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The Seleção will need to be at their best in order to beat Sweden and qualify for Brazil.

Paulo Bento’s club has not been in top form during this qualifying stage, finishing second in their group behind Russia. It no longer looks like the same squad that came within inches of dethroning Spain at last year’s European Championship.

Manager Bento has been widely criticized for what people say has been an overly ‘conservative’ approach, relying too much on the same players to win. Certain players have aged and seen their quality decline. At the same time, Portugal has looked disinterested and lacking in creativity, particularly in midfield.

Bento has shown in the past that he knows how to tinker with his line-up, dropping Eduardo and Ricardo Carvalho during Euro 2012 qualifying for example. He would need to do the same if Portugal is to qualify and do well in Brazil.

Futebol Factory has comprised a list of 5 current Seleção players that could have a meaningful impact in the crucial World Cup play-off against Sweden.

André Almeida, SL Benfica, Right-Back

The 23-year old filled in at right-back for the injured João Pereira in Portugal’s final two qualifying matches and performed very well. If Pereira’s hamstring injury persists, Bento could easily turn to Almeida again.

Almeida has shown already with club and country that he is a solid player defensively although the offensive side of his game leaves something to be desired. He could also play at left-back and even in defensive midfield if called upon. Almeida is a very reliable player and barring a lack of playing time at Benfica, he has a bright future with the Seleção .

Luis Neto, FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, Centre Back

The 25-year old Neto has received five caps with Portugal already, which includes four starts. With Pepe and Bruno Alves both over 30, Neto appears to be the likely candidate to help lead Portugal’s back line. He has filled in nicely when called upon so far.

Neto, who is currently playing in Russia with Zenit, drew interest from Tottenham and Inter Milan this summer. Bruno Alves has been a workhorse for Portugal in the past but it appears likely that Neto will soon replace him as first-choice.

Josué, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

In his time as Portugal manager, Paulo Bento has relied on a three-man midfield for creativity. In recent matches, it has struggled to break down opposing defenses even against weaker teams like Northern Ireland, Israel and Luxembourg. Enter, FC Porto playmaker Josué Pesqueira, a Deco look-a-like who even wears the same number 20 for Portugal.

Josué played in Portugal’s lacklustre 3-0 win against Luxembourg to finish World Cup qualifying. After a quiet first-half he demonstrated more of his skill as the match went on. Alongside Monaco’s Joao Moutinho, Josué could help the midfield link up better with the wingers, i.e. Ronaldo and Nani.

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

Another candidate to solve Portugal’s midfield deficiencies. The 23-year old Martins has been in good form this year for a resurgent Sporting Lisbon and has been selected by Bento since the end of last season.

Portugal’s offence has long relied on the flanks to create scoring opportunities. This is the same type of system that Sporting Lisbon is currently using under manager Leonardo Jardim. Martins has the vision to be an excellent player one day and could make a serious challenge for Raul Meireles’ position in the starting XI.

Éder, Sporting Braga, Striker

The Sporting Braga forward is still working on his fitness after returning from a 6-month layoff due to a knee injury. The 25-year old has received 6 caps with Portugal, including one start but is yet to score. Since the retirement of former PSG striker Pauleta, Portugal has been in search of a world class striker.

Hélder Postiga has done well in the role but the Valencia striker’s overall game is lacking. Nelson Oliveira has potential but he still has a lot to learn. That leaves Éder as the great hope of Portuguese football. He could create goals, as well as score them. Good in the air and lightning quick, everything is falling into place for Éder right now.

Related Posts:

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

SCOUTING REPORT: Paços de Ferreira’s Playmaker Josué

SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

PORTUGAL: Paulo Bento Names Squad For Final World Cup Qualifying Matches Against Israel And Luxembourg

FEATURE: 7 Young Players That Could Help The Seleção Reach World Cup 2014

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