Posts Tagged ‘Helder Postiga’

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Portugal were eliminated from the World Cup despite a 2-1 win against Ghana in their final group stage match. The victory was not enough to overturn a large goal differential left behind after a 4-0 defeat to Germany earlier in the tournament and the United States advanced to the round of 16 instead.

But the Seleção will not feel like they deserved a better fate. Throughout the tournament, this team looked predictable in attack, unstable at the back-end, and desperately lacking in intensity.

Many questions will be asked of Portugal’s leadership. Paulo Bento and the FPF face a long summer of reflection as they look ahead to qualifying for the 2016 European Championships in France.

Here are just some of the things we learned from Portugal’s early exit.

The Squad Has Aged and Declined Since Euro 2012

Portugal’s World Cup squad was little changed from the one that lost to Spain at the last European Championships two years ago. Bento went with a starting XI in the first match of this tournament that was identical to the one that lined up against Germany at Euro 2012, except Hugo Almeida started in place of the off-form Helder Postiga.

Many key players from the Euro 2012 squad had entered the downside of their careers since then. While Nani, Fábio Coentrão, Postiga and others had poor seasons at club level. Bento did not account for the decline of many of his players. And at the same time, not many players emerged as viable alternatives in the two years between major tournaments.

Paulo Bento’s Conservative Approach Has Backfired

Since his days at Sporting Lisbon, Paulo Bento’s coaching philosophy has been characterized by his conservative approach to squad selections and tactics. There is a good reason for this. Players often benefit from a certain level of consistency that is meant to help build team chemistry. However, this approach reached its zenith at Euro 2012.

The decline was evident during qualifying when the Seleção again struggled to defeat even minnows like Northern Ireland and Israel. No changes were made. Cristiano Ronaldo lifted Portugal to Brazil. But at the World Cup, the team’s weaknesses were badly exposed by the opposition. And the tried and tested system that had worked so well at Euro 2012 was no longer effective.

There Was No Plan B

Portugal electrified Euro 2012 with its entertaining brand of counter-attacking football. But two years after the fact, it was no longer a secret. Their opponents did a good job of defending the counter-attack leaving Portugal with fewer options. The team looked predictable and lacking in creativity.

There were attempts by Paulo Bento to experiment with a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 formation during qualifying and even in recent friendlies. But, the team never played in either formation long enough to gel. The familiar 4-3-3 formation suits Portugal’s style of play very well, but it has left the team vulnerable at times.

Injuries and Suspensions Left The Team Depleted

Cristiano Ronaldo’s fitness issues was one of the most talked-about stories going into the tournament. It is clear now that he was likely feeling some pain in his knee during the group stage matches. But it was the injuries to Portugal’s supporting cast that probably hurt the team’s chances the most.

The loss of Fábio Coentrão to a groin injury in the match against Germany left Portugal light in attack on the flanks, which is vital to the team’s game plan. Injuries to Hugo Almeida, Rui Patricio, Andre Almeida and Helder Postiga followed, leaving Portugal with even fewer options. Pepe’s absence against the United States forced Bento to field a makeshift defense that looked very vulnerable at times.

Portugal Are Still Looking For That Quality Striker

The centre-forward position has been a particular point of weakness for the Seleção in recent tournaments. Helder Postiga has provided some much-needed production in qualifying, easing the goal-scoring burden on Ronaldo. However, the Valencia striker was coming off an injury-plagued season and was obviously off-form.

Hugo Almeida was injured early in the first half against Germany, opening the door for Braga’s Éder. But the 26-year-old struggled badly to find positioning and often lost possession in good areas. Éder was coming off a serious knee injury and he had difficulty against tough opposition defenses. And unfortunately, there does not appear to be anyone else who can come in and make an immediate impact.

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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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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video:

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Tying Goal Against Holland

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Helder-Postiga-Portugal_2676791

Portuguese international striker Hélder Postiga has completed a transfer to La Liga giants Valencia from Real Zaragoza.

The deal comes only days after Spanish striker Roberto Soldado moved to Tottenham Hotspurs. The Spanish club will rely on the 31 year old Portuguese to score goals this season.

Postiga scored 14 goals in 37 matches last year for Zaragoza but it was not enough for the club to avoid relegation. He joins fellow Portuguese international Ricardo Costa and Joao Pereira at Mestalla this coming season.

Valencia are reported to have paid €3 million for Postiga. Real Zaragoza will also retain 20 percent of the player’s rights. They are also entitled to another €375,000 if Postiga scores more than 15 goals this season.

Postiga is a product of FC Porto’s youth academy. He has spells with Tottenham Hotspurs, Sporting Lisbon and others prior to joining Real Zaragoza in 2011.

He is currently tied for sixth all-time in career goals for Portuguese national team with 26.

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MATCH REVIEW: Portugal Earn Crucial Victory Over Russia In World Cup Qualifying

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

An early goal by Hélder Postiga gave Portugal an important 1-0 win over Russia at the Estádio da Luz on Friday. The win means that the Seleção temporarily move into first place in Group F ahead of Russia. Although, Fabio Capello’s Russian side have played two fewer matches at this point.

Manager Paulo Bento fielded a squad that was missing Real Madrid defender Pepe who was suspended for the match. Zenit St.Petersburg’s Luis Neto lined up alongside Bruno Alves at the centre of defense and was very impressive. Also, Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha was a surprise starter in place of Nani.

After several mediocre displays in recent matches, Portugal began the match playing with great purpose and never really took their foot off the pedal. In the 8th minute of play, Cristiano Ronaldo made a dangerous run and was brought down about 35 yards away from goal earning a free kick.

Miguel Veloso delivered a dangerous ball into the box which Hélder Postiga deflected into the net. It was the start that Paulo Bento and the legion of Portuguese fans were desperately looking for. The Seleção did not ease the pressure creating several good scoring chances before the end of the half.

Fabio Capello’s Russia side looked noticeably disjointed, struggling to maintain possession and rarely troubling Rui Patricio throughout most of the match. Cristiano Ronaldo had the best opportunities for Portugal but was unable to score despite some good shots on goal. João Moutinho was behind most of Portugal’s threats.

Portugal manager Paulo Bento spoke about the squad’s performance to journalists after the match.

“We played a very balanced game and maintained a good amount of pressure over our opponents. We started the match well, and had our moments of quality which resulted in us gaining an advantage. We did have problems clearing the ball out of dangerous areas on occasion but we were able to play an intelligent game and reached our objective by winning,” Bento told media.

“The motivation you get by representing the Seleção should be enough. We had a terrific attitude throughout the 90 minutes and a good mentality in comparison to the match against Israel. It is important to continue to work hard because we have not achieved anything.”

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Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

The Seleção came back from a two goal deficit to claim a draw against Israel in World Cup 2014 qualifying on Friday. Wasteful possession and defensive mistakes again plagued Portugal, as they look ahead to Azerbaijan on Tuesday.

To make matters worse, Portugal will have to play without captain Cristiano Ronaldo after he picked up another yellow card in the second half. He did travel with the team to Baku after the match but did not train with the squad on Saturday, according to A Bola.

João Moutinho started in midfield despite battling a thigh injury, but he did not look his best. Central defender Pepe also made his return to the Portugal squad. Manchester United winger Nani was omitted from the squad because of a hamstring injury, Porto’s Silvestre Varela started in his place.

The match started brightly for the Seleção in the opening minutes of the match, when Bruno Alves scored off a Miguel Veloso corner. It was a perfect start for Paulo Bento’s team, as their opponents looks visibly winded from the start.

In the 24th minute, Israel pulled one back when the Portuguese defence failed to clear a dangerous cross into the box. Israeli striker Tomer Hemed struck it past Patricio for the equalizer. This quickly swung momentum back to the home side.

Israel was again rewarded in the 40th minute, when Hemed broke through the Portuguese defence and delivered a pass to Eden Ben Basat for who struck a hard shot straight into the back of the net.

The Portuguese side were in a very familiar position in this qualifying campaign, trailing at the half. With no changes at half-time, Portugal came out of the dugout with a sense of urgency and desperation. Cristiano Ronaldo and Fábio Coentrão, especially began to come into the match, and pressed the Israeli back line.

In the 60th minute, Bento substituted Silvestre Varela and Miguel Veloso in favour of Vieirinha and Carlos Martins. But it was israeli who struck again. In the 70th minute, Rami Gershon scored off a corner for the home side putting Israel on the verge of the biggest win of the country’s sports history.

The Seleção, looking increasingly frustrated were in desperate need of a spark. And they got it from the likeliest of sources. Moments later, Cristiano Ronaldo broke away from the Israeli defence and delivered a pass to Helder Postiga who scored to put Portugal within a goal.

Bento would soon bring on Hugo Almeida to further press the Israeli defence. After hitting the top of the crossbar only minutes before, Fábio Coentrão took advantage of a loose ball inside the box and slotted it home for the tying goal in injury time. Portugal escaped with a draw. It was a fitting end to the match for Coentrão who was Portugal’s best player going forward for most of the match.

After the match, manager Paulo Bento admitted that the team lacked intensity. “The goal two minutes in should have given us confidence but instead it hurt us. We did not show an intensity in our game, we were not aggressive defensively and we gave up two goals as a result,” he told RTP television.

“Without playing particularly well, and like in previous matches, we did enough to win in terms of chances on goal. There is something that is lacking in terms of efficiency. We scored few goals in terms of the number of opportunities we had. Israel practically had three shots and scored three goals,” Bento added.

“It is not a question of attitude and desire, but of mentality. I have already told tha players this. Our mentality is difficult to change.”

Real Madrid defender Pepe spoke about the club’s defensive problems after the match. “The problem was not just the defensive aspect. The work is collective and we are not working in the best way possible. We faced a team that plays a complicated system. We left space in between the centre-backs and full-backs, but we have to learn from the mistakes we made so they don’t happen in the next match.”

“I belong to the seleção portuguesa and I want to reach the World Cup. We are going to do everything to get there. Now we have to learn from our mistakes, we will try to take full advantage of every opportunity so we do not create the same mistakes,” Pepe added.

The draw means that Russia is all but assured top spot in group F, and therefore automatic qualification for World Cup 2014. Though, not all is lost for Portugal they remain even in terms of points with Israel with 5 matches left to play. The top 8 second-place finishers will qualify for a play-off.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Portugal’s poor run of form continued Wednesday in Guimarães with a 3-2 loss to Ecuador. Captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant goal in the 23rd minute and was the best Portuguese player, but the Seleção was undone by a very poor defensive display.

Manager Paulo Bento fielded a typical starting XI, with a few exceptions. Eduardo started in net in place of established number one Rui Patricio. And Zenit’s new signing Luis Neto started the match alongside new teammate Bruno Alves, in place of the injured Pepe.

Portugal starting brightly in the first minute of play with a good chance by Helder Postiga. But a minute later goalkeeper Eduardo woefully misread a cross into the box that Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia easily capitalized on. This was a sign of things to come.

Portugal responded well with some dangerous attacks lead by Cristiano Ronaldo. They were rewarded in the 23rd minute with some clever passing that resulted in a brilliant goal by the Portuguese captain. But Portugal’s defense look noticably vulnerable throughout the first half.

After going into half-time tied at one, Portugal raised the pressure on Ecuador. In the 60th minute, Nani delivered a pass to Postiga in the box that gave Portugal the lead. But the momentum was very shortlived. A minute later right-back João Pereira brutally mismanaged a ball in the defensive zone which resulted in one of the most absurd own goals ever seen.

Now tied at two, Bento subbed Postiga and Ronaldo, and that seemed to put an end to the Portuguese attack. Former Sporting Lisbon player Felipe Caicedo, who now plays in Russia scored in the 70th minute to win it for Ecuador.

After the match Paulo Bento was asked to explain the team’s performance. “We should have scored right at the beginning of the match, but they managed to score right after that. At the beginning of the second half, we started well, went ahead and then we had the misfortune of an own goal. At 2-2, things became more difficult which resulted in the third goal by Ecuador. We played a good game with some errors,” Bento said.

Bento added that he did not blame the defensive frailties on a lapse of concentration and added that there we positives to the match for Portugal. He added that this game will not take the pressure off the team. Portugal will play two very important World Cup qualifying games against Israel and Azerbaijan at the end of March.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Goal Against Ecuador On Wednesday

Full Squad

Goalkeepers Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (BB Istanbul), Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders João Pereira (Valencia), Miguel Lopes (Sporting), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Luís Neto (Zenit), Bruno Alves (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Sereno (Valladolid)

Midfielders João Moutinho (FC Porto), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Custódio (Braga), André Gomes (Benfica), Ruben Amorim (Braga), Danny (Zenit)

Forwards Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Éder (Braga), Nélson Oliveira (Deportivo La Corunña), Silvestre Varela (Porto)

A Seleção are hoping to get back on track after some recent disappointing performances against Russia, Northern Ireland and Gabon. Manager Paulo Bento will welcome back Fábio Coentrão and Raul Meireles after both have missed time with injuries.

Real Madrid defender Pepe underwent ankle surgery and will not play. Striker Hugo Almeida and Braga midfielder Ruben Micael were on the original squad announced on Friday, but have pulled out because of injuries as well. Sporting Lisbon defender Miguel Lopes injured his shoulder Saturday in a game against Rio-Ave and could face miss the match.

Benfica midfielder André Gomes and striker Nelson Oliveira replaced Almeida and Micael on the squad. The 19-year-old Gomes receives his first call up for the national team after a number of excellent performances for Benfica. Centre back Henrique Sereno who is playing on loan with Real Valladolid from Porto also received his first call-up. And Zenit midfielder Danny also returns after a long absence due to injury.

Deportivo’s Pizzi who scored in Portugal’s last match against Gabon was not called up. Neither were Braga’s Hugo Viana and Besiktas’ Manuel Fernandes. Portugal face a Ecuador squad that currently rank a surprising 12th in the FIFA ranking, the highest in the country’s history.

They are currently second to Argentina in South America World Cup qualifying despite the fact that they only have 4 players who play in European leagues: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Christian Noboa (Dynamo Moscow), Renato Ibarra (Vitesse) and Felipe Caicedo (Lokomotiv Moscow)

They should pose a formidable challenge for a Portugal team that has a recent history of underperforming against less talented squads. Paulo Bento has been under increased pressure to mix new players into his starting XI.

Look for Sporting Braga’s Éder to play along side Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo in place of Helder Positiga. This will be the 25-year-old’s fifth cap and he seems destined to break out on the national team after a good performance against Gabon. Seleção fans will also be keen to watch Gomes and Luis Neto who could receive their first caps.