Fernando Santos Releases List of 24 for Upcoming Seleção Matches


Fernando SantosPortugal National Team coach Fernando Santos has released a list of 24 players for the team’s upcoming match against Serbia. The team plays Serbia at home on the 29th in a qualification match for Euro 2016 before facing Cape Verde in a friendly match two days later, also to be played on home soil. Santos is slated to call up an additional dozen players or so for the Cape Verde match. Expect Santos to name the additional names on Monday.

Adrien Silva, Raphael Guerreiro, Tiago Gomes, Beto, and Helder Postiga, who were all included in the last squad, were excluded this time out. Other than those exclusions, the team is largely unchanged. Here’s the full list:  Continue reading

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

Euro 2016 Qualifying Groups Drawn


Paulo BentoUEFA 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.