Posts Tagged ‘Eder’

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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

Photo: Sporting Club de Braga

Photo: Sporting Club de Braga

Overview: Sporting Braga head into a new season with something to prove. The club has established itself as the best club in Portugal outside the ‘Big Three’ in the last decade.

But that reputation took a major hit last season when Braga got off to a poor start and finished a disappointing ninth in the league table. It marked only the second time the Minho club had finished outside the top five since the 2002-03 season.

Club president António Salvador has brought in former Portuguese international Sérgio Conceição to improve the team’s fortunes. And there is good reason to believe that this will happen. Several of the teams that finished ahead of Braga last season have lost several key players.

The club still boasts the most talented squad outside the traditional ‘Big Three.’ And with a healthy Éder, combined with several good young players, there is no reason why Braga cannot do better this season. Their quest for redemption begins on August 17th when they play Boavista at Estádio AXA.

Key Additions: Danilo (Vasco da Gama), Rambé (Belenenses), Wallace (Cruzeiro), Marcelo Goiano (Grémio Anápolis), Matheus (América), Fábio Martins (D. Aves), Carlos Fortes (R. Santander), Tiago Gomes (Estoril), Franco Acosta (Fenix), Vítor Golas (Sporting), Pedro Tibá (V. Setúbal), Pedro Santos (Rio Ave), Salvador Agra (Académica), Luís Silva (Gil Vicente), Hugo Vieira (Gil Vicente), Zé Luís (Videoton), Kritciuk (Rio Ave), Djavan(Benfica)

Key Subtractions: Cristiano (Académica), Paulo Vinicius, Rusescu (Sevilha), Edinho, Kadu (V. Bahía), Tomás Dabó (Arouca), Florent, Rabiola, Eduardo (D. Zagreb), Helder Barbosa, Douglão, Yazalde (Qabala), Joãozinho (Sheriff)

Manager Profile: Sérgio Conceição was a quality player during his career, having amassed 56 caps as an international for Portugal. He has begun to build a reputation as a good manager as well, having previously propelled Olhanense and Académica to mid-level finishes. At Braga, he will have a far more talented squad than he is used to working with.

Players To Watch: Éder is absolutely essential to the team’s success. He scored 13 goals in 18 matches in 2012-13 before suffering a knee injury. A foot injury forced him to miss most of last season as well. Braga is also expecting more big things from 21-year-old midfielder Rafa Silva who is an outstanding talent.

Expectations: Sporting Braga will hope to finish in the top five in the Primeira Liga, as well as qualify for a European competition for next season. They will also be hoping to win one of Portugal’s two domestic cup competitions, which the bigger sides often neglect until the later stages.

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Hélder Postiga, Valencia

A much-maligned centre-forward who split this past season with Valencia and Lazio. Hélder Postiga has provided some much-needed stability at the position during the Paulo Bento era. He scored six goals during qualifying which placed him second on the team to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Postiga has been a journeyman striker, very rarely settling in at any club. He played for FC Porto at youth level but never established himself as a regular player. Since then, he has spent time with Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, and Real Zaragoza. The 31-year-old is coming off a poor season where he battled various injuries.

This Season: Postiga scored only three goals in 15 league appearances with Valencia. After moving to Lazio on-loan in January, injuries continued to plague him. He played in five Serie A matches with the club, scoring zero goals. Postiga scored only four goals in 28 total appearances in all competitions this season.

Fun Fact: Although often criticized for his lack of technical ability, Hélder Postiga has been a very productive striker for Portugal. His 27 goals ranks him sixth on Portugal’s all-time scoring list. His goal-to-game ratio of 0.40 is only slightly lower than Cristiano Ronaldo’s 0.45.

Hugo Almeida, Beşiktaş

Hugo Almeida has height, physical strength and is good in the air. However, the Beşiktaş striker has had a very difficult time replicating his club form with the national team. He has scored only 17 goals in 54 matches for Portugal.

Almeida is also a product of FC Porto’s youth academy. And like Hélder Postiga, he never quite established himself with the club. After several loans, Almeida signed a permanent deal with Bundesliga club Werder Bremen where he began to produce regularly. In 2011, he moved to Beşiktaş where he has continued to put up impressive goal totals.

This Season: Hugo Almeida played in 31 Turkish League matches for Beşiktaş, scoring 13 goals and producing another five assists. The club finished third in the League table.

Fun Fact: Almeida has two very prominent tattoos on each of his forearms. On the right is an image of a cross. While, he has his name and those of his wife and two kids tattooed on his left forearm.

Éder, Sporting Braga

Sporting Braga striker Éder is often touted as Portugal’s great hope at the position. However, the 26-year-old missed most of the past season and a half because of knee and foot injuries. And he has yet to reach top gear with the Seleção. Éder has yet to score in seven appearances so far.

Born in the former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau, Éder started playing football with several lower division clubs in Portugal before signing with Académica in 2008. His breakthrough season came in 2012-13, when he managed to score 13 goals in 18 matches before his season was cut short due to injury.

This Season: Éder was seriously limited this season because of injuries. He managed three goals and two assists in 13 Primeira Liga matches for Sporting Braga.

Fun Fact: Éder told Portuguese football website Maisfutebol in May 2013 that he grew up watching English football and Manchester United in particular. In an October 2012 Champions League match at Old Trafford, he brilliantly dribbled past Michael Carrick before delivering a pass to teammate Alan for Braga’s second goal.

Can Helder Postiga Continue To Produce For Portugal?

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

It seems like the striker position is always a major topic of conversation for Portugal before every tournament. And this time around it will be no different.

The centre-forward position has been the ‘Achilles heel’ of the Selecção for some time. In truth, Portugal has only had one world-class quality striker and that was Eusébio.

Since the country’s return to the elite of world football in 2000, Portugal have used Nuno Gomes, Pauleta, and even Brazilian-born Liedson in the position. Former PSG striker Pauleta remains tied with Cristiano Ronaldo as the country’s top scorer but his goals were often lacking during major competitions.

In Paulo Bento’s time, Hélder Postiga has produced to a certain degree although many doubts remain over whether he is good enough to produce at the highest level as well.

Behind him is the much-maligned Hugo Almeida, who has had a difficult time scoring internationally. But for the first time in several years, there is hope. Éder and Nelson Oliveira are both young and very promising.

Futebol Factory breaks down the striker position for Portugal.

Tickets Booked: Hélder Postiga (Valencia)

On The Bubble: Hugo Almeida (Beşiktaş), Éder (Sporting Braga), Nélson Oliveira (Stade Rennais)

Valencia’s Hélder Postiga has been Paulo Bento’s choice for over two years now. He still remains the most likely to play up front for Portugal in Brazil.

The problem with Postiga is that his overall game is lacking. A conventional centre-forward, Postiga is not helpful on transitions, he does not create goals, nor does he possess a strong football IQ. Plus, he is now 31-years-old and is unlikely to be an option for much longer.

What Postiga offers, however, is goals and plenty of them. Despite the limitations of his game, Postiga has still produced for his country. He has scored 27 goals in 66 matches for Portugal in total, for an average of 0,41 goals a game. He scored six goals during the previous qualifying campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-per-game average is a slightly better 0,43. Although the Portuguese captain has recorded many, many more assists. And he has been able to produce at the highest level for his country.

Another major concern is that Postiga has not had a good start to this season with Valencia. He has scored only three goals in 13 matches and has battled some injuries as well.

Beşiktaş’ Hugo Almeida has become known for missing clear-cut opportunities for the squad. Paulo Bento and his predecessor Carlos Queiroz have selected him because of a lack of options. He has scored only 17 goals in 52 matches for Portugal.

Almeida filled in for an injured Helder Postiga in the second-leg of Portugal’s playoff against Sweden. He missed an easy header in the first half. But he did deliver a neat chip pass to Cristiano Ronaldo for his second goal of the match. Reminding Selecção supporters what he could do.

Sporting Braga’s Éder is an intriguing possibility at centre-forward. He is quick on his feet, good in the air and offers a lot more than just scoring goals. He remains the most likely to replace Postiga as Portugal’s first-choice striker.

Manchester United fans may remember him from last year’s Champions League match at Old Trafford. He dribbled past Michael Carrick to feed Alan for Braga’s second goal of the match. The Red Devils would come back and win but the assist went viral.

Éder suffered a serious knee injury in February but is healthy now and is back scoring goals. He has received six caps so far and has yet to score for his country.

And then there is 22-year-old Nélson Oliveira. He is a Benfica product, who is currently on loan at Ligue 1 club Rennes. After a disappointing loan spell with Deportivo La Coruna last season, he has rebounded this year with seven goals already.

Although his game is still a work in progress. He still needs to learn when to pass or make an attempt on goal. And he needs to work on his consistency and finish. But Oliveira certainly has the potential to be a world-class striker.

Though not very quick, he is big and strong, a good header of the ball and could create opportunities as well. Oliveira is not your conventional centre-forward and is often compared to Eric Cantona and current PSG striker Edinson Cavani.

Oliveira was on the Euro 2012 squad and remains a possibility for the World Cup. But he faces a difficult task to get there.

Paulo Bento has been selecting three strikers for most of the qualifying campaign, with Cristiano Ronaldo playing in the centre of the field in late stages of the game on occasion.

Clearly, the centre-forward position will be the most difficult to predict, but once again the most interesting to watch.

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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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FEATURE: 5 Players That Could Help Portugal Beat Sweden And Reach Brazil 2014

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

Portugal-National-team-euro-HD-wallpaper-2012

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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SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Emerging Star Midfielder William Carvalho

nufcfans_newcastle_linked_with_eder_braga

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

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

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

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

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

André Almeida, SL Benfica, Right-Back

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

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

Luis Neto, FC Zenit Saint Petersburg, Centre Back

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

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

Josué, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

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

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

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

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

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

Éder, Sporting Braga, Striker

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

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

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SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

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

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

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Portugal will go into its final two World Cup 2014 qualifying matches with a slight chance to top their group and earn automatic qualification.

A Seleção will need to win both matches against Israel and Luxembourg and hope group F leaders Russia drop points in their final two games. But it seems likely that Paulo Bento’s side is heading two a two-leg playoff to qualify for Brazil 2014.

Beto named a 25-man squad this time around because regular starters Fábio Coentrão and Hélder Postiga are suspended for the October 11th match against Israel in Lisbon. Portugal’s regular right-back Valencia’s João Pereira has suffered a hamstring injury and was not selected.

This time around Bento has gone with a younger squad than usual, selecting Sporting Lisbon right-back Cédric Soares and Benfica defender André Almeida for the first time. Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was also selected over Portugal’s former number one Eduardo.

FC Porto’s Josué and Sporting Lisbon’s Andre Martins were selected again in midfield. Up front, Sporting Braga striker Éder has made his long-awaited return from a serious knee injury and could start alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani against Israel.

Missing out this time around are Pizzi, Licá and Ruben Amorim. Wolfsburg winger Vieirinha suffered a major knee injury and is out for 6 months.

Full Squad

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: Cédric Soares (Sporting), André Almeida (Benfica), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Luis Neto (Zenit), Antunes (Málaga), Pepe (Real Madrid), Fábio Coentrão

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Rúben Micael (Braga), André Martins (Sporting), Josué (FC Porto)

Forwards: Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hélder Postiga (Valencia), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Éder (Braga), Nélson Oliveira (Rennes), Silvestre Varela (FC Porto), Danny (Zenit)

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

Sporting Braga earned a deserving win over Benfica in the semi-finals of the Taça da Liga competition on Wednesday night. Former Benfica goalkeeper Quim was the hero, stopping penalties by Luisão and Nicolás Gaitán to lead Os Guerreiros do Minho to victory.

Benfica’s Roderick Miranda also missed a penalty as Braga advances 3-2 through a penalty shoot-out. Braga Manager José Peseiro, who had come under fire recently after some poor results, spoke to the media after the match about the importance of the victory.

“It was a deserving victory. Considering the opportunities we created during the match, we could have won it in the 90 minutes. But we are happy to have won it on penalties,” Peseiro said.

Man of the Match, Quim who played for Os Águias between 2004-2010 said that this was a team victory. “It was not me who won, it was the club. A goalkeeper needs a little bit of luck, I helped the team win but this is Braga’s victory. That is what should be emphasized,” Qium told television station TVI.

The victory was overshadowed by an injury to Braga and Seleção striker Éder who left the match in the late stages after getting tangled up with Benfica defender Luisão.

Portuguese daily Diário de Notícias is reporting that Éder has suffered ruptured ligaments to his right knee and will be out 4 to 6 months. The loss is significant for Braga who are trying to overtake Paços de Ferreira for third place which would mean a chance to qualify for the Champions League.

The loss is a significant one for Paulo Bento’s Portugal side also who hope to regain their form after a number of poor performances. Although, the 25-year-old is yet to make his mark on the Seleção , this injury leaves Bento with fewer options off the bench.

Braga will now play either Rio-Ave or FC Porto in the final on April 14th in Coimbra. The two sides were scheduled to play their semi-final on Wednesday but it was cancelled with no reschedule date announced yet.

The Taça da Liga is one of two domestic cup competitions played in Portugal every season. The other being the Taça de Portugal . The competition was first introduced in the 2007-08 season. Benfica were the four-time defending champions of the tournament before Wednesday’s result.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Alface

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Alface

Benfica has the dubious distinction of having played the fewest Portuguese nationals of any team so far this campaign, this according to the union representing players in the Portuguese league.

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus responded to this report on Saturday to journalists in his typical combative style: “We are a country of immigrants, stop it with your tricks.” The findings came as no surprise.

In the online Portuguese expatriate community, in which I like to say I am a part of, it has been slightly mistranslated by some people wanting, at least in part to make Jorge Jesus look worse than he probably should be.

But there are many things worth discussing here. First, what exactly Jorge Jesus said and what he meant. And second, what it means for Portuguese futebol in general.

“My primary concern is not having players of quality. Therefore, their nationality matters little to me. The world has changed with globalization and the labour market has changed because of it. Futebol is the same,” Jesus said.

“In Portugal we cannot just develop Portuguese players. We have to develop Portuguese and foreigners in order to be competitive in Portugal and in European competitions.”

This is the usual argument that Jorge Jesus and others often use when asked about the lack of Portuguese players on their rosters. Jesus is stating that Portugal alone, as many good players as it produces cannot supply Benfica and other clubs to compete in Europe.

This would be a fair argument except, it ignores the fact that many young Portuguese players have not been given a fair opportunity to flourish for Benfica and other Portuguese clubs.

The examples are numerous. Paços de Ferreira’s midfielder Josue was a promising youth player with Porto but never received his chance with the senior club. In 2011, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer and has become a big part of a surprising Paços de Ferreira team this year.

Benfica recently signed Portuguese midfielder Diogo Rosado on loan from English side Blackburn Rovers. Rosado used to belong to the Sporting academy. After showing great potential on loan at Feirense last year he realized his chances with the Leões would be limited and signed with the English club.

And numerous other examples exists. So, how can we assure that our young players get a chance? Fact is, foreign players or not, 16 Portuguese-based clubs compete in a Portuguese league in order to earn the right to call themselves Portuguese champions.

“That question belongs in the past, it is no longer the time of D. Afonso Henriques but of our ex-colonies, when it was possible to get players born in Angola and Moçambique. In the 80s, Benfica had a majority of Portuguese players from there. Today, it is not like that,” Jesus continued.

Jesus is arguing here that Portugal used to have a supply of good players from its former colonies who would play for Portugal internationally. He says this is no longer the case.

But this is difficult to believe considering the makeup of the current Seleção. Nani, Nelson, and Rolando were born in Cape Verde. Pepe was born in Brazil. Bruno Alves’ father was Brazilian. Manuel Fernandes and Silvestre Varela were born in Lisbon but have African heritage. Young striker Éder was born in Guinea-Bissau.

It is difficult to see this argument holding up, especially since many of Portugal’s youth squads are made up of players of African heritage.

“Now we look at the best clubs in the world, there are only one or two players from that country playing. I look to find players with the intention of developing them, regardless of their nationality.”

This is only partly true, but Jesus is not wrong on this account. Many teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others do not field many players from the country they are based. However, FC Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich do field more nationals.

“It is not possible for Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto to have a majority of Portuguese players. When you start to pay attention to those who begin to emerge, they usually have already gone abroad. With players leaving Portugal at 16, 17 and 18 years of age there are less players to recruit.”

Again, this is a bit of a red herring, an argument designed to lure someone away from a logical conclusion. The fact is that many quality Portuguese players do not leave at that age. Cristiano Ronaldo left at age 19 but he is the exception. Manchester City’s Marcos Lopes left Benfica’s academy at age 16.

Most quality players usually play in their domestic leagues to earn playing time and experience before they move on to a bigger stage. Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and others are just some of the examples. Porto’s Joao Moutinho seems destined to be the next to move on.

“Those born in Portugal usually leave at a young age, because others recognize their quality. We understand that is the reality and we have to work around that. We are a country of immigrants, and we export workers all over the world. Are the Portuguese the only people allowed to work in Portugal? Stop it with your tricks,” Jesus added.

In terms of what this all means, it is first important to consider the benefits of signing young promising foreign players, both financially and on the pitch.

FC Porto and Benfica have been successful at finding promising players mainly from South America, developing them and selling them for a big price. This makes these clubs competitive and raises the profile of the domestic league as well. Players like Ramires, Angel di Maria, and others have raised the profile of Portuguese futebol no doubt.

But the principal point of contention is whether these players hinder the development of Portuguese nationals. And what if any impact does this have on the Seleção. Somewhere a balance has to be found.

Clubs like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, FC Barcelona and Juventus have been successful through a combination on three factors: develop good players through your academy, sign good domestic players from lower teams and fill the remaining deficiencies in your line-up with at least a few good foreign players.

This is the fine balance I have always advocated for the Portuguese league. Right now, there just is not enough evidence to suggest that the three big clubs of Portuguese futebol are heading in that direction.

This recent criticism from Portuguese media and fans about Jorge Jesus’ perceived lack of interest in developing Portuguese players is nothing new. But, so far this season, Jesus has shown an interest in some promising young players. Defender Andre Almeida, midfielder Andre Gomes and Roderick Miranda have all been signed to long term deals. Plus, forward Rui Fonte was signed from Espanyol.

Portuguese champions FC Porto have used Joao Moutinho and Silvestre Varela regularly this season, but manager Vitor Pereira has shown little interest in using players from its junior side. Though 20-year-old Portuguese midfielder Tozé has been on the bench for the last few games.

At Sporting Lisbon, manager Jesualdo Ferreira has been using more Portuguese players than his predecessors. Rui Patricio, Adrien Silva, and Joãozinho have seen regular team action. Ferreira has even given young players from its prestigious academy some game time in recent matches, including Andre Martins, Pedro Mendes, and Ricardo Esgaio.

There are some examples, but it is just too early to come to any logical conclusions. The economic crisis that is still ravaging the country have made it harder for some Portuguese clubs to do business. Sporting Lisbon in particular is struggling under a pile of debt, partly due to bad foreign signings in current president Godinho Lopes’ time.

So perhaps, it will be these market forces that will determine the future of Portuguese futebol going forward.