time in the Champions League as well.
Gomes has exceptional technical ability and is versatile as well. He played in defensive midfield last season with Benfica, but his attributes are better suited for an attacking role. After being heavily linked with a move to the Premier League in January 2014, his rights were sold to an investment fund for €15 million. Gomes will be part of a resurgent Valencia side this season.
João Teixeira , Midfielder, Benfica
Few would have expected João Teixeira to have been as involved in Benfica’s pre-season as he has been, playing mainly as an anchor man in the midfield. Teixeira made 28 appearances for Benfica’s B team last season, but only 16 of those were starts. Still only 20-years-old, Teixeira has been a welcome surprise in Benfica’s otherwise underwhelming pre-season.
With the team’s first-choice holding midfielder, Ljubomir Fejsa out injured for the foreseeable future, Teixeira is now creating competition for Ruben Amorim. Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has a history of nurturing young talent, as he did with Andre Gomes. And should Teixeira be given a first-team role this season, look for big things.
João Mário, Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon
João Mário has long been viewed as a top Portuguese prospect. The midfielder has been at Sporting since he was 11-years-old, but has only managed one first team appearance so far. After spending the entire 2012-2013 season playing for Sporting’s B side, João Mário was loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga outfit Vitória de Setúbal for the second half of last season. He immediately earned a regular place on the team and managed to make 15 league appearances.
His performances were enough to earn him the ‘Young Player of the Month’ award for January and February, ahead of the likes of William Carvalho, Ricardo Horta, and Bebe. João Mário was recalled to the Sporting senior squad this summer and he appears to be in contention for a starting position. His work this pre-season has not gone unnoticed. Former Sporting midfielder Luis Vidigal delivered a glowing recommendation for the player in a recent interview. ‘ It is only a matter of time before Marco Silva realizes the value of João Mário,’ Vidigal said.
Bruno Fernandes, Attacking Midfielder, Udinese Calcio
Unlike most players on this list, Bruno Fernandes never played for one of the ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football. In fact, the Udinese midfielder never even played for a club in Portugal’s top division. The former Boavista youth player accepted a modest offer from Italian club Novara in 2012. He has adjusted well to the Italian game, helping Novara to promotion the following season and earning a move to Udinese last summer.
Fernandes started last season in Udinese’s reserve squad, but eventually earned his way into the starting line-up. He impressed with his vision, technical skill and creativity, playing mainly in the ‘Number 10’ position behind the striker. Fernandes would make 24 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals. And he is finally receiving some recognition in his home country, having been selected for the U-19 and U-20 youth squads.
Tozé, Attacking Midfielder, Estoril-Praia
A supremely-gifted attacking midfielder who will be officially on-loan for the next two seasons at Estoril. The 21-year-old is a graduate of FC Porto’s youth academy and has been a regular player for Portugal at every youth level. He was dominant last season playing for Porto’s reserve squad in the Segunda Liga, scoring 21 goals in 40 appearances.
As well as having an eye for goal, Tozé has a well-rounded game. He is technically skilled and is versatile as well. He could play in the centre of the pitch, as well on the wings. He should receive more playing time with Estoril, who will be playing in the Europa League this season. Current manager José Couceiro, did an excellent job with a young squad at Vitória de Setubal last season. Tozé appears ready to make the next step.
Marcos Lopes, Attacking Midfielder, Lille OSC
Perhaps the most talked-about teenager in world football. Marcos Lopes first made a name for himself as a Benfica youth player, before leaving for Manchester City in 2011. He would score in his first ever appearances for The Citizens in a January 2013 FA Cup match against Watford, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. He continued his dominant performances for Manchester City’s youth squad.
Lopes played for Portugal this summer at the U-19 UEFA Championships, helping his country to the final where they eventually lost to Germany. An attacking midfielder, with exceptional technical ability and vision, Lopes feels most comfortable on the left side of the pitch. His style of play has often been compared to Ronaldinho. The 18-year-old will spend this season on loan at Ligue 1 club Lille.
Ricardo Horta, Winger, Málaga CF
19-year-old Ricardo Horta was one of the top revelations last season in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The supremely talented winger is a former Benfica youth player, who moved south to Vitória Setúbal in 2011. He started playing regularly for the club last season, eventually helping them finishing a better than expected seventh in the league table. Horta would score seven goals for the club along the way.
It came as no surprise when La Liga club Málaga signed him this summer. Horta has not wasted any time impressing his new fan base. He scored a beautiful long-range goal in the pre-season against Australian club Perth Glory in late July. And he has dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, making him one of the top young players to watch this season in La Liga.
Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray S.K.
Once hailed as ‘Portugal’s next big thing,’ Bruma’s career has stalled due to a serious knee injury sustained last January. The timing for the winger’s injury could not have been worse. He was just beginning to find his feet at Galatasaray with a series of positive performances in both the Turkish league and the Champions League.
Bruma was selected to the national team for the first time in October 2013, just a few months before his injury. Any hopes he had of representing his country at the World Cup were all but finished. But Bruma is now healthy and back playing football. He had a positive pre-season, which is something that his new manager Cesare Prandelli should take note of. At only 19-years-old, Bruma already has the tools to become an elite player and soon.
Following Portugal’s abysmal World Cup campaign, many are calling for an entire squad overhaul. And whether or not that will happen is anybody’s guess. Paulo Bento has earned quite a reputation for favoritism, consistently choosing the same players time and time again. While these players have performed well for Portugal in the past, many of their performances recently have been far from their best. For instance, for this World Cup, Bento called up players such as Helder Postiga, Nani, and Eder, none of whom played regularly at all last season. Some would argue that players such as Postiga, Nani, and Eder don’t deserve to play for the national team due to a lack of playing time at their clubs, and that players who play club football more regularly should earn the call instead. Essentially, Paulo Bento is rewarding mediocrity. The competition for places on the team has dwindled to nothing. Good performances won’t earn a call-up.
Many Portuguese fans have felt this way recently, and many feel the World Cup highlighted the holes in Paulo Bento’s plan. With Paulo Bento to stay in charge until at least Euro 2016, a change in coach does not look likely. The only think fans can hope for is a change in mentality from Bento. At the heart of this change should be a re-evaluation of the squad: determining which players deserve a place in the team, and discarding those who don’t.
So, here are 12 players who deserve a place in Paulo Bento’s squad, in no particular order.
Lima has played in Portugal ever since the 2009-2010 season, when he joined Belenenses from the lower divisions in Brazil. After a successful first season at Belenenses, Braga purchased the striker, who became a cult figure at the club. In his second season at Braga, Lima truly came of age. In 30 appearances, Lima scored 20 times, helping Braga to an impressive 3rd place finish, and also finishing as the joint top goalscorer in Portugal. As a result of his scoring exploits, Benfica came knocking. And in the two seasons he has been at Benfica, Lima has managed 34 goals in 56 appearances. Portugal has a long-standing striker problem ever since the retirement of Pauleta. Hugo Almeida, Helder Postiga, Nelson Oliveira, and more recently Eder have all been given chances, but none have truly won over the position. Though Lima was born in Brazil and has only been in Portugal for five years, naturalization is certainly an option. Lima isn’t getting any younger, however. At 31, Bento may have to act sooner rather than later if he wants Lima in the national team.
In the past two seasons, fans of Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese national team have witnessed Cedric Soares realize his potential. Always regarded as one of Portuguese football’s brightest prospects, Cedric has made the starting right-back spot at Sporting his own. The defender helped Sporting to an impressive 2nd place finish this season, playing in 28 matches for the club. And still only 22, Cedric has the time to develop further and to become an important member of the Seleccao for years to come.
Arguably Sporting’s finest player last season, his exclusion from the Portuguese team for the World Cup left many with a bad taste in their mouths. In the mold of a stylish no. 10, Adrien Silva is a creative spark behind Sporting, and a huge reason that the team finished as high on the table as they did. His call to the national team last season shows that Paulo Bento is not averse to his inclusion in the team, but a place in the starting eleven may be a bit harder to achieve. Bento is known to favor a three-man midfield of Veloso, Moutinho, and Meireles, which worked wonders at Euro 2012. Since then, that combination has fallen flat many a time. And with Bento not even willing to change his midfield trio with the inclusion of proven talent William Carvalho, a place for Adrien may be a long time off.
Sporting Lisbon employed much the same tactic last season as Portugal does currently. Both teams play a 4-3-3, with virtually the same midfield set-up. William Carvalho provides the defensive anchor, Andre Martins provides some tenacity and creative spark, and Adrien does the dirty work, while also popping in with some creativity. Andre Martins enjoyed a solid season at Sporting, which was his first in the top flight that saw him perform regularly. With two senior team caps under his belt, Martins has already been in and around the team, and at the very least can provide cover for the ageing Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso.
Bento made a bold decision with his team selection this summer. Instead of choosing a natural left-back as back-up for Fabio Coentrao, Bento chose utility man Andre Almeida, who is capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield and defense. Almeida is a right-footed player, who Bento employed at left-back. A series of mediocre performances followed from Almeida, who while solid, lacked any attacking acumen going forward. Antunes, on the other hand, is equally adept at attacking and defending, a quality that he has showed at Malaga, where he has won a starting spot at left-back. And he is no stranger to the national team. Having appeared for the team after an impressive U-20 World Cup showing in 2007, Antunes fell off the radar after an ill-fated move abroad to Roma. But after finding his way back to Portugal, Antunes earned a move to Malaga, where he has flourished, appearing 36 times last season alone. His performances have not gone unnoticed, with West Ham reportedly naming Antunes as one of their top targets.
Jose Fonte, despite being somewhat of an unknown in English football, has become one of the driving forces behind Southampton’s baffling rise to the English Premier League. Fonte became a regular for Championship side Crystal Palace after leaving Sporting before the 2007-2008 season. Establishing himself as a started, Fonte spent three seasons at the club before agreeing to a move to Southampton, who were at that time playing in the third tier of English football: League 1. Many were taken aback by this decision, but few will fault the defender now. Two seasons in League 1 saw them promoted to the Championship, and after only one season, the team earned passage into the English Premier League. During the entirety of this revival, Fonte maintained a starting position, and has kept it during his two seasons in the Premier League. And he hasn’t only kept it. He’s become one of the club’s finest performers. Last season, whoscored.com rated Fonte at 7.21, making him the second best performer for Southampton. Though he is 30 years old and not getting any younger, stats like that are hard to ignore. Once again, he at least deserves to earn a call to the team.
Portugal has been gifted with talented goalkeepers in recent years. Players such as Vitor Baia, Ricardo, and Eduardo have graced the spot in between the sticks in recent years, and more recently, Rui Patricio has rightfully made the starting spot his own. And even after Patricio’s injury at this World Cup, backup goalkeeper Beto slid in an performed with confidence and skill. Of the three goalkeepers that Bento called on this summer, only two are still playing regularly in a top league. Beto was instrumental in Sevilla’s Europa League win last season, and Rui Patricio is one of Sporting Lisbon’s shining jewels. Eduardo, on the other hand, played well for Braga last season on loan from Genoa, but has transferred to Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. The point of this is not to say that Dinamo is not a good team, but rather to point out that the Croatian league is not anywhere close to being a top league. It’s not even comparable to, let’s say, the French league. And now we come to Anthony Lopes, who was Lyon’s starting goalkeeper last season, appearing 32 times in the league. And this season, it looks as if not much will change. With Lopes playing regularly against players like Ibrahimovic and Falcao, why not call him up to the team, even if it is to serve as a back-up.
Guerreiro deserves to be considered for the National Team. I highlighted the left-back in an article last week, and the reason is clear. Guerreiro is playing regularly for a team in the top division in France, and is only 20 years old. There is a chance that he could switch alliances and choose to play for France, a move that would be devastating for Portugal. He won’t take the starting spot from Coentrao, and no one is expecting him to. But he certainly deserves a chance in the team, even if it is initially just to tie him down to Portugal.
You may be wondering why Quaresma was included on this list; a player who has dozens of caps for Portugal. The reason is simple. Paulo Bento chose to leave Quaresma at home this World Cup, instead choosing Vieirinha, who had just come off a season ravaged by injuries. While Quaresma’s seasons recently have been lackluster, once the winger arrived at Porto in January, he looked a different player. And 10 goals in 24 appearances later, many were left scratching their heads when Bento left Quaresma off the team. Quaresma could have surely brought something to the team, at the very least as backup. While he is 30 and will soon be 31, Quaresma still possesses a skillset that can be of use to the team.
Few were expecting for Diogo Figueiras to have the impact last season that he did. After an impressive 2012-2013 debut season for Pacos Ferreira, Figueiras earned a move to Spanish club Sevilla. Still a virtual unknown, the right-back managed an impressive 22 first team appearances for the Spanish club, helping the team as they won the Europa League. With first-choice right back Coke a possibility to leave, Figueiras will look to build on what was a very solid first season at Sevilla. And one way he can build on his season is to be rewarded with a call to the National Team, something that he undoubtedly deserves. He is certainly capable of providing competition for Joao Pereira.
Another member of Sevilla’s impressive Europa League winning squad last season, Daniel Carrico is enjoying something of a revival after a horrendous season in England. Once viewed as Sporting Lisbon’s golden boy, Carrico was given captaincy at the Portuguese club at just 22. But the center defender’s form dropped as Sporting muddled through some of their worst seasons in history. As a result, Carrico was sold for close to nothing to newly promoted Premier League side Reading. At Reading, Carrico only managed a handful of appearances, and a loan deal to Sevilla for the 2013-2014 season was arranged. In his season at Sevilla, Carrico became one of the club’s most dependable performers, with his performances earning him a permanent move this summer. Long thought of as one of Portugal’s most up and coming defenders, few will argue that Carrico reached the potential that many saw in him during his Sporting years. But few will argue that Carrico’s season last time out was one of his finest. And not only that, but he is versatile. Capable of playing both at center back and defensive midfield, versatility is something that Paulo Bento looks for. So Paulo…nudge nudge.
Often labeled as Manchester United’s biggest flop, many English football fans assumed that Bebe’s career was a joke and that he had very little to offer the world of football. Oh how they are wrong. Rightly derided in England, Bebe’s time at Manchester United, though not abysmal, was certainly not worthy of the price that the club paid for his services. But a good decision on their part was to loan him back to Portugal. A semi-successful loan to Rio Ave during the 2012-2013 season was followed by a hugely successful loan to Pacos Ferreira last season. At Pacos, Bebe finished the season as the top scoring Portuguese player in the league, which is even more impressive when one considers that the winger was playing for a team who had to avoid relegation via a playoff. Following arguably his most impressive season yet, Benfica are extremely close to signing him, and you can expect that he won’t be loaned out.
Porto to Zulte Waregem
Porto B‘s long-serving captain Tiago Ferreira has been sold by the club to Zulte Waregem, a Belgian Pro League club. Ferreira, who has captained the B-team for two seasons, is seen by many to be one of Portuguese football’s top prospects. Only 21, the center defender has two seasons with Porto B under his belt, as well as appearances at two FIFA U-20 World Cups and a couple of U-21 caps. Much is expected of Ferreira, so the question goes begging: Why let him leave?
The answer is a simple one, rooted in a fundamental change in big-club operations in recent years. Ferreira has signed with the Belgian team on a 4-year contract. Though it has not been confirmed, it may be assumed that this transfer is similar to that of Josue. Josue was an equally precocious talent during his youth days at Porto, but was sold to Pacos Ferreira. Under the agreement of sale, Porto retained the right to purchase back Josue at a set price whenever they wanted to. And after two seasons at Pacos, Josue was re-purchased by Porto, where he was largely in the first team. It proved a successful tactic for Porto, who could viably develop their prospects who were not yet developed enough for the first team. And it is more advantageous than a simple loan, as selling a player to a club and having the player stay at that club for more than one season allows him to settle in better and become a valued member of the team.
So, why Zulte? Why not another team in Portugal? There is no easy answer to this, but one may speculate that Ferreira was sold to Zulte due to the club’s rising stature in European football. The club greatly benefited from the presence of Thorgan Hazard, the brother of Belgian star Eden, over the past two seasons. His 14 goals last season helped the club to a 4th placed finish, earning them a Europa League qualification play-off tie. So with Europa League football a strong possibility at a club where Ferreira can conceivably nail down a starting position, this move was an ideal one for Porto. Who knows? If this goes well, we could very well see Tiago Ferreira playing for the Seleccao in two years time.
Olympiakos to Dinamo Zagreb
(4.5 million euros)
For a fee of around 4.5 million, Paulo Machado is swapping Greece for Croatia. According to multiple reports, the Portuguese midfielder has signed for Croatian champions Dinamo Zagreb, where he will join fellow compatriots Ruben Lima and Ivo Pinto. Machado joined Olympiakos in 2012, and has enjoyed success at the Greek Club, twice winning the Greek SuperLeague title. In and out of the national team setup, it will be interesting to see how this move affects Machado’s playing time for the Seleccao. My first thought is that it will do more harm than good.
Sweden 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 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
Portugal 1-1 Israel
2014 World Cup Qualification
It was not a game to remember last Friday for the Portuguese National Team, as they could only muster a 1-1 draw at home against Israel. A first-half header from Ricardo Costa gave Portugal the lead. Though the majority of the match flow was in favor of Portugal, an unfortunate error by Rui Patricio allowed the visitors to equalize late in the second half. This was an unfortunate draw for the team; one that was not fully justified.
With Raul Meireles and Bruno Alves out injured, and Fabio Coentrao and Helder Postiga suspended, the Portuguese line-up was an unusual one. Patricio started in goal, while Antunes subbed in for the suspended Coentrao on the left of defense. On the right side of the defense was Andre Almeida, who surprisingly earned a start ahead of Cedric Soares, who had been tipped to start all during the week prior. In the center of defense was Ricardo Costa and Pepe. The Portuguese midfield was left largely unchanged, with Miguel Veloso and Joao Moutinho getting the start, while Ruben Micael took the place of the injured Meireles. The wings were also unchanged, with Ronaldo on the left and Nani on the right. Hugo Almeida started up top in place of the suspended Helder Postiga.
The game started well, with the Portuguese finding their flow very quickly. It took less than half an hour for the hosts to make the breakthrough. A searching ball from Antunes found Pepe at the back-post. The center defender side-footed the ball across the face of the goal, directly into the path of Ricardo Costa, whose head met the ball. The scores were open at 1-0, and Portugal did not look like going back. Interestingly enough, it was Ricardo Costa’s first goal for the Seleccao, even at the age of 32. The second half was more of the same: Portugal dominating, and Israel snatching at infrequent chances. Portugal continued to search for another goal to double their lead, and came close numerous times, but lady luck was not smiling kindly upon Portugal. Late in the match, just minutes before the end, an botched Rui Patricio clearance fell to the feet of an Israeli player, whose finish could not have been easier. With the scores now tied at 1-1, Portugal attacked menacingly, but could not muster up another goal. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, a disappointment for Portugal. One positive can be taken from this match, however. Porto midfielder Josue made his debut for the Seleccao and looked very lively after he was subbed on in the second-half. Andre Almeida also debuted for the team, and also looked very solid in defense.
Rui Patricio, Ricardo Costa, Pepe, Antunes, Andre Almeida, Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso(Eder), Ruben Micael(Josue), Ronaldo, Nani, Hugo Almeida(Nelson Oliveira)
It seems as though there may be a new world-class player donning the Seleccao’s shirt at some point in the near future. Marquinhos, who scored today for PSG in the team’s 3-0 Champion’s League victory over Benfica today, expressed his interest in playing for the Portuguese National Football Team. Though born in Brazil, Marquinhos also holds Portuguese citizenship, likely through his parents or grandparents. The defender expressed his interest, saying: “If the invitation comes, why not? I’ll be very honored and happy.”
Should Portugal decide to call on Marquinhos, they would get one of the brightest young center-backs in the game at the moment. The defender made the move to Roma at the beginning of last season. Though not much was expected of him, Marquinhos established himself as not only a talented player, but also one of the league’s finest defenders (at age 18). 26 impressive league appearances for one of Italy’s top teams earned him a move to money-rich PSG, who splashed out 30 million euros for his services. Still only aged 19, Marquinhos has established himself as one of the brightest prospects in world football, and the Seleccao would be silly not to choose him before Brazil gets to him.