Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Catherine Kõrtsmik

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Catherine Kõrtsmik

Paulo Bento’s Portugal side is facing another tough road to qualification. Bento has been criticized by many in the Portuguese media by relying too heavily on the same starting XI that came within inches of eliminating Spain in last summer’s European Championships.

With certain Seleção players ageing and losing effectiveness, the road to World Cup has proven to be more difficult than many people predicted. Therefore, I have compiled a list of young Portuguese players that could help the Seleção qualify for Brazil 2014.

Luis Neto, Zenit St.Petersburg, Central Defender

With Bruno Alves and Pepe both on the wrong side of 30, Bento is surely looking for alternatives to Portugal’s ageing central defense. 24-year-old Luis Neto has enjoyed a quick rise to stardom this season and could help solve Portugal’s defensive problems.

Neto impressed with Varzim and Nacional before signing with Serie A club at the beginning of this campaign. With Siena facing relegation, Neto was sold to Zenit in Russia for an undisclosed fee. He played in Portugal’s recent friendly against Ecuador, alongside Zenit teammate Bruno Alves.

Cédric Soares, Sporting Lisbon, Right-Back

Talented, offensively-gifted full-back who has been in excellent form recently for Sporting Lisbon. The 21-year-old has been a regular on Portugal’s junior squads and many people see him as a future option at right-back.

Portugal’s current right-back João Pereira has been under fire recently, and perhaps Bento is ready to look at other options. Cédric would certainly provide the Seleção with an offensive threat down the right side, thought he has to work on his defensive game.

Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany

André Almeida, Benfica, Right Back and Defensive Midfielder

Technically gifted and reliable, Almeida has been one of the best young players in the Portuguese league this year. Normally a defensive midfielder, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has used Almeida primarily at right-back where he has performed admirably.

The 22-year-old could provide relief to João Pereira at right-back and Miguel Veloso at defensive midfield. Almeida may not have the offensive upside of Cédric, but he has shown that he could balance his offensive skills with his defensive responsibilities on a more consistent basis.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

A terrific young talent, 23-year-old André Martins has worked his way back into Sporting’s line-up under manager Jesualdo Ferreira. Martins could inject some much needed creativity to the Portuguese attack which has at times been wasteful and disjointed.

Portugal have lacked a quality playmaker or number 10 since the days of Rui Costa and Deco, Martins certainly looks like he could fulfill that role with the Seleção. Paulo Bento for a few years now has relied on the midfield trio of Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles and João Moutinho. They were terrific at Euro 2012, but have recently struggled to break down opposing defenses.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

André Gomes, Benfica, Central Midfielder

Benfica’s André Gomes has been singled out by many as a future star for the Seleção. Despite being only 19 years of age, Gomes has already played regularly with the senior club. Though, his opportunities have become more limited in the second half of the campaign.

There is no denying that Gomes has the skill to play on the national team one day. Raul Meireles’ effectiveness has dipped since moving to Turkey and Gomes could be an excellent option in midfield now and for the long term.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Promising Youngster André Gomes

Pizzi, Deportivo La Coruña, Winger

Highly regarded winger who has had a breakout year with La Liga club Deportivo La Coruña, on loan from Atletico Madrid. Pizzi is one of those footballers who can do just about anything. He could dribble past defenders, deliver near impossible passes, score from free-kicks and has the ability to read the game very well.

Pizzi has been called up to the squad on several occasions, and received his first cap for the Seleção in a recent friendly against Gabon. Portugal has a wealth of talent on the wings, but Pizzi could certainly be an impact substitute for Portugal. Bento has been reluctant to use the 23-year-old so far.

Nélson Oliveira, Deportivo La Coruña, Striker

Nelson Oliveira has been anointed by many as the solution to Portugal’s long standing problem at centre-forward. The 21-year-old has had a disappointing season in Spain, and has not been called up for the squad in recent matches. He has scored only two goals in 22 matches for Deportivo this year.

With Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo on the wings, Portugal should really be scoring more goals. The problem is that the Seleção has lacked a world-class striker since Pauleta retired in 2006. Hélder Postiga and Hugo Almeida are just simply not good enough. Sporting Braga’s Éder looked the part before he went down with a serious knee injury. If Oliveira could earn his place back on the squad, he has all the tools needed to fulfill that responsibility.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 2

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 3

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