Posts Tagged ‘Defender’

Renato Sanches - Benfica

The first half of the Primeira Liga (Liga NOS) season officially came to an end this past weekend, making it an ideal time to reflect on some of the best home-grown Revelações. Portugal is in the middle of an exciting emerging generation. And the talent is no longer primarily concentrated among the country’s “Big Three.” Here are just some of the top revelations this season from Portugal.

Rui Silva, Nacional, Goalkeeper

The 21-year-old back-stopper has been one of the most consistent performers this season in the Primeira Liga. Silva replaced the injured Gottardi at half-time in a September match against Academica and has not looked back. Since then, he has conceded only 18 goals in 13 matches, and kept his club in matches against Sporting CP and FC Porto.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

No list of promising Portuguese players is complete without the FC Porto midfield prodigy. Neves burst on to the scene last season with some impressive performances at the tender age of 17. He has continued to grow this season. In October, he became the youngest captain in the history of the Champions League. And he recently became the youngest player in club history to amass 50 senior matches for the Dragons.

João Palhinha, Moreirense FC, Defensive Midfielder

Portugal has never had a better crop of young defensive midfielders. Palhinha, who is on loan from Sporting, has been terrific this season for Miguel Leal’s club. The 20-year-old possesses a good combination of size, positioning and defensive instincts, making him ideal for the position. Palhinha and fellow Sporting loanee Iuri Medeiros have been fundamental to Moreirense’s turnaround from a poor start.

Renato Sanches, SL Benfica, Central Midfielder

The 18-year-old began the season with Benfica’s B squad but has since solidified his position in Rui Vitoria’s midfield. His individual highlight was a brilliant 40-yard strike against Academica in December. He has also not looked out of place against tougher competition in the Champions League. And the most telling statistic, Benfica has won nine of the ten league matches Sanches has played this season. The only blemish was a scoreless draw against União da Madeira.

Diogo Jota, Paços de Ferreira, Winger

The talented teenager has made a major impact for Paços since his debut in the second-half of last season. Jota has scored five goals and created another six, in 16 matches this season. He has formed a good partnership with Bruno Moreira. And together, they have propelled the club to fifth-place. It seems like Jota is destined to move on to a bigger club this summer. Benfica are said to be very interested.

Honorable Mention

Miguel Silva, Vitória de Guimarães, Goalkeeper
Nélson Semedo, SL Benfica, Right-Back
Rúben Semedo, Vitória Setúbal, Centre Back/Midfielder
André Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Attacking Midfielder
Iuri Medeiros, Moreirense FC, Midfielder/Winger
Gonçalo Guedes, SL Benfica, Winger
Gelson Martins, Sporting CP, Winger

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Carlos Mane Sporting

Portugal’s performance at the FIFA U20 World Cup and UEFA U21 European Championships strengthened the perception that Portuguese football is on the ascendency once again.

Andre Gomes, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva are just some of the players that have established themselves over the past few seasons. The editors of FutebolFactory.com and PortugalFutbol.net have compiled a list of ten players who they think could make a big breakthrough this season.

José Sá, Maritmo, Goalkeeper

The 22-year-old was excellent this summer at the U21 UEFA European Championships as Portugal’s first-choice backstopper. He conceded only one goal in five match in the tournament before losing to Sweden on penalties in the final.

Sá has only appeared in 11 matches with the senior squad over the last two seasons and has spent most of his time with Maritmo B in the Segunda Liga. Manager Ivo Vieira could turn to Sá if last season’s first-choice Romain Salin falters.

Tobias Figueiredo, Sporting, Centre Back

Long touted as one of Sporting’s finest youth prospects, Tobias Figueiredo began to establish himself in the second-half of last season with the club. From January forward, Tobias managed 12 league starts, which helped him earn a place on the Portuguese squad for the U-21 European Championships.

This season, Tobias faces strong competition at Sporting, now that the club has purchased experienced defenders Naldo and Ewerton. However, he could manage to earn some more playing time under Jorge Jesus, especially in Cup competitions.

João Cancelo, Valencia, Right Back

A product of Benfica’s youth academy, João Cancelo joined Valencia on loan from the Portuguese club last summer. After playing a back-up role in his first season, Valencia purchased Cancelo for €15 million this summer. This season, it remains unclear Cancelo will play a bigger role at the club.

An attacking full-back by trade, Cancelo is just as comfortable going forward and attacking as he is in one-on-one defensive situations. The 21-year-old was also part of Portugal’s U-21 European Championships squad this summer.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

It was a dream start to his career for the then 17-year-old last season. He earned a start in Porto’s first match of the season, scoring a goal against Marítimo, becoming the youngest goalscorer in history for the club. He made his first appearance in the Champions league just days later.

However, the emergence of Casemiro and a serious knee injury in December threw his season off course. The 18-year-old has talent in abundance and should have the opportunity to play a bigger role with the club this season.

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

Last summer, Teixeira was impressive during Benfica’s pre-season, and all signs were pointing towards then-coach Jorge Jesus giving the midfielder a place in the first team. Teixeira was instead relegated to the B team, where he still managed to be one of their top performers.

With Rui Vitoria now in charge at the Luz, it is unclear where Teixeira will fit in the pecking order. Teixeira has been a key figure for Benfica B for over two seasons now, and a promotion to the senior team cannot be far away.

Carlos Mané, Sporting, Winger

The 21-year old has been part of the supporting cast for the club over the last few season. Last year, he managed an impressive nine goals in 41 appearances for Sporting in all competitions. Nani’s departure leaves the door open for Mané to establish himself this season.

Mané comes from a long tradition of skilled wingers that have emerged from the club’s famed academy at Alcochete. He could play on both flanks and has developed a reputation for scoring quality goals. He should flourish in Jorge Jesus’ preferred 4-4-2 formation which will allow him more freedom to drift inside.

Bruma, Real Sociedad (On loan from Galatasaray), Winger

An exciting prospect who burst on to the scene with some electrifying displays for Sporting in 2013. A contract dispute eventually lead to him moving to Turkish club Galatasaray that summer. Two full season’s gone and the talented winger has yet to live up to his immense potential.

A move to La Liga club Real Sociedad could be exactly what he needs. Manager David Moyes developed the reputation for nurturing young talent during his days with Everton. And the Basque club should improve on their 12th place finish from a year ago after some quality signings.

Gonçalo Guedes, Benfica, Winger

Another supremely talented winger. The 18-year-old made his first appearances for Benfica last season but spent most of the campaign with the B squad where he was named the Breakthrough Player of the Season in Portugal’s Segunda Liga.

With Eduardo Salvio facing a long recovery time because of a knee injury, Guedes could see more playing time this season. Benfica’s new manager Rui Vitoria spent some time with the club’s youth academy in the past and could give Guedes and others a chance to flourish.

Ivan Cavaleiro, AS Monaco, Winger

Cavaleiro spent last season on loan at struggling La Liga side Deportivo but still managed more than a few positive moments. He was named to the Team of the Tournament at the U-21 UEFA European Championships and soon after signed with Ligue 1 club AS Monaco.

The club is managed by former Braga and Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim, and boasts several Portuguese internationals which should help Cavaleiro adjust to the new situation. Early signs suggest that Jardim has every intention of making the winger an integral part of his Monaco machine.

Gonçalo Paciência, Académica de Coimbra (On loan from FC Porto), Striker

For some time, the Portuguese National Team has been seriously lacking a quality striker. Since the retirement of Pauleta, Portugal has used several players with Hélder Postiga being the only one to provide any real consistency. Paciência offers the best long-term hope.

He will spent this season on loan at Primeira Liga club Académica, his first full season in top flight. Many Portuguese fans will be watching intently to see how he performs. If he can replicate some of his performances at youth level where he is a prolific goalscorer, Portugal may just resolve their striker conundrum.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

FUTEBOL - Joao Mario jogador do Sporting, no jogo Sporting vs Benfica referente a 20ª jornada da I Liga 2014/15, realizado no Estadio Jose de Alvalade, em Lisboa. Domingo 8 de Fevereiro de 2015. (ASF/RUI RAIMUNDO)

João Mário Was One of the Best Young Players in the Portuguese League This Season

In the summer, the editors of Futebol Factory and PortugalFutbol.net put together a list of 10 players that could make a positive impact at club level for the first time. Now that the season has finished, we decided to assess each player’s progress and assign a final grade.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

Valencia’s impressive season has in part been because of the team’s impressive defensive record. Los Che conceded only 32 goals in 2014-15. At the heart of this impressive defense were Nicolás Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi, meaning Ruben Vezo only managed seven league appearances for Valencia this term. Still, Vezo impressed when given the chance to play, and with Otamendi touted to make a big-money move away from Valencia this summer, Vezo may get his chance next season. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

Guerreiro had a positive first season in the French top flight a year ago but he has taken a big leap this season. The 21-year-old was moved to the left side of midfield at Lorient by manager Sylvain Ripoll early in the season which seemed to unleash his potential. He made his debut for the senior Seleção in November against Armenia and scored a late winner at Old Trafford against Argentina just days later. He scored seven goals this season in Ligue 1. He seems destined to move to a bigger club this summer. Grade: A-

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

The young midfielder was very impressive during Benfica’s summer tour and it appeared likely that he was going to play a role this season. However, it just did not happen. One solitary appearance in the Champions League in December is all he could manage for the main squad. Still, he was an important figure for Benfica B and remains one of the club’s best young prospects. Grade: D+/Incomplete

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

From Benfica benchwarmer to one of the hottest commodities around. Attacking midfielder André Gomes was a central figure in Valencia’s resurgence this season, helping them qualify for the Champions League. He scored his first goal of the season in September against Getafe and was also named to La Liga’s Team of the Month. He is now drawing interest from Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United Grade: A

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The next big thing to come out of Sporting’s academy. João Mário had a positive loan spell at Vitória Setúbal a year ago but still began this season as André Martins’ understudy. In late September, with Martins faltering, Sporting manager Marco Silva gave João Mário a start against Gil Vicente. He created two goals in the 4-0 victory and remained first-choice from then on. He has also become a permanent member of the senior Seleção. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

At only 20 years of age, Bruno Fernandes already has two seasons of top-flight football behind him. He followed up his impressive debut season with a more underwhelming one this time around. Fernandes recorded five goals and five assists in 24 matches last season. This term, he only managed two goals and one assist in 29 matches. Fernandes still managed to score an impressive goal against Inter Milan in a Serie A match in December but faltered in the second half of the season as his opportunities became more limited. He will certainly be looking to improve next season. Grade: B-

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Tozé joined Estoril on a two-season loan deal from FC Porto at the beginning of this season, and has since hit the ground running. After scoring 21 goals from midfield last season for Porto B, many were wondering if Tozé could manage such an impact in the Portuguese top flight. Although not as prolific as last season, he established himself as one of Estoril’s most vital attacking players. With another season likely at Estoril, we can expect more of the same from Tozé. Grade: B+

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It was not a very positive first half of the season for Marcos Lopes. He struggled with a nagging hamstring injury that saw him miss more than two months. However, he returned in January with a renewed sense of purpose. He had a memorable match against French giants Lyon in February, scoring a goal with a brilliant left-footed strike that gave Lille the 2-1 victory. He is currently on duty with Portugal at the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Grade: B+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

Bruma suffered a serious knee injury last season which saw him missed 6 months of action. He began this season healthy but soon fell out of favour with then manager Cesare Prandelli. A string of bad results led to Prandelli’s eventual sacking. When new coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu took charge, Bruma returned to his spot in Galatasaray’s starting XI. Since then, Bruma has performed admirably, but has yet to truly reach the heights many expect of him. Grade: B+

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Málaga’s 20 year-old winger has enjoyed a largely successful first season at the Spanish club. After arriving from Vitória Setúbal in the summer, Horta had to adapt quickly to the more challenging La Liga. Despite some impressive performances in the Copa del Rey and La Liga, Horta’s season was that of adjustment, and not of consistency. He saw less action in the second half of the season when Málaga began challenging for a Europa League position. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

The 22-year-old has steadily rebuilt his career after moving to Paços from FC Porto last season. He was the driving force behind a much improved side this season. And he captained Portugal’s Under-21 squad to qualification for the European Championships. A move back to Porto is now in the cards. Grade: B+

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco, Attacking Midfielder

The 20 year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise over the last year. His loan to AS Monaco caught many by surprise last summer, but the left-footed maestro has thrived under former Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim. He made his senior Seleção debut against Cape Verde in March, and he should be one of the players to watch at this summer’s U-21 European Championships. Grade: A

Hernâni, Vitória Guimarães/FC Porto, Winger

After a stellar first half of the season for Vitória Guimarães, Hernâni earned a move to FC Porto in January. Though he found playing time at a premium at Porto, Hernâni did manage some impressive, if brief, cameos. Next season, Hernâni will certainly hope to win a starting position and rediscover his terrific form. Grade: B

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

After breaking into the Sporting Lisbon setup last season, Carlos Mané enjoyed a successful follow-up season this term. Competing with Nani and André Carrillo, Mané still managed to make a positive impact primarily as a substitute. With Nani’s expected departure from Sporting this summer, Mané could establish himself as a regular starter next season. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

Related Posts:

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Scout Report | André Gomes : The Driving Force Behind the New Valencia

Scout Report | Bernardo Silva: AS Monaco and Portugal’s Young Attacking Midfielder

PortuGoal.net: Are Portugal on the Verge of Another Golden Generation?

PortuGoal.net: Is João Mário Set to Revive Portugal’s No10 Tradition?

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

There is no question that the Portuguese national team is in a transitional phase. The Selecção’s group stage exit in Brazil just reinforced the claim that the squad will look very different in the next few years. There has perhaps never been a time in recent memory when the country has had so many promising young players.

In the summer, we chose ten that we thought would be able to make a positive impact at club level this season. Since then, four of these players have made their debuts for the senior Selecção, to go along with André Gomes and Bruma who had been selected before. This article will look at the progress of each player and will assign them a grade based on their development so far.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

The 20-year-old started this season in positive form, starting Valencia’s first five league matches. But since then, he lost his place to the more experienced Shkodran Mustafi. The positive play of former Porto defender Nicolas Otamendi has also made it difficult for him to find playing time. He still looked confident and demonstrated some good awareness in limited action. The youngster has a very bright future but needs to continue to develop his game. For now, he sits and waits. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

The 21-year-old has continued to add to his impressive reputation. Fernando Santos gave him his first start in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Armenia, where he was excellent. But that was just the beginning. In the next game against Argentina, he scored deep into injury time with a brilliant header that brought Old Trafford to its feet and gave Portugal the win. At club level, he has been used primarily as a left midfielder, a role that he has performed well. He has notched five goals so far for Lorient. Grade: A

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

Despite some impressive performances in the pre-season, Texieira has not been given many first-team opportunities, even with the injuries Benfica have had this season. Teixeira has been limited to Benfica’s B team, where he remains one of the top performers. That said, Teixeira has continued to push closer to the main squad throughout this season. And with Jorge Jesus’s renewed youth policy, it should only be a matter of time before Teixeira gets his chance. He might have to go out on loan before that happens. Grade: C-

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

Gomes’ surprise move to Valencia this summer left many people wondering if it was the best thing for his development. At that point, he had barely been able to hold a steady position at Benfica. But the midfielder has established himself as the driving force behind Los Che. The 21-year-old appears to be thriving under Portuguese manager Nuno Espírito Santo, and his club is challenging for a Champions League position for next season. He was named to the Team of the Month for September as well. Grade: A+

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The youngster has been one of the best revelations this season in the Primeira Liga. After beginning the season primarily as a bench player, Sporting manager Marco Silva handed him his first start in a 4-0 victory against Gil Vicente on September 21st, pitching in two assists. Soon after, Fernando Santos came calling. He made his Selecção debut against France as a second half substitute in October. He has demonstrated in recent matches that he needs to work on his consistency. But there is no question that João Mário has the talent to be an elite player and he is well on his way. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

20-year-old Bruno Fernandes has continued to thrive in Serie A this season. Under new manager Andrea Stramaccioni, he has continued to improve his game despite than necessarily being a regular starter. He scored a memorable goal in December against Inter Milan, delivering a snap-shot that fooled Samir Handanovič. Udinese would go on to win the match 2-1. Like João Mário, Fernandes is a playmaker with excellent vision and an innate ability to read the game. But like many young players, consistency and discipline has been a problem. Grade: B

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Another supremely-talented attacking midfielder, the 22-year-old Tozé has had a positive start to life in the Portuguese top-flight. Under José Couceiro, he has been an integral part of the Estoril attack. Couceiro has primarily used Tozé at his natural position in the middle behind the striker. He has demonstrated the vision, technical skill and awareness that made him a force in Porto’s B squad last season. He still remains far from a finished product. He still commits far too many fouls and is occasionally wasteful in possession. Grade: B

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It has not been the most positive first-half of the season for ‘Rony’ Lopes. The 18-year-old was starting to solidify a place in the Lille squad when he suffered a hamstring injury against Bastia back on 27 September.He made his return against Saint Etienne on November 1st, even providing a clever assist on a goal by Michael Frey in the first-half. However, Lopes aggravated his injury and came off just before the half. He returned to action recently after missing more than two months and has appeared in only 10 Ligue 1 matches so far. If he remains healthy, Lopes has the biggest potential for improvement of any player on the list. Grade: C+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

The beginning of this season was filled with nothing but uncertainty for Bruma. He was coming off a serious knee injury but was healthy again. Galatasaray had a new manager in Cesare Prandelli. Things have not gone as Bruma hoped, with Prandelli favoring other players. His lack of playing time coincided with poor results at Galatasaray, and Prandelli was sacked in late November, after only managing six wins in sixteen games. Under Prandelli’s replacement Hamza Hamzaoglu, Bruma has been playing much more often, and his season appears to be back on track. Grade: B-

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Horta joined Malaga from Vitoria Setubal in the summer after an impressive 2013/2014 season. After a positive start to the season, his performances began to trail off somewhat. Since then, manager Javi Gracia has primarily used him as an impact sub. He scored a wonderful goal in the first leg of his team’s Spanish Cup tie against Levante in early January, and followed it up with another goal in the return leg. It is clear that Ricardo Horta needs more time to adjust to life in La Liga, but the signs are mostly positive, with plenty of room for growth. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Josué Sá, Vitória Guimarães, Central Defender

After starting this season with his club’s B team, Josué Sá made the step up to the first team in October. Playing alongside the impressive João Afonso, he has figured more and more as the season has progressed. He has made big strides and has plenty of room for growth. Grade: B

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

Rúben Neves’s performances in the pre-season were impressive enough to earn him a start in Porto’s first match of the season against Maritimo. He made the most of it, scoring a goal to become the youngest player to do so for his club. However, a dip in form in in November, combined with a knee injury means that he is no longer first-choice. Grade: B+

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

He had a positive first season on a bad Paços de Ferreira club a year ago. This season under Paulo Fonseca, he has thrived in a more withdrawn, defensive-minded role in midfield. He is currently one of the club’s most important players and has demonstrated that he is on the right path in his development. Grade: B

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco (On Loan from Benfica), Attacking Midfielder

Originally not expected to play a major role at the French club, the 20-year-old has won over the confidence of Leonardo Jardim. He played in the Champions League. And helped the U-21 squad overcome Holland in a playoff to qualify for the European Championships, scoring an impressive goal in the second-leg. Grade: B+

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

Play time has not come easy for the 20-year-old this season especially with the arrival of Nani. However, he has made the most of it, scoring several crucial goals including an injury time winner against Arouca early in the season. He also scored a memorable goal in the U-21 playoffs for Portugal dribbling past a defender. Grade: B-

Hernâni, Vitória de Guimarães, Winger

He has come out of complete obscurity to become one of Vitória de Guimarães’ most important players this season. He was named the best young player in October and November and seems destined to play for one of the ‘Big Three’ in the future. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

Related Post:

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Scout Report | André Gomes : The driving force behind the new Valencia

Is João Mário set to revive Portugal’s No10 tradition?

Five emerging Portuguese stars playing abroad

Are Portugal on the verge of another Golden Generation?

Marcos Lopes Will Play With Ligue 1 club OSC Lille This Season

Marcos Lopes Will Play With Ligue 1 club OSC Lille This Season

Portugal is once again producing quality young footballers at a scale not seen since the ‘Golden Generation’ that emerged in the late 1990s.

But at no time has there been more Portuguese youngsters playing abroad in Europe’s top leagues. Only three of the ten players on this list will be playing in Portugal this season.

Please note, this list includes only players that have yet to establish themselves as national team players but who we believe can conceivably do so during Euro 2016 qualifying. Both Bruma and André Gomes have received call-ups but have yet to establish themselves as regular players.

Here now is a list of 10 Portuguese young stars to watch this season.

Ruben Vezo, Central Defender, Valencia FC

Last season was probably the best debut season Ruben Vezo could have asked for. He was definitively promoted to Vitória de Setúbal’s first team after two successful seasons with the club’s under-19 side. And it only took him half a season to catch the eye of La Liga giants Valencia. After making 12 appearances for Vitória de Setúbal , the central defender was off to Spain. Used primarily as a backup at Valencia for the rest of the season, Vezo still managed to appear eight times, scoring once.

This season, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Vezo should play a more prominent role, especially considering Ricardo Costa and Jeremy Mathieu have left the club. Vezo will now compete with Nicolas Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi for playing time, two well-established internationals. This is no easy task, but Vezo has the tools to develop into a solid defender. And at only 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to reach that potential.

Raphaël Guerreiro , Left-Back, FC Lorient

Having been born and raised in France, it could be said that Raphaël Guerreiro is a bit different from other players on this list. Born to a French mother and a Portuguese father, Guerreiro’s allegiances thus far lie with Portugal, despite never having played in the Portuguese league. He is already an established first-team player at French side Lorient. Despite having played only one season in top-flight, Guerreiro is already viewed as one of the most promising left-backs in Ligue 1.

It appears that little will change this season, with many touting him for another good campaign. With another successful season under his belt, larger clubs will surely come knocking for Guerriero’s services. He has reportedly drawn interest from Premier League clubs West Ham and Liverpool . If he can manage to stay healthy, Raphael Guerreiro could be the subject of a bidding war next summer.

André Gomes, Midfielder, Valencia CF

The 21-year-old midfielder began making a name for himself in Benfica’s reserve squad with some dominant performances at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. He would make his senior debut with the club that season in a Portuguese Cup match against Freamunde, scoring a goal in a 4-0 victory. His performances would earn him some playing time in the Champions League as well.

Gomes has exceptional technical ability and is versatile as well. He played in defensive midfield last season with Benfica, but his attributes are better suited for an attacking role. After being heavily linked with a move to the Premier League in January 2014, his rights were sold to an investment fund for €15 million. Gomes will be part of a resurgent Valencia side this season.

João Teixeira , Midfielder, Benfica

Few would have expected João Teixeira to have been as involved in Benfica’s pre-season as he has been, playing mainly as an anchor man in the midfield. Teixeira made 28 appearances for Benfica’s B team last season, but only 16 of those were starts. Still only 20-years-old, Teixeira has been a welcome surprise in Benfica’s otherwise underwhelming pre-season.

With the team’s first-choice holding midfielder, Ljubomir Fejsa out injured for the foreseeable future, Teixeira is now creating competition for Ruben Amorim. Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has a history of nurturing young talent, as he did with Andre Gomes. And should Teixeira be given a first-team role this season, look for big things.

João Mário, Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

João Mário has long been viewed as a top Portuguese prospect. The midfielder has been at Sporting since he was 11-years-old, but has only managed one first team appearance so far. After spending the entire 2012-2013 season playing for Sporting’s B side, João Mário was loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga outfit Vitória de Setúbal for the second half of last season. He immediately earned a regular place on the team and managed to make 15 league appearances.

His performances were enough to earn him the ‘Young Player of the Month’ award for January and February, ahead of the likes of William Carvalho, Ricardo Horta, and Bebe. João Mário was recalled to the Sporting senior squad this summer and he appears to be in contention for a starting position. His work this pre-season has not gone unnoticed. Former Sporting midfielder Luis Vidigal delivered a glowing recommendation for the player in a recent interview. ‘ It is only a matter of time before Marco Silva realizes the value of João Mário,’ Vidigal said.

Bruno Fernandes, Attacking Midfielder, Udinese Calcio

Unlike most players on this list, Bruno Fernandes never played for one of the ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football. In fact, the Udinese midfielder never even played for a club in Portugal’s top division. The former Boavista youth player accepted a modest offer from Italian club Novara in 2012. He has adjusted well to the Italian game, helping Novara to promotion the following season and earning a move to Udinese last summer.

Fernandes started last season in Udinese’s reserve squad, but eventually earned his way into the starting line-up. He impressed with his vision, technical skill and creativity, playing mainly in the ‘Number 10’ position behind the striker. Fernandes would make 24 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals. And he is finally receiving some recognition in his home country, having been selected for the U-19 and U-20 youth squads.

Tozé, Attacking Midfielder, Estoril-Praia

A supremely-gifted attacking midfielder who will be officially on-loan for the next two seasons at Estoril. The 21-year-old is a graduate of FC Porto’s youth academy and has been a regular player for Portugal at every youth level. He was dominant last season playing for Porto’s reserve squad in the Segunda Liga, scoring 21 goals in 40 appearances.

As well as having an eye for goal, Tozé has a well-rounded game. He is technically skilled and is versatile as well. He could play in the centre of the pitch, as well on the wings. He should receive more playing time with Estoril, who will be playing in the Europa League this season. Current manager José Couceiro, did an excellent job with a young squad at Vitória de Setubal last season. Tozé appears ready to make the next step.

Marcos Lopes, Attacking Midfielder, Lille OSC

Perhaps the most talked-about teenager in world football. Marcos Lopes first made a name for himself as a Benfica youth player, before leaving for Manchester City in 2011. He would score in his first ever appearances for The Citizens in a January 2013 FA Cup match against Watford, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. He continued his dominant performances for Manchester City’s youth squad.

Lopes played for Portugal this summer at the U-19 UEFA Championships, helping his country to the final where they eventually lost to Germany. An attacking midfielder, with exceptional technical ability and vision, Lopes feels most comfortable on the left side of the pitch. His style of play has often been compared to Ronaldinho. The 18-year-old will spend this season on loan at Ligue 1 club Lille.

Ricardo Horta, Winger, Málaga CF

19-year-old Ricardo Horta was one of the top revelations last season in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The supremely talented winger is a former Benfica youth player, who moved south to Vitória Setúbal in 2011. He started playing regularly for the club last season, eventually helping them finishing a better than expected seventh in the league table. Horta would score seven goals for the club along the way.

It came as no surprise when La Liga club Málaga signed him this summer. Horta has not wasted any time impressing his new fan base. He scored a beautiful long-range goal in the pre-season against Australian club Perth Glory in late July. And he has dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, making him one of the top young players to watch this season in La Liga.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray S.K.

Once hailed as ‘Portugal’s next big thing,’ Bruma’s career has stalled due to a serious knee injury sustained last January. The timing for the winger’s injury could not have been worse. He was just beginning to find his feet at Galatasaray with a series of positive performances in both the Turkish league and the Champions League.

Bruma was selected to the national team for the first time in October 2013, just a few months before his injury. Any hopes he had of representing his country at the World Cup were all but finished. But Bruma is now healthy and back playing football. He had a positive pre-season, which is something that his new manager Cesare Prandelli should take note of. At only 19-years-old, Bruma already has the tools to become an elite player and soon.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

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Portugal continues to produce talent at a rate not seen for some time. This year, there were a high number of Portuguese youngsters flourishing in Europe’s top leagues as well.

Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient left-back Raphaël Guerreiro established themselves as two of Ligue 1’s most exciting young players. While Udinese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is a budding star in Serie A, a league that has not been kind to Portuguese talent in recent seasons.

And as always, the Primeira Liga continued to be fertile ground for promising young home grown talent. The clubs outside the traditional ‘Big Three’ in particular have in recent seasons put their faith in developing players from their academy, perhaps adjusting to new economic realities.

Of those selected to be on the list, four have received a call-up to the National Team. While Braga midfielder Rafa Silva and Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, will both be representing the Seleção at the World Cup this summer.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from this past season.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

23-year-old Anthony Lopes won the starting position at French club Olympique Lyonnais in training camp last summer and has been solid since. His season almost came to an abrupt end when he suffered a serious back injury in early November. He returned only five weeks later and has remained first-choice.

Lopes was on Paulo Bento’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup before being left out in favour of more established veterans. But his future remains very bright. He helped lead Olympique Lyonnais to a fifth place finish in a increasingly competitive Ligue 1, conceding only 34 goals in 32 League appearances for the French club. That includes 13 clean sheets.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

An immensely promising talent from Vitória Guimarães’ academy. The young centre back demonstrated this season that he has the athleticism and football IQ needed to be a top level defender. Sporting Lisbon recently signed him to a five-year contract where he is expected to compete for a starting position next season.

He is already very accomplished despite only being 22-years-old. He won the Portuguese Cup last season with Vitória Guimarães. This season, Oliveira played in the Europa League before the club was eliminated in the group stage. With Bruno Alves and Pepe both over 30, Oliveira could be an option for the Seleção soon if he continues to progress as a player.

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back

Another very promising defender. Rodrigues started 29 matches this season and was the focal point of a solid Nacional defense. Rodrigues was a major reason the Madeira club finished a better than expected fifth in the League table. The club conceded only 33 goals in 30 League matches this season overall.

Although he has only playd one full season in the Primeira Liga, many people are expecting a lot from him in the future. Together with Paulo Oliveira and Tiago Ilori, Rodrigues is part of a group of highly promising Portuguese central defenders that could conceivably reach the heights of the Seleção .

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

An offensively gifted full-back who has enjoyed a very good breakthrough season with Ligue 1 club FC Lorient. Like Anthony Lopes, Guerreiro was born and began playing football in France. However, he has chosen to represent the country of his father internationally. The 20-year-old has already played for Portugal’s Under-21 squad.

This season, Guerreiro has shown excellent attacking instincts and has become known for delivering good crosses into the box. His style is very well-suited for the Portuguese game and according to some sources Paulo Bento is said to be monitoring his progress. However, he still needs to improve his defensive play.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

Portuguese observers should already be well aware of this 22-year-old full-back from his time at Paços Ferreira. In his first season at La Liga club Sevilla, Figueiras started 19 League matches for the club and helped them win the Europa League. He has proved to be a strong offensive threat down the right-side and could even play further up the pitch.

Figueiras still needs to improve the defensive side of his game. He still commits far too many fouls. In La Liga this season, Figueiras picked up nine yellow cards and one red card in 22 total appearances. And he served a four-match ban for verbally abusing a referee. However, this is not an uncommon problem with many young attacking full-backs.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

William Carvalho leads a very strong group of midfielders on the list. The Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder was one of the outstanding performers this season in the Portuguese league. And big things are expected of him next month at the World Cup where he is likely to anchor the Portuguese midfield.

Carvalho is most often compared to former French international Patrick Vieira. The 22-year-old has great positioning, makes goods decisions with the ball and could also contribute offensively. He received his first international cap in the decisive World Cup qualifying match against Sweden. And he put in an excellent performance in a recent friendly against Cameroon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

21-year-old Rafael Ferreira Silva has enjoyed an impressive rise over the last 12 months. He was signed from second division side Feirense last summer and was recently selected to Portugal’s World Cup squad. He will be looked upon to provide some creativity from the bench.

Silva has demonstrated this season that he has the skill level and vision to be an elite player. However, like many gifted young players he needs to learn how to play as part of a system. Braga had a difficult season, having fired veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira. But under the right direction, Rafa could just become the playmaker Portugal has sought since the retirement of Deco four years ago.

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese, Attacking Midfielder

19-year-old Bruno Fernandes is former Boavista youth player who spend the 2012-13 season in Serie B with Novara. After helping the club to promotion, Fernandes was signed by Udinese last summer. He began this past season in the club’s reserve squad before earning a position in the starting line-up.

Fernandes would end the season as one of Udinese’s most important players, playing behind striker Antonio Di Natale. The young midfielder scored four goals and notched another six assists in 24 League matches for the Italian club, helping them remain in Serie A.

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

The young Sporting Lisbon winger could just emerge as one of Portugal’s great players. The 20-year-old was primarily used in Cup matches in the first half of the season. He scored a spectacular goal from just beyond the box in a League Cup match against Marítimo in January. In the second half, Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim began using him more often in League matches.

His talent is so evident that Manchester United is said to be very interested in signing him, despite the fact that he has yet to play an entire season in top flight. With Diego Capel and André Carrillo likely to leave this summer, Mané could be an automatic starter with Sporting Lisbon next season.

Ricardo Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Winger

A very promising attacker who was relatively unknown until this season. Horta was a Benfica youth player before signing with Vitória Setúbal in 2011. The club surprised everyone by finishing a better than expected seventh in the League total. Horta started hitting top gear in February after the arrival of João Mário on loan from Sporting Lisbon.

He would score six of his seven goals this season from February onwards. Horta has been selected for Portugal’s U19 and U20 squads as well. Sporting Lisbon are said to be interested in signing the youngster but Setúbal may not be willing to give him up so soon.

Bebé, Manchester United (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Striker

One of the great individual stories from this season in Portugal. Written off by so many in the media, the 23-year-old scored 12 goals in 27 appearances for Paços de Ferreira. That includes 11 goals in his final 16 matches. He also scored the opening goal in Paços de Ferreira’s 3-1 play-off win against Desportivo das Aves that assured that the club would remain in the Primeira Liga.

Bebé demonstrated that precocious talent that was not immediately evident while at Old Trafford and in previous loan spells. He scored an excellent volley against Braga in January which seemed to have given him a renewed sense of confidence. In a March League match against Arouca, he back-heeled a pass to himself before scoring. And now a move to one of Portugal’s biggest club’s seems likely.

SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon (On Loan at Vitória Setúbal), Central Midfielder

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger

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Raphaël Guerreiro In Action For FC Lorient

Raphaël Guerreiro In Action For FC Lorient

Portugal U-21 international Raphaël Guerreiro is quickly establishing himself as one of the most promising left-backs in the French League.

The 20-year-old has played in every minute of FC Lorient’s League games this season, as of February 25th. He has been instrumental in the club holding down a comfortable position in Ligue 1.

Guerreiro made his senior debut last season with Caen in Ligue 2 and was named to the league’s Team of the Year, as a 19-year-old. He reportedly turned down a chance to sign with bigger clubs this summer in favour of more playing time at Lorient.

Born in France to a Portuguese father and a French mother, Guerreiro told French football publication So Foot in a December 2013 interview that playing for Portugal at the World Cup would be the greatest honour.

Although, he admitted that he has a lot of work to do before he could be considered for the Selecção. Portugal has depth on the left side, with Fábio Coentrão widely expected to start in Brazil.

In a September 2013 interview with the French edition of Eurosport he said that he has always felt a closer connection to his father’s homeland. Before joining Caen, Guerreiro would often go on vacation in the Algarve.

Like his father, he is a supporter of Benfica. But Guerreiro’s greatest ambition at club level is to play with Portugal’s greatest star Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid.

Relatively unknown in Portugal before last season, Guerreiro was called to the U-21 squad for the first time in March 2013. U-21 manager Rui Jorge has regularly selected him for the squad this season as they hope to qualify for the 2015 European Championships in the Czech Republic.

He spent part of his early training at Clairefontaine, an iconic training academy near Paris that has helped develop many of France’s greatest players. At only 20 years of age, Guerreiro has already demonstrated that he could play at a high level and do well. Many people are predicting a very bright future for the youngster.

In January 2014, he was named as one of the ten best young players in Ligue 1 from the first half of the season by French football publication Le 10 Sport.

Guerreiro is known for his speed and agility, which allows him to be an offensive threat on the left side. He is known for his ability to pass and deliver crosses into the box. Also, he does not neglect his defensive responsibilities.

According to the online Football statistics website Squawka, Guerreiro has completed 78 percent of his passes this season. He has also won 65 percent of his battles, which includes a 54 percent success rate in tackles. He has received only one yellow card all season in Ligue 1.

“He has all the qualities to succeed. He possesses above-average technical ability, intelligence and he always concentrates on the game. He is a humble young man who loves football,” Lorient manager Christian Gourcuff said.

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Portugal is quietly developing the best young talent pool since the Golden Generation of the 1990s. Futebol Factory has compiled a list of some of the best breakthrough performers from the first half of the season.

The Portuguese league continues to produce some exciting young talent. Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, in particular has stood out this season. The Angolan-born defensive midfielder has attracted interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and other top clubs with his impressive displays.

At the same time, several promising players are heading abroad and succeeding in other top leagues as well. Former Benfica defender Miguel Vitor has adjusted very well in the Greek league with PAOK. While, Nelson Oliveira has made good strides on loan this season at French club Stade Rennais.

Ligue 1, in particular is well represented on the list. Along with Oliveira, Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient defender Raphaël Guerreiro have also played well.

Right-back Diogo Figueiras has earned a starting position in La Liga with FC Sevilla, playing alongside a strong Portuguese contingent in the Andaluz club. Rúben Vezo’s strong start to the season with Vitória Setúbal has earned him a January transfer to Valencia.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from the first half of the season laid out in a 4-3-3 formation.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

The 23-year-old goalkeeper earned a starting position with Lyon this summer with his impressive displays in the pre-season. The French-born Lopes has good technique and is known for making exceptional saves. He received his first call-up to the Selecção in September.

His strong start to the season was put in serious jeopardy when he suffered a fractured vertebrae in November in a Ligue 1 match against Guingamp. Lopes was expected to be out long-term but returned less than two months after the injury. He is expected to battle with Braga’s Eduardo as Portugal’s third-choice goalkeeper behind Beto and Rui Patricio.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

One of the several bright young stars that have come out of Vitória Guimarães in recent years. A local boy, who is a product of the club’s academy, the 21-year-old centre back has been solid for Rui Vitoria’s club.

Oliveira is steadily building up a good resume. He has played in the Europa League this season. And he has been a regular for Portugal at the U21 level as well. Most recently, Oliveira was named the best young player in the Portuguese first division for the month of December.

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

One of the best stories from the first half of the season. The 24-year-old Vitor endured loan spells at Desportivo das Aves and Leicester City, in between time sitting on the bench for Benfica. He spent 2012-13 in the club’s reserve squad in the second division.

Benfica finally gave him his unconditional release this past summer. He signed with Greek club PAOK and has thrived. Vitor has scored five goals for the club already this season. Portugal is not particularly deep at central defender. A strong second half could be enough to draw Paulo Bento’s attention.

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Like Miguel Vitor, left-back Luis Martins was never really given a fair chance at Benfica. He transferred to Gil Vicente in January 2013 where he has since flourished. This season, he has started all 14 matches for the club and scored two goals.

Martins played in the Portugal squad that reached the final of the 2011 U20 World Cup. This season, he has played himself into the U21 squad as well, which is undergoing qualifying for the European Championships in 2015. At only 21 years of age, Martins will surely be a player to watch in the future.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

The 23-year-old right-back has been impressive with FC Sevilla this early season. He was bought from Paços Ferreira in the summer to back up Coke, but has since replaced the Spaniard as first-choice. Figueiras is a skilled right-back who has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.

However, he still commits too many fouls and needs to learn how to balance his offensive skills with his defensive responsibilities. This season has not gone without a blemish, he is currently serving a four-match suspension for verbally abusing a referee.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

The 21-year-old has enjoyed an unbelievable ascent over the last six months. Carvalho’s performances in the pre-season with Sporting earned him a place in the starting XI. Since then he has impressed everyone with his simple, but highly effective displays.

Carvalho was voted the best player in the Portuguese league in October, November and December. He is drawing interests from several big European clubs. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, Carvalho is at this moment, a prime candidate to be in Portugal’s squad for the World Cup.

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

The 20-year-old midfielder has been behind many of Belenenses’ attacks this season. Silva is an offensively minded midfielder who has good vision and is a good passer of the ball. He is another former Benfica youth player who left for Lisbon rivals Belenenses in 2009.

Last season, while playing in the second division, he impressed club manager Mitchell van der Gaag in pre-season and earned himself a regular starting position. He helped the team to promotion last season and has continued to grow as a player.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder was bought from second division Feirense last summer and has impressed with his skill and vision. Expected to be used as a substitute this season, Silva has played himself in to Jesualdo Ferreira’s squad. He has also been used as a winger at times.

Silva’s has enjoyed a remarkable rise in Portuguese football over the last few years. He played with little known Atlético Povoense before signing with Alverca as a youth player. Silva would make the most of his playing time in the lower divisions and earned a transfer to Feirense in 2011. This year he has been selected for Portugal’s U20 and U21 squads.

Diogo Viana, Gil Vicente, Winger

A former Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto youth player, Diogo Viana is finally getting his chance to play full-time in the Portuguese top flight this season. And he has not failed to disappoint. Viana has been the main offensive threat for a surprising Gil Vicente club this season.

According to a report in the Daily Mirror in November, Premier League clubs Everton and Swansea City are interesting in signing the Portuguese winger. He recently signed an extension with the club that expires in 2016. The deal includes a release clause of €5 million.

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

The 23-year-old was a major part of Belenenses gaining promotion back to the top division. The Angolan-born winger, who has played for Portugal’s junior squads, has been in excellent form once again this season.

He was recently rewarded with a contract extension that will see him tied to the club until 2016. The deal includes a €4 million release clause. According to O Jogo, several clubs are interested in signing the talented winger.

Nelson Oliveira, Benfica (On Loan at Rennes), Striker

The Portuguese international has followed up a disappointing loan spell in La Liga last year with a much better season with Rennes. The 22-year-old has already scored seven goals so far with the French club after getting only four all of last season with Deportivo.

The young striker still has to improve his decision-making and ability to link up with his teammates. However, he is still making a strong case to be in Portugal’s World Cup squad. Rennes has expressed interest in signing him to a permanent deal.

youth-starting-xi5

SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back
Rúben Vezo, Vitória Setúbal (Transferred To Valencia), Central Defender
Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back
Filipe Ferreira, Belenenses, Left-Back
Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder
Sérgio Oliveira, FC Porto (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Central Midfielder
Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger
Paulinho, Gil Vicente, Winger
Marco Matias, Vitória Guimarães, Striker

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Nani At Euro 2012  Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Nani At Euro 2012 Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Cristiano Ronaldo’s inspirational performance in the two-legged playoffs against Sweden has confirmed Portugal’s place in next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

But after a poor qualifying campaign, many doubts remain over whether the Selecção could reach another semi-final.

Despite having one of the greatest players in history, it is the supporting cast that is most important to Portugal’s success. Cristiano Ronaldo will produce so long as the rest of the squad plays well around him.

That said, many established internationals who have formed the core of the Selecção in recent years have not performed to their potential, either at club level or with Portugal.

Here is a list of Portuguese players who need to improve before the World Cup.

Rui Patrício, Sporting Lisbon, Goalkeeper

Portugal’s number one goalkeeper since the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Sporting Lisbon’s Rui Patricio is an excellent shot blocker and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, usually. So far this season, however, Patricio has made some high-profile blunders.

The latest came in a Portuguese Cup match against league rivals Benfica, when Patricio let a lazy header slip in through his legs. But before that, in a crucial World Cup Qualifying match against Israel, Patricio’s careless pass lead to an equalizing goal. The match ended 1-1 and a win could have meant automatic qualification for Portugal.

But like any quality goalkeeper, Rui Patricio recovered with ease against Sweden. In the first leg in Lisbon he made a brilliant save in the first half to keep the match scoreless. In the second leg, he stopped Sebastian Larsson in close, just moments before Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the match. He also could not be blamed for the two Swedish goals. Unless his club form dips significantly, Patricio is likely to continue as Portugal’s first-choice and he needs to be solid.

João Pereira, Valencia, Right-Back

The Valencia right-back has battled injuries and struggled with his fitness so far this year. His form since the Euro 2012 has not been to the standard that many would expect either. Pereira, who only stands at 1,72m, has struggled against more physical teams like Sweden.

Benfica’s André Almeida filled in admirably for Pereira in Portugal’s final two qualifying matches, but it appears unlikely that Bento will drop Pereira any time soon. Almeida and Sporting Lisbon’s Cédric Soares are excellent options at right-back but they lack the experience of Pereira.

Miguel Veloso, Dynamo Kyiv, Defensive Midfielder

The former captain of Sporting Lisbon is a free-kick specialist who probably deserves to be on a bigger club than Dynamo Kyiv. He provided the perfect cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in Lisbon against Sweden. But the problem with Veloso is that he is not a real defensive midfielder.

The 27-year old has performed the role well but he is more naturally a midfield creator or number eight-type player. Paulo Bento uses him in defensive midfield because of the absence of a quality option in that position. Veloso lacks the tackling ability and physicality to be considered a ‘true’ defensive midfielder. However, Veloso finally has competition with the emergence of Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho.

Rúben Micael, Sporting Braga, Midfielder

The Sporting Braga midfielder has been consistently called-up to the Selecção during the Bento era, and was once first-choice. However, over the last year, Micael has not performed to a level that many would expect. Now, with the emergence of Josué, André Martins, Adrien Silva and others Micael could conceivably not be selected for the World Cup.

Sporting Braga have endured a difficult start to the season and Micael’s performances have reflected that. But there are many months before the final squad is chosen and Micael should receive some playing time in upcoming friendlies. At the highest stage, experience is important and that may just make the difference for Micael.

Raul Meireles, Fenerbahçe, Midfielder

The 30-year old midfielder has been the object of much criticism for his play since moving to Turkey a year ago. The former Porto and Liverpool midfielder has seen the offensive side of his game decline in that time. However, there is no doubt that he still brings a lot to the club.

Meireles’ main attributes are his pace, tackling ability and strength in possession. Despite no longer creating many scoring opportunities, he has continued to produce in other ways for Portugal. Like Micael, his experience is very valuable in a major tournament. It was Meireles who scored both goals in Portugal’s 2-0 aggregate victory against Bosnia to reach the World Cup in 2010. Plus, he scored the first goal in Portugal’s 7-0 group stage victory over North Korea.

Nani, Manchester United, Winger

The great paradox of Portuguese football. On the one hand, Nani is an explosive forward who has the ability to take control of a game. However, he is also wasteful, inconsistent, injury-prone and tends to make poor decisions.

He had a good Euro 2012, helping Portugal reach the semi-finals, but has since struggled to rediscover that form. He is also still trying to regain match fitness after a groin injury. However, he was given a new contract and a boost of confidence by Manchester United, raising hopes that maybe Nani will still reach the potential he demonstrated only a few years ago.

At 27-years of age, he is by no means running out of time. His career could unfold like that of Franck Ribéry, who for years struggled with injuries and inconsistency. But at this point, Nani could just as easily become the next Ricardo Quaresma. Portugal needs him to be the former and now.

Pizzi, Espanyol (On Loan From Benfica), Winger

A supremely talented forward whose rights were purchased by Benfica this summer from Atlético Madrid. The 24-year old has been in disappointing form this season on loan at La Liga club Espanyol after an impressive breakout season last year.

There does not seem to be any apparent reason why Pizzi has failed to adjust to life at the Spanish club. Manager Javier Aguirre has played him on the wings and down the middle with little success. Portugal is extremely deep on the wings and Pizzi’s spot in Brazil is in serious doubt unless he begins to produce again.

Éder, Sporting Braga, Striker

Portugal’s great hope at the centre-forward position. Éder has quick feet, is good in the air, and has excellent intelligence. He scored 13 goals in 18 League matches last year before suffering a major knee injury in a League Cup match against Benfica in March.

After missing 6 months, Éder has returned to game action in good form although he does not have much in the way of goals so far. For Éder it is important that Sporting Braga overcomes the difficulties of this early season. With Hélder Postiga ageing, Éder could conceivably be Portugal’s first-choice striker by the beginning of the World Cup.

Nélson Oliveira, Stade Rennais F.C (On Loan From Benfica), Striker

22-year old Nélson Oliveira has been impressive this season while on loan at French club Stade Rennais. He has scored seven goals in 12 league matches so far after scoring only four all of last season with Deportivo La Coruña as part of the ill-fated Portuguese experiment.

Manager Paulo Bento has shown some great faith in him, despite the difficulties often associated with a young striker. Although that patience may have run out, at least for now. In Portugal’s 1-1 draw against Israel, Oliveira drew the ire of many when he twice decided to make an attempt on goal when he should have passed the ball.

He was not called up to Bento’s squad for the two-leg playoff against Sweden. But with the centre-forward position being such a problem area for Portugal for some time now, Oliveira is likely to appear in upcoming friendlies. And he may use the recent setbacks as motivation.

Hugo Almeida, Beşiktaş J.K, Striker

The 29-year old striker has been a constant presence in the Portugal squad for several years now despite never really establishing himself in the starting XI. Almeida has never managed to replicate his club form with the Selecção. Currently he has only 17 goals in 52 matches for Portugal.

Almeida has become known for missing clear-cut opportunities while playing for Portugal. He did provided a perfect chip pass to Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal’s second goal in Stockholm to help Portugal qualify reminding everyone what he could do. And he does have the ability to link up well with his teammates something Helder Postiga’s game lacks.

But Postiga produces goals at a far more consistent level for Portugal despite the limitations of his game. With Nélson Oliveira and Éder emerging, Almeida needs to start producing.

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A Seleção will need to defeat Sweden in a decisive playoff in order to book their tickets to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

Paulo Bento’s squad will face Sweden in the first-leg at the Estádio da Luz on November 15th, followed by the return leg at the Friends Arena in Solna, Stockholm four days later.

Manager Paulo Bento continued the trend from recent matches by selecting new players to the squad. Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho was selected for the first time after some terrific displays this season that have earned him attention from major European clubs.

19-year old winger Bruma has also earned a position on the squad. He was previously called up as an injury replacement in Portugal’s last qualifying match against Luxembourg.

Other notable call-ups include youngsters André Almeida and Josué. João Pereira and Fábio Coentrão have been battling injuries but were selected. Braga goalkeeper returned to the squad after an injury to Lyon’s Anthony Lopes.

Missing out this time around are Sporting’s Cédric Soares and André Martins, Nélson Oliveira, Pizzi, Licá and Ruben Amorim. Zenit’s Danny limped off the field in a Champions League match against FC Porto this week and was not selected.

Full Squad

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

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

Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), João Moutinho (Monaco), Josué (FC Porto), Raúl Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Ruben Micael (Braga)

Forwards: Bruma (Galatasaray), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Hélder Postiga (Valencia), Éder (Braga), Varela (FC Porto), Nani (Manchester United)

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