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


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

Portugal 0-1 Germany

Final

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

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

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

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

Looking forward


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

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

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

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

2014 U-19 European Championship Preview: Portugal


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

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

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

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

U19 Squad List Released for Tournament


Helio Sousa, the Portuguese Under-19 team head coach, has released a list of players that will be participating in a tournament in Spain next month. The team will face Slovakia, Norway, and Sweden, on the 7th, 9th, and 11th, respectively. Sporting Lisbon was the most represented club on the list, with no less than 6 players called-up from the club. Here’s the full list:

Barcelona (Spain): Luís Gustavo
Belenenses: Adolfo Leite
Benfica: Francisco Junior, Luis Martins, and Rúben Pinto
FC Porto: David Bruno, Fábio Nunes, Filipe Barros, Ricardo Ferreira, and Tiago Maia
Louletano: João Reis
Rio Ave: André Dias
Sporting: Agostinho Cá, Betinho, Bruma, Luis Ribeiro, Ricardo Esgaio, and Taira
UD Leiria: Ricardo Cardoso
V. Guimarães: João Amorim, Josué, Paulo Oliveira, and Tiago Rodrigues

Sporting Starlet Tracked by City and Chelsea


Sporting youth academy player Bruma is apparently a target for Manchester City and Chelsea. The speedy winger has been dubbed “the new Ronaldo” and is one of the more promising players currently enrolled in the academy. Bruma, who is currently 15, is celebrating his 16th birthday on the 24th. Because he is now turning 16, he will be eligible for a professional contract. Bruma started all three of the Portugal U-17 team’s group stage matches at this last summer’s UEFA U-17 Championship. Since then, still at age 15, he has gone on to be a regular for the Portugal U-19 team. It’s no wonder that some of the top teams in the world are after him.