Five-Star Portugal Coast Past Germany


Portugal's Ivan Cavaleiro celebrating his goal. Photo: Lusa

Portugal’s Ivan Cavaleiro celebrating his goal. Photo: Lusa

Portugal 5-0 Germany

2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship Semi-Final

A comprehensive performance from the Portuguese under-21 team pushed them past Germany in the semi-final of the 2015 U-21 European Championship to book a place in the tournament’s final. Goals from Bernardo Silva, Ricardo Pereira, Ivan Cavaleiro, João Mario, and Ricardo Horta gave Portugal an emphatic and entirely unpredicted 5-0 win over the Germans. The Portuguese will now face Sweden in the final, to be played on Tuesday.  Continue reading

Rui Jorge Names Squad of 23 for Playoff Matches


Rui JorgePortugal Under-21 coach Rui Jorge named yesterday a 23 man squad to face the Netherlands in the playoff for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The playoff is a two-match series, with first played in Netherlands on the 9th and the other in Portugal on the 14th.  Needless to say, these two matches are of great importance. This is the closest the U-21 team has come to qualification to a major tournament since 2007, which is the last time the team appeared in a U-21 Euro.  Continue reading

U21s Finish Qualification on a High


Portugal vs Azerbaijan - U21 qualifying 2014

Portugal 3-1 Azerbaijan

2015 UEFA U-21 Euro Qualification

The Portuguese Under 21 team maintained their perfect record today, as they ran out 3-1 winners against Azerbaijan in their final 2015 UEFA U-21 Euro qualification match. Having already qualified for the play-off, this match was more or less a formality for Portugal. Despite this, the team managed a convincing victory, with goals from Rafa, Edgar Ie, and Ricardo Esgaio all on the score-sheet for the team. Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Albania


Paulo Bento - Portugal

Portugal vs Albania

Match Preview

The Portuguese National Team will kick off their UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign tomorrow when they host Albania. Portugal is also joined in Group I by Denmark, Armenia, and Serbia. France will also play all of the teams in Group I, but the matches will not count towards the final group standings, as France is automatically qualified as host of Euro 2016. With Serbia, Denmark, and Armenia all wildcards capable of giving Portugal trouble, one feels that the matches against Albania are must-wins for the Portuguese.

Paulo Bento named a decidedly new-look Portuguese team for this match, most likely as a response to team selection criticism after the World Cup. Bento has earned a reputation lately for being set in his ways. Many believe he is too much set in his ways, but the fact that he has stuck with players who are past their prime is one that cannot be overlooked. Players such as Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga, and Miguel Veloso have all seen better days, but are still automatic starters under Bento. Players such as William Carvalho, Jose Fonte, and Adrien Silva have been given few opportunities, despite stellar performances. In fact, with the example of Fonte and Adrien, Bento has not even selected these players, despite their solid performances in the Premier League and the Portuguese Liga, respectively.

When it was announced that Paulo Bento would stay on as coach until at least Euro 2016, many fans feared more of the same favoritism for two more years. This favoritism, many fear, could cost the team qualification for Euro 2016, which could be the first time Portugal has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But, with the team that Bento selected for tomorrow’s match against Albania, many of the hardcore opponents will be appeased. In the team that Bento named, no less than seven players have the opportunity to make their debuts. These players are Pedro Tiba (Braga), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), and Adrien Silva (Sporting). All seven are enjoying positive starts to their respective seasons, and it is encouraging that Bento is giving opportunities to young, capable players. And there are some statistics that show Bento’s change in heart:


Average age of 2014 World Cup squad: 27.9 years old

Average age of squad named for Albania game: 25.6 years old

Average number of appearances for 2014 World Cup squad: 34.5 caps

Average number of appearances for squad named for Albania Game: 23.4 caps


As the numbers show, the team that Bento named for tomorrow’s match is both drastically younger and more inexperienced. This decision to boot experience and age in favor of younger, more inexperienced players could prove to be a positive decision. The Portuguese are coming off of a tournament that they were expected to perform much better than they did. With their star man Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly at his height as a footballer at the age of 29, the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s. Portugal had an experienced team, which was led by arguably the finest player in the world at the time of the tournament, and the team was expected to beat out the United States and Ghana easily to earn a second-place spot behind Germany (at least) in Group G. The rest is history, and the decision by Bento now to bring in new faces suggests that he is preparing the team to move on and look ahead to future challenges (such as Euro 2016).


Portugal last met Albania in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the team was led by Carlos Queiroz, who if nothing else, instilled a defensive solidarity in the team. In the 10 matches during qualification, the team only conceded five goals in total. When the team met Albania in those qualifying matches, both teams’ tactics cancelled each other’s out. Both were defensive-leaning teams, and though Portugal possessed much greater talent, the outcomes were stale matches. The two times the teams played, the outcomes were a 0-0 draw and a last-minute 2-1 victory for Portugal.

This time around, Portugal plays a much more open, attacking style of play, one that can be used towards a much more positive result against Albania. Though the team will be lacking their start man, Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no shortage of talent and dynamism in the team. As this is a qualification match, Paulo Bento will likely keep his experimenting to a minimum.

Rui Patricio is a no-brainer to start in goal as a result of solid performances both for Sporting at the Seleccao recently. In front of Patricio will likely be a familiar back-line, something that Bento may be reluctant to change. Fabio Coentrao merits inclusion at left-back, while Joao Pereira could very well start on the right. There is a possibility that Joao Pereira could be benched in favor of Andre Almeida. Pereira’s future at Valencia is currently up in the air, and Bento has given hints that his starting spot is not set in stone. Pepe will likely start, seeing as he has been Real Madrid and Portugal’s starter for some time. The other center-back spot will likely come down between Ricardo Costa and Luis Neto. Though Ricardo Costa is 33 and not playing in a major league, Bento will likely choose him to start.

In midfield, Bento will likely have learned his lesson with William Carvalho. Carvalho will most likely start ahead of Miguel Veloso. Ahead of Carvalho will likely be Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles, who is one of the players whose lackluster performances lately have been noticed, may be benched in favor of Adrien Silva, whose performances for Sporting have been wonderful. On the wings, Nani will likely resume his starting position, after playing regularly for Sporting. Filling the hole left by Ronaldo will likely be Vieirinha, who is impressing at Wolfsburg. Up top should be Eder, who is the team’s most viable option as striker. Bento has also hinted that Ivan Cavaleiro could be used as striker for the team, but it remains clear who will start.

Here’s the full lineup, as predicted:

Portugal-Albania predicted lineup

If the team can learn from its previous mistakes, Portugal should have no problem with this game. The fact that Bento is giving opportunities to younger players, the morale and drive of the team should be very high. A positive performance in this game could very well put their underwhelming performances at the World Cup behind them. Put simply, a win tomorrow can be the first step towards a new chapter in Portuguese football.


 

PortugalFutbol prediction: Portugal 4-1 Albania

The Curious Case of Andre Moreira


Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Andre Moreira

Atletico Madrid to Moreirense (loan)

News came today that Portugal U-19 European siver-medalist Andre Moreira had joined Liga side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid. A move for the goalkeeper came as little surprise, as he was playing his club football at lowly third division Ribeirao before impressing for the U-19s this summer. But what came as a surprise was not that he had joined a top-flight side, but instead that he was joining on loan from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

Moreira enjoyed a very positive Euro U-19 Championship tournament this summer. Despite only playing in the third division leading up to the tournament, Moreira secured the starting position in goal ahead of Tiago Sa, who is a regular for Braga B in the second tier. This alone raised some eyebrows, and it was all the more impressive when one considers that Andre Moreira was one of the younger participants in the team at 18 years old.

In the time around the tournament, clubs such as Manchester United, Benfica, Valencia, and Monaco were all interested in Moreira. This comes as no surprise from his solid performances at such a young age. It’s not everyday that an 18 year-old goalkeeper becomes a starter for his club.

Around the time that the interest in Moreira was beginning to ramp up, it was announced by his club, Ribeirao, that he his rights had been purchased by Jorge Mendes’ agency, Gestifute. Mendes is the notorious agent who represents players such as Ronaldo, Helder Postiga, David De Gea, and others. He is partially responsible for the transfers of many talented players in the league over the past seasons, and has gained a reputation for earning players big moves. Gestifute bought Andre Moreira for 220,000 euros and apparently negotiated a move to Atletico Madrid.

Though I have been unable to find any confirmation that Andre Moreira did indeed end up at Atletico Madrid, all major Portuguese sports news outlets are reporting that he did indeed sign for them. And it’s easy to believe. Mendes has strong ties to the big clubs in both Spain and England.

Now, Andre Moreira will join newly-promoted Liga Zon Sagres side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid for the season, a move which will surely give him some playing time. Moreira will have to compete with first-choice Marafona, as well as Ricardo Ribeiro and new signing Gideao.

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

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

U-19s Top Hosts in Thrilling Encounter


Andre Silva's 4 goals led the team to victory

Andre Silva’s 4 goals led the team to victory

Hungary 1-6 Portugal

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Andre Silva put in a man-of-the-match as Portugal defeated Hungary 6-1 in both teams’ second match of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Silva scored 4, while Gelson Martins and Ivo Rodrigues scored one apiece. The performance was an impressive one from Portugal, especially considering the horrid conditions the match was played in, with the teams having to battle through torrential rain throughout the match. It was an impressive performance from the Portuguese (who struck the post multiple times) against a very determined Hungarian side. Let’s look more in-depth:

As is the style in modern football, national youth teams typically employ the same tactics as their senior counterparts. This meant that Portugal set up today in a 4-3-3 (as they also did against Israel). This 4-3-3 is a bit different from the full national team because of the mobility of the team’s star man, Marcos Lopes. Lopes is given the freedom to surge forward, and at times almost plays as a second striker to Andre Silva. Despite this, Lopes was seen many times tracking back to help the team defend, showing that he is tactically aware. The starting lineup was not much different to the way the team came out against Israel just three days ago. Andre Moreira was given the start in goal, while the back-four was unchanged in front of him. Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, and Rafa all started in defense. In midfield, Francisco Ramos replaced Raphael Guzzo, with Tomas Podstawski and Marcos Lopes alongside him. The forwards were unchanged as well, with Ivo Rodrigues and Gelson Martins on the wing and Andre Silva in the middle.

The game started brightly for the team, although the poor weather meant that the pitch quickly deteriorated. Despite being the better side, Hungary’s determination and tenacity meant that it took 32 minutes for Portugal to score. Ivo Rodrigues picked up the ball and ran into the box. A challenge from a Hungarian defender brought down Rodrigues, and the referee awarded a penalty. Rodrigues stepped up confidently, and gracefully struck the ball into the back of the net, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead. Portugal continued pressing, and were rightfully rewarded just before the stroke of halftime. Andre Silva released Ivo Rodrigues on the right, and the winger looked to not be able to get to the ball before the Hungarian defender marking him. His marker slid into the ball, presumably to clear the ball out of play, but instead overshot the ball due to the huge amount of water on the field, and Ivo Rodrigues was gifted with the ball. Rodrigues cut the ball back to the on-rushing Andre Silva, who calmly side-footed the ball into the net. And that goal meant that Portugal went into the locker room at halftime deservedly up 2-0.

Hungary came out in the second half with a much more attacking-minded game-plan, likely as an attempt to get back into the match, which had been largely dominated by Portugal in the first half. And their attacking intent worked well for them early in the second half, as the Hungarians looked the better team for the opening 15 minutes. But Portugal began to gain control over the game again, with Marcos Lopes, who had not had a great game until this point, beginning to find his stride. Just past the hour mark, Andre Silva missed a sitter. Good work from Gelson Martins put Silva through on goal. The striker rounded the keeper, and struck the ball into the post when it seemed easier to score. It was a howler, but Silva made quick amends. Just minutes later, Francisco Ramos aimed a peach of a cross into the far post where Silva was lurking. Silva deftly headed the ball into the bottom corner, and Portugal was up 3-0. With Portugal up 3-0 and dominating, few predicted Hungary could stage a comeback. But after they scored minutes later, there was the feeling that a comeback from Hungary could be made reality. That feeling was promptly quashed by Gelson Martins, who has been hugely impressive over these two games. Martins dribbled through one, then another, then another, then another, and then dinked the ball with his left foot past the Hungarian goalkeeper. It was a truly spectacular goal from a player who before this tournament was a virtual unknown. That goal visibly deflated Hungary, whose defense looked ill-equipped to handle Portugal’s attacking prowess. That very point was shown just before the end of the game. Substitute Raphael Guzzo attempted to dribble through the heart of the Hungarian defense, and was predictably stopped, but the rebound fell to an un-marked Andre Silva, who composed himself and slotted the ball home. It was the goal that completed his hattrick, and one that perfectly represents Silva’s playing style. He’s calm on the ball, has great awareness and positioning, and is capable of holding the ball up or even taking on defenders himself. In short, he’s the striker that Portugal has needed ever since the retirement of Pauleta in 2006. But Silva wasn’t done. Three goals was not enough for him. Minutes later in stoppage time, Rafa found himself free on the left wing and aimed a cross into the box, which was met by Andre Silva. It was his fourth goal of the night and Portugal’s six. That proved to be the last event of note in the match, with the game ending 6-1 in favor of the Portuguese.

Now, Portugal faces Austria, who have also won their first two matches. Whoever wins that match will top the group, though both teams are guaranteed advancement to the next round. By winning their first two matches, Portugal has also managed to qualify for next summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is to be held in New Zealand. The U-20 World Cup is a tournament that Portugal has found success in over recent years, finishing runners-up in 2011 and reaching the second round last summer.

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

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Marcos Lopes Steals the Show


Marcos Lopes - Portugal U19

Portugal 3-0 Israel

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Marcos Lopes was predictably the man-of-the-match today as Portugal defeated Israel 3-0 in their opening match of the 2014 U-19 European Championship. A goal from Andre Silva was sandwiched in between two Marcos Lopes goals, as Portugal’s attacking prowess greatly outweighed Israel’s much heralded defensive solidarity. But Portugal wasn’t a one-man team, as may be assumed with this title. The Portuguese looked a cohesive unit, with a clear focal point in attack and an effective gameplan.

The Portuguese entered this game and this tournament as clear favorites, with the other teams in Group A (Austria and Hungary) not expected to pose very much of a threat. Israel only conceded three goals in all of qualifying (6 games), which led many to believe that the Israeli’s defense would be very difficult to break down. And that assertion proved to be true, but possibly not to the extent that many predicted. When looking at each team’s tendencies going into this game (Portugal strong in attack, Israel in defense), one may have assumed that this would be a stop-start game, or at the very least would lack fluidity. That also did not prove to be true. The match was fluid, full of attacking intent, and though Portugal pressed more expertly at times, the teams looked largely even. Israel just lacked a cutting edge, something that Portugal exploited.

The match started in fluid fashion, with Portugal making use (as always) of their pacy, technically-gifted wingers. Gelson Martins started on the left with Ivo Rodrigues on the right. Both are well-known talents, but it was Gelson Martins who had the more impressive game, constantly running at the Israeli defense and giving Israel’s left-back a torrid time. The first chance of note came midway through the half. Marcos Lopes did well to draw a foul on the edge of the box. He then struck the ensuing free kick into the crossbar. It was beautifully hit, and he will feel a bit unlucky that his shot didn’t hit the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and despite controlling the match, Israel did not look out of the contest. But it was Portugal who struck next through their talisman. A simple passing move from the team led to Marcos Lopes being open just outside the box. After receiving a pass from the captain, Tomas Podstawski, Lopes turned and shot. His effort deflected fortunately off of an Israeli player and crept past the Israeli goalkeeper. With the score 1-0, Portugal went into the half surely feeling better about the proceedings.

Israel, surely feeling that they were unlucky to be down 1-0, came out in the second half with much more attacking intent. As a result, the Portuguese played a more conservative style in the minutes following the half. But despite their best efforts, Israel’s attacking play was well thwarted by Portugal’s defensive efforts. And it was Portugal who struck again just after the hour mark. Marcos Lopes sprayed the ball out wide to Mauro Riquicho (Portugal’s right-back). Riquicho aimed a cross to the far post, which was headed back into the path of Gelson Martins. Martins’ shot was parried by the Israeli goalkeeper directly into the path of Andre Silva, who tapped the ball into the net. With the score 2-0 in favor of Portugal, the team continued to press, and although Israel came close a few times, it was largely one-way traffic in favor of Portugal. And about a quarter of an hour after their second goal, Portugal extended their lead even further through their star man, Marcos Lopes. Portugal won a corner kick, which was cleared by Israel only as far as Joao Nunes, who sent in a cross. The cross was also dealt with by the Israelis, but their clearance was acrobatically saved by Nuno Santos. His pass was found by Marcos Lopes, who took a touch around an opposition player and then proceeded to strike a wonderful left-footed volley, which left the Israeli goalkeeper rooted to the spot. With Portugal up 3-0, the Portuguese did not look very keen on trying to extend their lead any further, and the match flow was largely lost. That goal was the last event of note in the match, and the game ended with a score of 3-0 in favor of Portugal.

Portugal will now face hosts Hungary in three days time. Hungary lost their match today against Austria by a score of 3-1. Should Portugal defeat Hungary, which at this point looks very likely, the team will advance to the semi-finals and will guarantee a spot in next summer’s U-20 World Cup.

Andre Moreira, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa(Rebocho), Mauro Riquicho, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Tomas Podstawski, Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Nuno Santos), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

GOAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE