Archive for the ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ Category

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Portugal’s uncompromising style of play did not win them much admiration among neutral fans or the media but it was undoubtedly effective. Much credit should go to manager Fernando Santos who engineered a victory by utilizing the full strength of his squad. Football Factory rated each player on their performance over the entire tournament.

Goalkeepers

Rui Patricio He was not always busy but proved to be solid when called upon. He made a crucial stop in the penalty shootout against Poland. And he made several quality stops against France in the final. Named Best Goalkeeper at the tournament. Patricio is currently enjoying the best period of his career. 9

Eduardo Did not play.

Anthony Lopes Did not play.

 

Defenders

Raphael Guerreiro He was probably Portugal’s most consistent outfield player. The French-born Guerreiro provided the cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Wales. He was deservedly named to the team of the tournament. 8

Eliseu He filled in for Guerreiro against Hungary and Poland. The Benfica left-back looked much improved in his defensive duties, although he did not offer much in attack. 6

Pepe The Real Madrid man began the tournament with a poor display against Iceland and Hungary in the group stage. However, he was near flawless in the knockout stages.  A thigh injury kept him out of the semi-finals. But he returned in time to face France and put in a Man-of-the-Match performance for his country. Named to the Team of the Tournament. 8

Ricardo Carvalho The 38-year-old has been a solid contributor since returning to the international scene following Fernando Santos’ appointment. He looked slightly out of step especially in the 3-3 draw against Hungary. He was dropped in favour of Jose Fonte for the knockout stages. 6

Jose Fonte One of the great stories in this squad. The former Sporting CP academy graduate only made his international debut less than two years ago at the age of 30. He replaced Ricardo Carvalho against Croatia and was solid the rest of the way. 7

Bruno Alves He filled in admirably for the injured Pepe in the semi-final against Wales. 6

Cedric Soares Took over for Vieirinha against Croatia. His crucial mistake in the early stages against Poland led to the Robert Lewandowski goal. However, the Southampton right-back did not hang his head. Instead, he would be one of Portugal’s best performers the rest of the way. 7

Vieirinha The biggest disillusionment of this tournament for Portugal. He failed to provide sufficient cover on the Iceland goal in the first match. He was ineffective in attack and at times, a liability on defense. Santos rightly dropped him in favour of Cedric. 5

 

Midfielders

William Carvalho The holding midfielder replaced Danilo against Austria and put in an outstanding performance helping to drive the attack while supporting the Portuguese backline. Although he made less of an impact from then on, he still provided the stability the team needed. 7

Danilo Pereira The FC Porto midfielder suffered a back injury in the match against Iceland and lost his position in the starting XI to William.  Although, he would make a valuable contribution as a substitute. He filled in for the Sporting midfielder as a starter in the semi-final against Wales and even came close to scoring on one occasion. 6

Renato Sanches Named Best Young Player in the tournament. His long run in extra time against Croatia led to Quaresma’s goal. He scored the tying goal against Poland. Although, he was less of a factor against Wales and in the final. Still, he only added to his burgeoning reputation. It will be almost impossible to top the year he has had. 7

Andre Gomes He earned a starting spot against Iceland and put in an excellent display, creating the goal scored by Nani. But, his injury against Croatia would greatly limit him. He made a positive substitute appearance against Wales but did not appear in the final. 6

Adrien Silva The Sporting captain made his debut in the tournament against Croatia. He earned Fernando Santos’ confidence with some impressive performances on the way to the final. Unselfish, hardworking and tough, he embodies Portugal’s championship-winning side more than anyone. 7

João Moutinho A starter at the beginning of the tournament, the Monaco midfielder was not at his best in the group stage. He was forced to withdraw at half-time against Hungary due to an injury. However, he came in as a late substitute against Poland and provided a dangerous through-ball to Ronaldo, who could not capitalize. He made a major impact as a substitute in the final, helping to create the winning goal. 7

João Mário Much was expected of the Sporting midfielder at the beginning of the tournament. He was noticeably quiet against Iceland and was dropped in favour of Quaresma in the second match. Back as a starter against Hungary he provided an assist on Cristiano Ronaldo’s back-heel goal. His decision-making left much to be desired at times in the knockout stages but he was much better in the final. 7

 

Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo The Portuguese captain was not always at his best in this tournament. He was a frustrated figure against Iceland and Austria but silenced his critics with a brace against Hungary. He was decisive again in the semi-final against Wales. His tournament seemed destined to end once again in tears when he was forced to withdraw in the final because of a knee injury. But, his teammates rallied around his absence and handed him that elusive championship at international level.  8

Nani The 29-year-old rebuilt his damaged reputation. He finished tied with the team-lead in goals with three and added an assist on Sanches’ goal against Poland. He did all that while playing out of position. His move to Spanish club Valencia was finalized during the tournament.  8

Ricardo Quaresma At 32, the journeyman winger looks to have finally come into his own on the international scene. He was generally ineffective in his only start of the tournament against Austria. However, he proved to be a valuable option off the bench, scoring a late goal against Croatia and then putting away the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Poland. 7

Rafa Silva He was originally expected to play a more prominent role. However, the Braga winger was limited to a short cameo in the late stages of the draw against Austria. He looked dangerous but was not able to break the deadlock. He is one for the future.  Incomplete

Éder Just weeks ago at pre-tournament friendlies the striker was whistled at by Portuguese fans every time he touched the ball. He made short substitute appearances against Iceland and Austria before the final. In a tournament of ample drama and great storylines for Portugal, it seems almost fitting that ‘the ugly duckling’ would score the most famous goal in the country’s history. 7

 

Manager

Fernando Santos He will never earn style points from the mainstream media but the 61-year-old found a way to win. By preaching unity and sacrifice above all, Santos got the most out of his players. He seemed to know how to make changes at the right time. Bringing on Sanches early in the second-half against Croatia and Éder in the final, seemed insane at the time but paid off enormously. 10

Dani Osvaldo FC Porto

Sporting and FC Porto received most of the headlines this weekend after resounding victories in match-day seven of the Primeira Liga season. Both clubs share top spot in the table with 17 points each.

After a famous victory against former manager Jose Mourinho and Chelsea during the week, the Dragões trounced Belenenses 4-0 at home on Sunday. After a scoreless first-half, summer signing Jesús Corona put Porto ahead just after the break. Brahimi, Osvaldo and Marcano rounded out the scoring.

Manager Julen Lopetegui credited his club’s mental strength for the victory.

“We deserved to be winning at half-time, but couldn’t score, despite our superiority, as we missed too many shots. We had several situations to score, played well, facing a team with good players, and we were waiting on the perfect timing. The team had mentality, was capable of working and winning,” he said.

The win may have come at a price. Team captain and defensive-stalwart Maicon may be on the sidelines for a few weeks after leaving the match in the first-half with a thigh injury.

Sporting followed up a disappointing 1-1 draw against Beşiktaş in the Europa League, with a convincing 5-1 win against Vitória Guimarães at Alvalade. Islam Slimani scored a hat-trick, with Teo Gutiérrez and Adrien Silva scoring the other two. It may have been Sporting’s most complete performance of the season.

William Carvalho made his first appearance at Alvalade after returning from a leg injury and looked to be in top form.

“Yes, this performance was a good response. We have worked hard, despite the problems,” he said.

“The objective is to play well and win. Now we have to work hard and think about the next match.”

Last year’s champions Benfica had their match against União de Madeira postponed because of thick fog. A new date has not been announced.

Outside the ‘Big Three,’ Rio Ave is the biggest surprise so far. Pedro Martins’ club sit alone in third position. Braga could only manage a scoreless draw against Arouca but still sit comfortably in fourth position. Benfica rounds off the top five, with one game at hand.

Moreirense and Academica currently sit in the relegation zone with three points each. Academica won their first match of the season beating Marítimo 1-0. Moreirense played Tondela to a 1-1 draw and remain the only club without a league victory this season.

The Liga NOS will now go on a two-week hiatus for the international break and the Portuguese Cup. On 25 October, Benfica and Sporting will clash at the Estádio da Luz. FC Porto will also play Braga.

André Carrillo and Sporting heading for a split?

It looks like André Carrillo is on his way out of Sporting. The Peruvian had not dressed for the club for several matches because of on-going contract negotiations.

Last week, the drama turned into a full-fledged saga when the club announced that they had formally suspended the player. They also released a 32-point press release detailing alleged acts of impropriety by Carrillo and his representatives.

The club accused Carrillo and his people of deliberately sabotaging negotiations. Sporting also accused the player and his representatives of trying to force his way out of the club, among other allegations.

Carrillo was signed by the club in 2011 from Alianza Lima. He was one of the very few good signings by Luís Godinho Lopes. Current club president Bruno de Carvalho spoke about Carrillo on the TVI program Prolongamento on Monday.

“Carrillo told me that he no longer wanted to play for Sporting because he was no longer committed to us,” he said.

“We tried to re-sign Carrillo for a year and a half. In football, there are problems that just cannot be resolved.”

Carrillo’s contract expires this summer which means the club will have to sell him during the January transfer window.

Cristiano Ronaldo hits a milestone and surpasses Raul

It seems like every week Cristiano Ronaldo is breaking a new record. This past week, the Portugal captain scored his 500th career goal and also surpassed Real Madrid legend Raul to become the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Ronaldo was put in alone by Isco in the first-half of Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Malmö FF. And he made no mistake. Late in the second half, he flicked Lucas Vázquez’s pass into the goal, as Real won 2-0.

It has been a long, remarkable journey for the boy from Madeira. He scored his first senior goal for Sporting on 7 October, 2002 against Moreirense. Back then, he was just another in a line of supremely-talented wingers coming out of the club’s Alcochete academy.

So much has happened since then. His transfer to Manchester United, Euro 2004, Germany 2006, Moscow 2008, Real Madrid, Euro 2012, Lisbon 2014 and that special night in Stockholm. Not to mention the three Ballon d’Or.

It is hard to believe that he will ever slow down. Although, his game has changed since he turned 30 last year. Ronaldo seems to have lost the ability to score from free-kicks. And he no longer scores from distance as he once did.

But, his decline appears to be a long way off. Although, he appears to be evolving into a one-touch goalscorer, his production is not dropping. And given his well-known commitment to fitness and his desire, Ronaldo should be able to play at a very high level for several more seasons.

Seleção to face Denmark on Thursday in Braga

Portugal will play Denmark in Braga on Thursday. The Seleção sit first in Group I with 15 points. A draw will be enough to qualify for Euro 2016 next summer. They will travel to Serbia after the match.

“It is true that we are close to qualifying, but we still have a lot to do. It will be two difficult matches [against Denmark and Serbia],” Portugal manager Fernando Santos said.

“Denmark is a club of great quality, both collectively and individually. For Denmark, this is a final because it is their last match of the group. We need to approach this match as a final as well.”

Benfica right-back Nelson Semedo received his first senior call-up. João Moutinho, Tiago and Fábio Coentrão were selected after sitting out previous matches because of injuries. Luis Neto and Rafa Silva also return to the squad.

William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, Andre Gomes, Pepe, Paulo Oliveira and Vieirinha were left out because of injuries or fitness issues. Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was originally selected but was forced to withdraw after coming down with gastroenteritis. Dinamo Zagreb’s Eduardo was named in his place.

Portugal’s U21 squad will continue their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign this week against Hungary, before facing Greece on Tuesday. Rui Jorge’s squad beat Albania 6-1 in their first qualifying match last month. However, they will have to make do without André Silva who is out with an ankle injury.

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Portugal will not go into Brazil as one of the favorites among most pundits and fans. However, with the world’s best player and a reasonably balanced squad, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the country can win their first tournament at senior level next month.

The mood surrounding the Portuguese squad is one of cautious optimism. The relative success of Euro 2012 did much to dispel the notion that Portugal is in decline as a footballing nation. But still, the Seleção will go into the World Cup with less talent than in 2002 and 2006, but likely more than four years ago.

Several important players like Nani, João Moutinho and Fábio Coentrão had relatively poor seasons. And there are also concerns about the fitness of several players, including Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal can only be considered a dark horse, but one that is capable of making an impact, possibly more than that.

Portugal as a nation, prides itself on exceeding expectations. And it is that motivation that should drive the Seleção in Brazil. Here now are the 5 reasons Portugal can win the World Cup, courtesy of Futebol Factory.

Almost Home-Field Advantage

Portugal will be one of the best supported countries in Brazil. Tickets for a training session on June 12th sold out in less than six minutes this week. The common language and strong historical ties between the two countries will no doubt benefit the Seleção.

Many Portuguese emigrants who settled in Brazil left the country only a few decades ago, maintaining strong connections. And of course there will always be a hint of post-Colonial resentment towards Portugal in its former colony. However, the squad could expect to receive a warm welcome.

Little Pressure

There is a greater sense of optimism in Portugal than in previous tournaments. The squad is playing better, and most supporters believe that they should get stronger in the coming years. And in contrast to its rivals, the squad has little to prove going into the tournament.

Brazil will be playing at home. Anything less than a win would be a major disaster. The Spanish public has become accustomed to no less than complete success. Germany always expects to win. While, Argentina will be playing in their own continent. And recent performances at the World Cup have not been good enough.

Recent Success

Since the 2000 European Championships, Portugal has qualified for every tournament. In that time, they have made four semi-finals (Euro 2000, Euro 2004, Germany 2006, Euro 2012), and failed to make it out of the group stage just once. This is a level of success that is matched by few countries.

The Seleção are drawn into a tough group with Germany, Ghana and the United States. But this is unlikely to phase the team. Portugal was in a similar situation at Euro 2000, South Africa 2010 and Euro 2012. In each case, Portugal advanced into the knockout stage.

Strong Team Mentality

Portugal manager Paulo Bento is often criticized for his conservative approach to tactics and squad selections. However, it does serve a purpose. The core of the group has been together since the Euro 2012 qualification campaign. The Seleção will go into the tournament with a tried and tested system.

Time and time again, the squad has faced adversity. But the character and unity that comes along with a certain level of consistency has helped the squad overcome disappointing results, and bad qualifying campaigns. At Euro 2012, Portugal overcame a loss to Germany in their first match to finish second in the group. And they came within inches of eliminating a far more talented Spanish side in the semi-finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo

He is often sighted as the first reason. There is no player that elevates his country like Cristiano Ronaldo does. But it is the supporting cast that is the key to Portugal’s success. Paulo Bento has certainly succeeded where Carlos Queiroz failed. Ronaldo is not the only threat anymore. He has become the most important element of a system that benefits him and his teammates.

Great players do not win tournaments by themselves. But, they can make the difference in crucial moments. Diego Maradona did not win the 1986 World Cup by himself. It is just part of football folklore. The Argentine great could not have defended every corner, made every pass or scored every goal. Ronaldo cannot do it either, but what he can do is give Portugal every opportunity to win.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Portugal’s great hope. Cristiano Ronaldo will go into the tournament as the reigning World Footballer of the Year, as well as the consensus best player in the World. The Portuguese captain is at the height of his individual ability, although there are concerns about his fitness.

Once widely criticized for his perceived lack of productivity with the national team, Ronaldo is now Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He proved that he could lead his country deep in a major tournament at Euro 2012. However, the 29-year-old needs to win the World Cup to establish himself as one of the greatest players in history.

This Season: It was another excellent season for the global superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 31 goals in La Liga, winning the Pichichi award as the league’s top scorer. He also set a new single season record for Champions League goals with 17, helping Real Madrid win La Décima.

Fun Fact: Cristiano Ronaldo was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. His profile was written by none other than Pelé who compares the Real Madrid forward to former Portuguese international Eusébio. He writes that the two have ‘the same elegance and creativity.’

Nani, Manchester United

The Manchester United winger is almost as vital to Portugal’s success as Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani is coming off an injury-plagued season. A healthy and productive Nani would be a major boost to Portugal’s chances. He has formed a good partnership with Ronaldo in the past.

This will be Nani’s third major tournament with Portugal. He was forced to withdraw from the 2010 World Cup because of a shoulder injury. Nani had a good Euro 2012, which included being named the Man of the Match in Portugal’s 3-2 group stage win against Denmark.

This Season: Nani struggled through groin and hamstring injuries this season. He played in only 11 League matches for Manchester United.

Fun Fact: Nani is trained in Capoeira, a kind of Brazilian martial arts dance. He has been known to celebrate a goal by doing the ‘Leap of death’ move.

Vieirinha, Wolfsburg

The 28-year-old was an excellent player for Portugal’s youth squads but only received his first senior selection in March 2013. Vieirinha has put together some excellent performances for the Seleção in limited action.

Vieirinha suffered a serious knee injury last September and was thought to be ruled out for the World Cup. He returned in time to play in Wolfsburg’s final Bundesliga matches. A product of FC Porto’s academy, Vieirinha moved to Greek club PAOK in 2008. He was signed by Wolfsburg in 2012 after several stellar seasons.

This Season: Vieirinha appeared in 11 Bundesliga matches for Wolfsburg. The German club finished a solid fifth in the league table.

Fun Fact: Vieirinha was named the Player of the Tournament at the 2003 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, which Portugal won by beating rivals Spain in the final. He was also named PAOK’s Player of the Season twice, as well as the Greek Super League’s Best Foreign Player in 2011.

Silvestre Varela, FC Porto

The 29-year-old has been primarily used as an impact substitute during his time with the Seleção. He scored a memorable goal against Denmark to give Portugal a 3-2 win in the group stage of Euro 2012. He currently has 22 caps for Portugal.

Silvestre Varela is a graduate of Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy. But after spending several seasons on loan, he moved to Estrela Amadora. FC Porto signed him in 2009 and he has been a productive player for the club ever since. He has won the Primeira Liga on three occasions, the Portuguese Cup twice, and the Europa League in 2010-11.

This Season: Silvestre Varela played in 25 League matches for FC Porto, scoring five goals and adding another five assists. But the Dragões had a very disappointing season by their standards, finishing third in the league table.

Fun Fact: Silvestre Varela appeared to be a lock for South Africa 2010 after an impressive first season with Porto. However, he broke his left fibula in training ruling him out for the entire tournament.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

The Ballon d’Or, club football’s most prestigious award will be handled out in Zurich, Switzerland on January 13th. If momentum and personal endorsements mean anything at all, Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo should collect the prize for the second time in his career.

He faces competition from media-designated rival Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery. Barcelona striker Lionel Messi had another excellent year individually on the way to another La Liga title. French international Ribery was probably the best player in an all-conquering Bayern side that won five trophies in 2013.

The award is given to the best individual performer in football, and on that basis it is very difficult to argue against Cristiano Ronaldo winning this award for a second time. Lionel Messi, again put up outstanding numbers, but he has been sidelined for most of the second half of the year. Ribery had a terrific year but some argue that he was the beneficiary of an excellent Bayern team.

Cristiano Ronaldo was again, outstanding for Real Madrid, despite the club not winning any silverware. He was the leading scorer in the Champions League and finished second to Messi in La Liga scoring. However, it was his performance in Portugal’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden that probably tipped the balance in his favour.

It would still be unfair to say that the Real Madrid winger will win this award for his performance in one game, out of many. Instead, Cristiano Ronaldo will win the 2013 Ballon d’Or because he is the most deserving overall. His three-goal performance against Sweden to seal Portugal’s place in Brazil was the defining moment of an exceptional year for an exceptional player.

Here are the 5 reasons Cristiano Ronaldo should, and will win this year’s Ballon d’Or.

Cristiano Ronaldo Had The Best Year Individually

As personal statistics are concerned, it was probably the best year of Cristiano Ronaldo’s career. He scored 69 goals in total for Real Madrid and Portugal. He also broke several records, including the most Champions League goals in a calendar year with 15. Ronaldo also broke the record for most goals in the Champions League group stage with nine. And, if that is not enough, he scored in six consecutive Champions League games in 2013.

In comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 69 goals were more than Lionel Messi (45) and Franck Ribery (23) combined. All things considered, could the Argentine captain have outscored the Portuguese if he had remained healthy. Yes, absolutely, especially if you consider the fact that Messi has outscored Ronaldo over the last five seasons, 272 to 253. But, of course, that did not happen. An award like this should only take into account concrete facts.

Cristiano Ronaldo Cannot Be Blamed For Real Madrid’s Problems

The best argument against Ronaldo winning this award is that his club, Real Madrid did not win a single title in 2013. In comparison, his great rival Lionel Messi won another La Liga title. Not to mention, Franck Ribery’s Bayern Munich side which won the Bundesliga title and the Champions League.

But the Ballon d’Or is designed to be awarded to the best individual player in a calendar year. And based on that, the award should still go to Ronaldo. Also, team success has not always been a major factor in awarding the Ballon d’Or. In 2012, Lionel Messi scored an amazing 92 goals in all competitions but Barcelona only won the Copa del Rey that year. Cristiano Ronaldo in comparison, won the La Liga title with Real Madrid and led Portugal to the semi-finals of the European Championships.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is, At The Very Least, A Worthy Rival To Lionel Messi

Over the last decade, the Messi Vs. Ronaldo debate has dominated the public discourse in the football world. In fairness, the Argentine has bested the Portuguese in terms of individual awards and team success. However, many people still think the Portuguese is still an equal, if not more.

The fact is that most people do not blame the Portuguese for the lack of trophies at Real Madrid in his four seasons. It is not like he has not played his part. Ronaldo has scored an amazing 228 goals in 220 matches as of January 3rd for the club. Plus, it has always been dubious to compare a player with another player, especially if they are different types. The fact is that so much comes down to subjectivity. In terms of the all-time greats, Messi and Ronaldo will surely be on any shortlist and let us leave it at that.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is The Most Complete Player Today And One Of The Best All-Time

The Portuguese captain is perhaps the closest player to the definition of an ideal modern footballer. Ronaldo has virtually every tool at his disposal that any manager or pundit could ask for. Judge for yourself: speed, football IQ, dribbling, physique, muscle mass, height, powerful shot, heading ability, kicks with both feet, scores on free-kicks, goals from distance, and plenty more.

His two rivals are exceptional individuals as well. Lionel Messi’s main attribute is his dribbling, which must rank among the best of all-time. Franck Ribery, is a more orthodox winger than the Portuguese. The Frenchmen is a great dribbler, excellent one-on-one, provides accurate crosses and also scores plenty of goals. But in terms of individual ability, Cristiano Ronaldo is the most complete in the game today.

Cristiano Ronaldo Is The Most Valuable Player For Club And Country

Among Madridistas and Portugal supporters, Cristiano Ronaldo is without a doubt the most valuable player on the squad. For Real Madrid, the Portuguese has scored many timely goals for the club and has even pitched in when the club has not always succeeded. For example, he has scored 11 goals in the last 12 matches against Barcelona.

As an international player, Cristiano Ronaldo has had his ups and downs but few argue that he is to blame for Portugal’s inability to win a major tournament. He is currently tied as the country’s all-time leading goal scorer with former PSG striker Pauleta. And he has had success, which has just fallen short. As a youngster he made the finals of Euro 2004. Plus, he made the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Franck Ribery was on the French team that lost to Italy at the 2006 World Cup. But since then, the Bayern Munich winger has not led France past the quarter finals of any tournament. Lionel Messi won an Olympic Gold medal and U20 World Cup, but in major tournaments at the senior level he has been disappointing. But of course, this year’s World Cup is an opportunity for one of these great players to prove all their doubters wrong. At least for now, advantage Cristiano Ronaldo.

Portugal’s Inspirational Captain. Cristiano Ronaldo Hopes To Lead His Country To Glory. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

The Selecção will head into the World Cup with a wealth of talent on the wings. If both stay healthy, Cristiano Ronaldo will surely partner with Nani up front in a 4-3-3 formation.

In Ronaldo, they have perhaps the greatest winger of all-time. But his success, and with it, the success of the Portuguese national team depends on the supporting cast.

Paulo Bento has stayed with Nani, despite the Manchester United winger’s struggles with inconsistency and injuries. The 27-year-old is still trying to reach the potential many people expected of him.

FC Porto’s Silvestre Varela has been a consistent performer for the Selecção and will most likely be in the squad as an impact substitute.

That should leave one more position available for Brazil. Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha appeared to be the front-runner for that position but he suffered a major knee injury that has ruled him out for the tournament.

Zenit’s Danny has been consistently selected for the squad for several years now but has never made a compelling case for more playing time. FC Porto’s Licá, Galatasaray’s Bruma and Espanyol’s Pizzi could still play themselves onto the squad in time.

Futebol Factory looks at Paulo Bento’s options on the wings.

Tickets Booked: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Silvestre Varela (FC Porto)

On The Bubble: Bruma (Galatasaray), Danny (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Licá (FC Porto), Pizzi (Espanyol)

In Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has at their disposal one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. It is hard to recall just four years ago when the Portuguese captain was receiving heavy criticism for not replicating his club form for his country.

Enter Paulo Bento, and the Madeirense is set to surpass former PSG striker Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading scorer. An excellent achievement considering he is only 28 and is a winger.

Many great players like Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer have won major tournaments in their late 20s. If he stays healthy, Ronaldo should be at the height of his individual talents next summer.

This will be the best chance Ronaldo will have to win the World Cup, doing so he would solidify his place alongside the very best of the global game.

But he cannot do it alone.

In Nani, Paulo Bento has one of the most explosive talents in the game today. However, the Cape Verdan-born winger is very volatile. He had a very good Euro 2012 and it is essential that he recaptures that level.

Currently, Nani is splitting time with several wingers at Manchester United. But since none are making a strong case for automatic first-choice, Nani could yet convince David Moyes he deserves more playing time. He missed the World Cup last time out due to a shoulder injury which could serve as more motivation.

Silvestre Varela has been in good form this year for FC Porto and has performed well as a substitute for his country in the past. He scored an excellent goal in Portugal’s 3-2 win against Denmark at Euro 2012.

Zenit’s Danny has been one of the best players in the Russian League for several years now but has never replicated that form for Portugal. At 30-years-old, this could very well be his final chance to prove himself. He faces some fierce competition for his place.

Licá and the supremely talented Bruma are making strong cases for a spot in Brazil. 25-year-old Licá received his first cap in a friendly against Brazil in September. And Galatasaray’s Bruma has played very well this year and some believe he has Ronaldo-esque potential.

Pizzi has endured a rough start to life at Espanyol and faces an uphill battle to be selected for Brazil. The 24-year-old had a breakout season with Deportivo La Coruña last year but has been benched in recent matches.

Related Posts:

THE MIDFIELDERS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE FULL BACKS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE CENTRE BACKS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE GOALKEEPERS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Need To Improve Before The World Cup

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

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Dynamic Winger Bruma

TRANSFER WINDOW: Pizzi And Sidnei Loaned To Espanyol

TRANSFER WINDOW: Josué And Licá Join FC Porto

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Paulo Bento’s Portugal squad went into Wednesday’s friendly against Holland with a renewed sense of optimistic after an important win against Russia in World Cup qualifying in June.

The squad was missing some familiar faces with Nani, Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles all withdrawing due to injuries. Manager Paulo Bento fielded a makeshift midfield that included Miguel Veloso, Ruben Amorim and Ruben Micael.

Luis Neto started in place of Bruno Alves who would come into the match as a late substitute. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Danny started on the wing, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and striker Helder Postiga. Beto also started in goal instead of Rui Patricio.

The match began brightly for the Oranje, with Louis van Gaal’s squad getting the better opportunities in the opening minutes.

In the 17th minute, Dynamo Kyiv winger Jeremain Lens would find AS Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman just outside the box. Strootman delivered a world-class strike which beat Beto.

Portugal would counter with a few opportunities of their own. Ruben Micael had the best opportunity before the half striking a good opportunity inside the box just wide of the goal.

Olympiakos midfielder Paulo Machado would replace Ruben Micael at half-time. The change gave the Seleção a determination not seen in the first-half. The squad dominated in terms of possession and chances in the second half.

They were finally rewarded for their hard work in the 87th minute when Pepe deflected a Miguel Veloso corner kick in front of goal. Cristiano Ronaldo scored with a clinical finish, giving Portugal a well-deserved draw.

The match was not the best news that Portuguese fans received on Wednesday. Northern Ireland beat Russia 1-0 in a group F World Cup qualifying match. The result means that Portugal remains in first place with three matches left.

The Seleção will face Northern Ireland in Belfast on September 6th.

Video:

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Tying Goal Against Holland

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

The Seleção will renew its rivalry with The Netherlands in an international friendly on Wednesday, August 14 at Algarve stadium in Faro.

The match will mark the first time Portugal will face the Oranje since its dramatic 2-1 win in the final group stage match at the 2012 European Championships. Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored both Portuguese goals in that match will of course captain the Seleção for the match, barring injury.

Paulo Bento’s Portuguese squad was announced on Tuesday and there were few surprises. Real Madrid defender Pepe made his return after missing out last time due to a yellow card suspension.

Missing out this time around are Beşiktaş striker Hugo Almeida, Sporting Lisbon midfielder Andre Martins, and Espanyol winger Pizzi. Sporting Braga striker Éder is still recovering from a knee injury and was not selected.

Bento’s squad is hoping to prepare for a series of critical World Cup qualifying matches in September and October. They are currently in first place in group F with 14 points in 7 matches. However, Russia is only two points behind despite playing two fewer matches.

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga) Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: João Pereira (Valencia), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Sílvio (Benfica), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit)

Midfeilders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Custódio (Braga), Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Rúben Micael (Braga)

Forwards: Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Varela (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Danny (Zenit), Nélson Oliveira (Rennes)

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Jan SOLO

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Jan SOLO

Cristiano Ronaldo will contest FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Bayern Munich’s Franck Ribéry for the Best Player in Europe award.

The award is given to the best player in European football. This is the third year that the award has been handed out.

This is also the third straight year that the Portuguese winger has finished in the top three. In 2010-11 he finished third behind winner Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernández. Last year, Ronaldo tied for second along side great rival Messi, and behind winner Andrés Iniesta.

Ronaldo had another inspirational year scoring 59 goals and adding 17 assists in 64 matches for club and country in 2012-13. This included leading the UEFA Champions League in scoring with 12 goals in 12 matches. However, his Real Madrid side was eliminated by Borussia Dortmund in the semi-finals of the competition.

He faces some strong competition from Lionel Messi who had another excellent season with FC Barcelona. French winger Franck Ribéry was part of an excellent Bayern team that won the Champions League and the Bundesliga titles.

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

The Seleção continued their run of impressive form by beating Croatia 1-0 in an international friendly on Monday in Geneva. The win comes just days after Paulo Bento’s club defeated Russia in a crucial World Cup qualifying match.

Paulo Bento fielded a squad that was a mixture of regular starters and bench players. Although Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho and Cristiano Ronaldo started the match. Eduardo received a rare start in goal over Rui Patricio.

The Seleção began the match brightly, creating several good chances in the opening half hour. In the 36th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo took control of the ball just outside the box and struck a good shot past Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subašić.

The goal was a well deserved one for Portugal’s captain after inspiring displays in back-to-back matches for the national team. Ronaldo was unlucky not to score another before half-time after a brilliantly executed header bounced off the crossbar and out.

With Ronaldo substituted at half-time, the second half saw a more balanced display from both teams, with good chances being rare on both sides. Croatia was unable to challenge Eduardo in any meaningful way and Portugal held on for the deserving victory.

FC Porto defender Sereno and Sporting Lisbon midfielder Andre Martins would receive their first international caps after coming on as second half substitutes. Portugal will go into the summer break with a renewed sense of confidence after several strong performances.

Paulo Bento looked noticeably pleased with his club’s performance after the final whistle and praised his club’s recent positive form to journalists after the match.

“That makes it three consecutive victories in different contexts: two official matches, with Azerbaijan and Russia, and today in a different context, which could be difficult sometimes especially in the last match of the campaign. But it was a good response from a group that demonstrated coesion and allowed me to use every player over the last two matches.”

“It was also the third straight game that we did not concede a goal. We did not allow many chances, despite there being a few moments in the first half. We faced a good team, but I think the outcome was very well deserved.”

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