Adrien Silva/Sporting

Adrien Silva/Sporting

Portugal’s group stage exit at this summer’s World Cup further highlighted the need to inject some youthful vigor into the squad. But it was their Euro 2016 qualifying stage defeat to minnows Albania that has proven to be a watershed moment.

The loss precipitated the removal of Paulo Bento as manager. But the squad has looked disjointed, unmotivated and generally lacking in new ideas for some time now. Newly-appointed Fernando Santos will be entrusted with the task of getting this talented group of individuals winning again.

A Selecção is still blessed with a reliable core of veterans in Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho and Nani. And for the first time in several years, the country is producing a plethora of promising youngsters that are just beginning to emerge as viable options.

The problem is that many of these young players are not ready to make the big leap into international football. This is at least partly due to the fact that several Portuguese clubs have neglected academy players in recent years. But there are several promising Portuguese young players that could step in and make an immediate impact during this qualifying campaign.

Rúben Vezo, Centre Back, Valencia FC

The 20-year-old defender first came to prominence last season with Primeira Liga club Vitória Setúbal. After less than a dozen matches with the club, Vezo was signed by Spanish giants Valencia. After moving over to La Liga in January, Vezo only made a few appearances. But this season, Vezo is getting a chance to start under Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo and has done well so far.

Centre-back will be a particular area of concern for Fernando Santos. Of the four that Paulo Bento took to Brazil, only Zenit’s Luis Neto was under the age of 30. But Portugal does have many promising youngsters in the position. Liverpool’s Tiago Ilori should receive more playing time while on loan at Bordeaux. Nacional’s Miguel Rodrigues and Sporting’s Paulo Oliveira are promising as well. But it is Ruben Vezo who appears to be the most ready to step in.

Cédric Soares, Right-Back, Sporing Lisbon

A member of the Portugal squad that lost in the U-20 World Cup finals to Brazil in 2011. Since then, the Sporting product has had a successful loan spell at Academica. And he has established himself as a regular starter at right-back for Sporting. Cedric has received one selection for A Selecção but is yet to receive a cap. A rib injury likely prevented him from being selected for the Albania match. Instead, Paulo Bento went with Valencia’s Joao Pereira, who has fallen out of favour at Valencia.

It is reasonable to think that Cedric will begin to see regular selection soon. Pereira barely played in the pre-season and appears unlikely to break into the Valencia line-up anytime soon. Benfica’s Silvio is still recovering from a broken leg. While Andre Almeida is reliable, but does not provide the offensive prowess that Cedric does. He appears to be the natural choice right now.

William Carvalho, Defensive Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

Paulo Bento’s decision to go with Miguel Veloso in the holding midfield position at the World Cup was emblematic of everything that was wrong with A Selecção in Brazil. Bento finally handed Carvalho a start in the final group match against Ghana. Carvalho was named the Best Revelation in the Primeira Liga last season. And some felt that he was unfairly passed over for Player of the Year.

Carvalho was linked with a move to several big Premier League clubs this summer, but remains at Sporting Lisbon for now. He is often compared with former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. And their styles are not dissimilar. Although not blessed with much pace, Carvalho relies on positioning and an impressive ability to read the game. He is good in the air and has also showed an ability to deliver good long balls.

Adrien Silva, Central Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

The Sporting Lisbon midfielder has been selected twice for Portugal but never received a cap under Paulo Bento. The French-born Silva has been one of Sporting’s most consistent performers over the last few seasons. At 25-years-old, he is the oldest player on this list. However, he also happens to be the most ready to step in and make a difference with A Selecção .

Silva may not have the offensive up-side of other young Portuguese midfielders like Marcos Lopes, Andre Gomes and Bernardo Silva. However, what he can offer is experience and a better overall game. The Sporting midfielder has been playing consistently for several years now. He appears set to inherit Raul Meireles’ position at the heart of Portugal’s midfield. A box-to-box midfielder, he is primarily known for his tackling ability and energy.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray

The former Sporting Lisbon winger did not have the best first season in Turkey. He struggled to find playing time with then Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini. He would eventually suffer a serious knee injury in January that would rule him out for months. But Bruma has had a positive start to this season, and finally appears set for his breakout campaign.

Bruma will find it difficult to earn a starting position with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani holding down Portugal’s two spots on the wing. But he could be used as a substitute, particularly in the later stages of the game. Bruma has demonstrated at youth level that he has excellent finishing ability. With Portugal’s striker situation far from being resolved, Bruma could provide some much needed goals.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

PLAYER PROFILE: Sporting Lisbon’s Adrien Silva Is Finally Living Up To His Potential

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Comments
  1. […] For another relevant read, here’s The Futebol Factory’s 5 Young Players That Could Help Portugal Qualify for Euro 2016. […]

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