William Carvalho Could Start In Brazil
The World Cup is still just over three months away and already many analysts and fans are trying to predict who Paulo Bento will bring to Brazil this summer.
The Seleção manager is expected to make his official announcement on May 19th, just before the squad re-convenes in Cascais for training. Portugal’s 5-1 defeat of Cameroon on March 5th in Leiria only raised expectations ahead of world football’s greatest event.
For most of Portugal’s recent World Cup qualifying campaign Paulo Bento relied on a group of experienced veterans that have been with the squad since he took over in 2010.
The Portugal manager has been criticized for being too conservative with his selections, while not recognizing the age and decline of several of his key players.
But in recent matches, Bento has showed signs that he may be ready to bend, calling up FC Porto midfielder Josué, Benfica defender Andre Almeida, Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, among others.
Against Cameroon, Bento surprised everyone by starting Sporting Braga’s Rafa Silva and Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro up-front with Cristano Ronaldo. This added to the perception that Paulo Bento is ready to embrace Portugal’s emerging generation of talent.
Here now is a list of 15 young players that could be on Portugal’s World Cup squad in Brazil.
Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper
The 23-year-old goalkeeper has been in excellent form this season for the French club. A serious back injury threatened to derail his World Cup dream in November, however, he has since recovered and resumed his position as Lyon’s number one goalkeeper.
Lopes received his first international call-up in September but is yet to receive a cap. However, he was selected for the recent friendly against Cameroon. Lopes is likely to face competition from FC Sevilla’s Beto and Sporting Braga’s Eduardo for one of the two positions behind Rui Patricio.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Olympique Lyonnais Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes Hopes To Realize World Cup ‘Dream’
André Almeida, Benfica, Right-Back/Defensive Midfielder
A very dependable and versatile player, who has seen his playing time at Benfica dramatically reduced this season. The 23-year-old is most comfortable on the right side, but could also play left-back and in midfield. Although, he is limited on the offensive side of the ball.
Almeida played very well for Portugal in two World Cup qualifiers in October in place of the injured João Pereira. However, he was not selected against Cameroon. Portugal are very deep at the full-back positions and it seems unlikely that Almeida will be going to Brazil.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through
Cédric Soares, Sporting Lisbon, Right-Back
An offensively gifted full-back that has been a major part of Sporting Lisbon’s success this season. The 22-year-old is widely considered as a future star for the Selecção. He received his only international call-up in October 2013 but did not play.
Soares’ situation is the same as André Almeida. Despite João Pereira’s poor season, he is still widely expected to start in Brazil. Miguel Lopes, Antunes and Sílvio are all more experienced alternatives. But the Sporting right-back is one for the future.
Related Post: PLAYER PROFILE: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany
Tiago Ilori, Liverpool (On Loan at Granada), Central Defender
The 21-year-old moved to Liverpool this summer after some excellent displays at the end of last season with Sporting Lisbon. He did not see any action with the English club in the first half of that season and was sent on loan to La Liga club Granada.
Portugal does not have a lot of depth at the centre of defence. Pepe and Bruno Alves are both over the age of 30. Ilori is a top-level prospect and if he could manage to put together some consistent performances for Granada, Paulo Bento could decide to bring him to Brazil.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Central Defender Tiago Ilori
William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder
William Carvalho’s place on the squad is an almost certainty. If he stay healthy, it is only a question of whether he will start in Brazil or not. The 21-year-old has been a revelation for Sporting Lisbon this season and has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer.
Carvalho received his first cap in the deciding leg of a World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden in November. The youngster was brought on to help preserve the lead. He received his first start against Cameroon and earned rave reviews with his performance. Whether it is a direct result of Carvalho or not, Portugal looked more organized and stable defensively than they had throughout qualifying.
Related Post: Scout Report – William Carvalho
Josué, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder
A talented midfielder, who has also been used as a winger at times this season with Porto. Josué is a modern playmaker who has great vision, passing ability and a strong sense of the game. However, he has a history of disciplinary issues, including a suspension for spitting earlier this season.
He received his first cap with Portugal against Israel in October. He started his first match with the Selecção just days later against Luxembourg and played very well. Since then, Josué has been regularly selected for the squad. He has received four cap with Portugal so far.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Paços de Ferreira’s Playmaker Josué
Adrien Silva, Sporting Lisbon, Central Midfielder
Adrien Silva is an interesting case. As Sporting Lisbon’s manager, Paulo Bento gave Adrien Silva his senior debut in 2007. Since then, the French-born Silva has been on loan twice. He has been integral to Sporting’s success this season and was recently named his club’s Player of the Year for 2013.
Adrien was selected in September 2013 as an injury replacement for Ruben Micael but did not receive a cap. Portugal’s depth in midfield means that he is unlikely to be selected for Brazil. His name has been around so long that many forget that he is only 24-years-old. His time may not have arrived, yet.
Related Post: PLAYER PROFILE: Sporting Lisbon’s Adrien Silva Is Finally Living Up To His Potential
André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder
Sporting Lisbon’s midfield ‘brain,’ André Martins has been behind many of the club’s scoring chances this season. Martins is probably the closest thing that Portugal has to a ‘pure’ playmaker. He possesses strong offensive instincts, combined with excellent passing and an ability to control the match.
The 24-year-old has received two caps with Portugal but has not been selected since August 2013. Like several players on the list, Martins will likely be a victim of Portugal’s depth in midfield. But with Raul Meireles and Ruben Amorim aging, it is realistic to think that Martins’ days with the Selecção are not too far away.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins
André Gomes, Benfica, Central Midfielder
Another supremely talented midfielder, 20-year-old André Gomes has not seen very much first-team action with Benfica this season. Although he has continued to play regularly and produce for Benfica B in the second division. Gomes will need to work his way back into Jorge Jesus’ line-up to have any chance of going to Brazil.
He received his only call-up to the Selecção for an international friendly with Ecuador in February 2013 but did not see any action. The young midfielder was a hot commodity during the January transfer window before his rights were sold to a third-party investment fund. He is certainly one to watch for the future.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica Midfielder André Gomes Is Being Pursued By Europe’s Top Clubs
Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger
The 20-year-old was signed by Braga from second division Feirense last summer. Expected to play a limited role, Rafa played himself into a regular starting position this season. He has speed, vision, as well as excellent dribbling and passing ability.
Paulo Bento played Rafa and Ivan Cavaleiro alongside Cristiano Ronaldo against Cameroon on March 5th. He would play the entire first half, making two very good attempts on goal. However, he aggravated a thigh injury during the match and is expected to be out for six weeks. He should be back playing well before the squad is chosen on May 19th.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star
Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger
The young winger began this season with Benfica B in the second division. His performances earned him some first-team action. However, since the New Year Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has not used him very much. Eduardo Salvio’s return from injury, combined with Benfica’s title aspirations could mean that Cavaleiro will not play very much before the World Cup.
Cavaleiro had a nervous first-half against Cameroon, but did manage a beautiful back-heel assist to Fábio Coentrão for Portugal’s third goal in the 5-1 win. The Selecção has several of their regular wingers injured, including Nani and Zenit St.Petersburg’s Danny. Paulo Bento could be tempted to take Cavaleiro to Brazil.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro Is Hoping To Break Into The Senior Squad
Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger
The extremely promising Bruma arrived on the scene a year ago with Sporting Lisbon. After a contract dispute this summer, the youngster left for Turkey. He won the Silver Shoe at the 2013 U-20 World Cup, scoring five goals in four matches. He had a positive start to the season with Galatasaray before suffering a serious knee injury in early January.
In October, Bruma was call-up by Paulo Bento as a replacement for the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal’s final World Cup qualifying match against Luxembourg. However, he was not selected for the Sweden matches in November. Bruma is expected to be out a while longer and faces a race against time just to be ready for Brazil.
Related Post: PLAYER PROFILE: European Giants Chase Sporting Lisbon’s Bruma
Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger
A speedy, skilled winger who has worked his way into more playing time with Leonardo Jardim’s squad in recent weeks. The 19-year-old has earned accolades for scoring some excellent goals this season as well. He has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United this summer.
Mané has yet to receive a call-up to the Selecção but it would be foolish rule it out. Paulo Bento’s change of heart regarding young players on the squad could mean that there is room for Mané. He suffered a thigh injury in a recent match for the U-21 squad which is not expected to keep him out for long. If he continues to play regularly for Sporting, Mané could just earn a spot.
Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mané Scores Brilliant Goal Against Marítimo
Nélson Oliveira, Benfica (On Loan at Stade Rennais), Striker
A Wild Card at the striker position for Portugal. Oliveira first came to prominence at the 2011 U20 World Cup for Portugal. Currently on loan in Ligue 1, he started the year positively but has not scored since November 2nd. He was selected for Euro 2012 but has not been part of the squad for the last several matches.
Paulo Bento has demonstrated a lot of faith in the 22-year-old in the past. He is currently battling a thigh injury which could keep him out weeks. There is still time for Oliveira to demonstrate that he is ready to produce on the international level. But he needs to start scoring again.
Related Post: TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Striker Nélson Oliveira Officially Joins Rennes On One-Year Loan Deal