Posts Tagged ‘Ligue 1’

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

João Moutinho, AS Monaco

The motor of Portugal’s offence. João Moutinho is an excellent box-to-box midfielder who has been behind many of the team’s attacks over the last several years. This will be Moutinho’s third major tournament at senior level with Portugal, as well as his first World Cup.

The 27-year-old had an underwhelming season in Ligue 1, which included being named as one of the League’s ‘Flops’ by the influential French magazine L’Équipe. However, this certainly has not affected his performances for the Seleção. He delivered brilliant assists on two of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals during Portugal’s 3-2 play-off win against Sweden in Stockholm.

This Season: João Moutinho played in 31 Ligue 1 matches with As Monaco this season, scoring once and producing seven assists. The club finished second in the League table this season, behind only Paris Saint-Germain.

Fun Fact: After leaving Sporting Lisbon for league rivals FC Porto in 2010, then Sporting president José Eduardo Bettencourt referred to him as a ‘rotten apple.’ Moutinho shattered that perception while with the Dragões winning three Liga Primeira titles, and the Europa League over three seasons. He is also the only member of the squad to be born in the Algarve.

Miguel Veloso, Dynamo Kyiv

28-year-old Miguel Veloso has primarily played the defensive role in a midfield triangle under Paulo Bento. He has performed the role well, but appears likely to lose his position in the starting XI to emerging talent William Carvalho who is better suited for the role.

Veloso is a graduate of Sporting Lisbon’s distinguished academy. Since leaving Portugal in 2010, he has played with Serie A club Genoa and is currently with Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv. This will be Veloso’s fourth major tournament with Portugal. He could also play at left-back.

This Season: Miguel Veloso appeared in 20 League matches for Dynamo Kyiv, helping the club finish fourth in the Ukrainian League.

Fun Fact: His father, António was a talented defender who appeared in 40 matches for Portugal. He was part of the squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 1984. António Veloso won seven Liga Primeira titles with Benfica as well.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon

The Angolan-born defensive midfielder is widely expected to be one of Portugal’s key figures at the World Cup. The 22-year-old is part of an exciting emerging generation that should keep the Seleção competitive for the next decade. He made his international debut in the decisive 2nd leg of Portugal’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden.

Carvalho put together some impressive performances in recent friendlies against Cameroon and Greece. Another graduate of Sporting’s football academy, Carvalho had a successful 18-month loan spell at Cercle Brugge before establishing himself with the Lisbon club this past season.

This Season: William Carvalho was excellent this year for Sporting Lisbon, playing in 29 League matches for the club. The club finished second in the League table and qualified for the Champions League for next season.

Fun Fact: Carvalho was raised in Mira Sintra, just outside of Lisbon. As a 13-year-old, he reportedly turned down an invitation to join Portugal’s biggest club Benfica in favour of rivals Sporting Lisbon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga

The 21-year-old’s selection came as a surprise to some people. Rafa Silva had just finished his first season in the Liga Primeira when the squad was announced. But there is no denying his potential. Supremely skilled, industrious and blessed with excellent vision, Rafa will be counted on to produce creativity off the bench.

Nominally an attacking midfielder, Rafa was also used on the wing on several occasions this season with Sporting Braga. He made his international debut in a March 5th friendly against Cameroon, playing the entire first-half before withdrawing at half-time due to injury. Rafa is the youngest player on the squad.

This Season: Rafa Silva was a revelation this season with Braga, scoring eight goals in all competitions for the club. A thigh injury in March did not prevent him from being chosen for the World Cup.

Fun Fact: Rafa’s selection to the squad completes what has been an incredible rise for the youngster. He played for modest clubs Atlético Povoense and Alverca, before signing with Feirense in 2011. Rafa played in Portugal’s second division prior to this past season.

Raul Meireles, Fenerbahçe

A seasoned veteran who is often referred to as Portugal’s ‘pitbull.’ He rarely loses possession and has been an effective player on both sides of the game. Meireles has played in 73 international matches for Portugal which places him tied for second-most with Manchester United winger Nani on the current World Cup squad. This will be his fourth major tournament with Portugal.

Meireles has had a very distinguished career having won titles in Portugal, England and Turkey. That includes winning the Champions League with Chelsea in 2011-12. He was also voted as PFA Fans’ Player of the Year when he was with Liverpool in 2010-11. Meireles will likely play alongside João Moutinho in Brazil.

This Season: Meireles missed several matches in the first half of the season due to a thigh injury. However, he still managed to play in 20 League matches for Turkish side Fenerbahçe. Along with international teammate Bruno Alves, Meireles helped the club win the Turkish League this season.

Fun Fact: Raul Meireles’ appearance often makes more headlines than his performances on the field. He has numerous tattoos, which includes images of his wife and daughter. Currently, he is sporting a long beard and a Mohawk haircut.

Rúben Amorim, Benfica

The 29-year-old is a very reliable box-to-box midfielder, who could also play at right-back. Amorim has been effective when called upon with Portugal. Although not always first-choice at club level, Amorim has managed to earn a position on the squad after a good season with Benfica.

Amorim was a youth player for Benfica, before signing with Belenenses in 2003. He earned a transfer back to Benfica in 2008 after some impressive seasons. He was loaned to Sporting Braga in 2012-13, before returning to the Lisbon club this past season.

This Season: Rúben Amorim battled injuries this season, as he has done throughout much of his career. But he still managed to play in 17 Liga Primeira matches. And he was a valuable contributor to Benfica’s treble winning season.

Fun Fact: Amorim was a last-minute replacement for Nani four years ago, when the Manchester United winger picked up a clavicle injury and was unable to play in South Africa. Both will be on the squad this time around.

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Anthony Lopes has earned accolades this season with a number of spectacular performances in goal for Ligue 1 club Olympique Lyonnais. The Portuguese international has enjoyed a dramatic rise over the last 12 months.

Born in Givors, France (Near Lyon), Lopes is a product of the club’s youth academy. He graduated to the main squad last season, after the departure of Hugo Lloris to Tottenham.

An injury to Rémy Vercoutre near the end of the 2012-13 gave Lopes an opportunity to play regularly with Lyon. With Vercoutre still unavailable at the beginning of this season, Rémi Garde went back to Lopes who has since established himself as first-choice.

Of Portuguese descent, Lopes played for the country of his parents at the U19 and U21 levels. After his excellent start to the season, he was called-up to the senior club for the first time by Paulo Bento in September 2013.

Lopes’ season almost came to an abrupt end in a November 2nd League match against Guingamp when he fell awkwardly after an aerial challenge fracturing vertebrae in his back.

Luckily his injury was not as serious as first thought. Expected to miss two to three months, Lopes would return just over five weeks later in a Europa League match against Vitória Guimarães which Lyon won 2-1. He has since re-assumed his position as Lyon’s starting goalkeeper.

The 23-year-old was recently selected for the Portugal squad for an international friendly against Cameroon which will be the final match before the World Cup squad is selected. Lopes likely faces competition from Sporting Braga’s Eduardo and FC Sevilla’s Beto for one of the final two goalkeeper positions behind Rui Patricio.

“I was selected regularly for the senior squad for the first half of the season. Going to the World Cup is little by little becoming an objective. But to achieve this I need to continue to perform well and get good results with Lyon before I could think about the World Cup,” Lopes said in a January 2014 interview with Agence France-Presse.

“It would mean a lot to me. Playing at the World Cup in Brazil at the age of 23 is not something that happens to everyone. It would be a dream come true.”

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FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 2

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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FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

FEATURE: The Top Breakthrough Performers So Far This Season

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

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

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

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

TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Striker Nélson Oliveira Officially Joins Rennes On One-Year Loan Deal

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

TRANSFER WINDOW: Hélder Postiga Joins Valencia On A Two-Year Contract

 AS Monaco's João Moutinho Will Lead Portugal's Midfield In Brazil Photo: Wikipedia Commons/ Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/ Fanny Schertzer

Portugal’s midfield was the source of some debate during the 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign. The Selecção struggled to manufacture scoring opportunities, even against far weaker teams like Northern Ireland and Israel, leaving many to question whether the midfield trio of Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles and João Moutinho was still the best option.

Since becoming Portugal’s manager, Paulo Bento has always preferred a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield ‘triangle’ in the middle. Miguel Veloso has played in the defensive midfielder role, with Meireles and Moutinho in front. The midfield has lacked creativity and fluidity at times since Euro 2012.

At the same time, an emerging generation of young midfielders appear ready to challenge the more established veterans for playing time. Sporting Lisbon’s midfield ‘three’, along with FC Porto’s Josué and Benfica’s André Gomes are all exciting prospects.

Futebol Factory looks at the midfield position for Portugal ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Tickets Booked: João Moutinho (AS Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kyiv), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe)

On The Bubble: William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Josué (FC Porto), Rúben Micael (Sporting Braga), Custódio (Sporting Braga), André Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Adrien Silva (Sporting Lisbon), Paulo Machado (Olympiacos), André Gomes (Benfica)

AS Monaco’s João Moutinho is simply one of the best box-to-box midfielders in football today. At only 27-years-old, he is already extremely accomplished and should lead the Portuguese midfield for many more years.

Moutinho recorded eights assists in 10 matches during World Cup qualifying. He also delivered two brilliant passes to Cristiano Ronaldo on that magical night in Stockholm that sealed Portugal’s place in Brazil.

After that, things appear far less simple. Fenerbahçe’s Raul Meireles is also a box-to-box midfielder, who has previously played for Liverpool and Chelsea. But since moving to Turkey last season, he has seen his quality drop. Although he is still a good tackler and rarely gives up possession, the offensive side of his game is not what it was.

The 30-year-old put in a good performance in Lisbon against Sweden, but was largely anonymous in the second leg in Stockholm. He remains one of the most experienced players on the Selecção and if he remains healthy, is very likely to be in Brazil.

Dynamo Kyiv’s Miguel Veloso has played in defensive midfield since the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign and has performed the role well. The problem is that Veloso is not a ‘true’ defensive midfielder, lacking the physicality, defensive instincts and tackling ability.

Bento has used him in the role because of the lack of better options at the position. But the 27-year-old could still be a very effective midfield ‘creator’ in a more forward role.

The rest of the players in contention fall into two groups: Experienced veterans who are yet to fully prove themselves and promising youngsters who await their opportunity.

Sporting Braga’s Rúben Micael is a former first-choice midfielder whose recent form for Portugal has led to some negative criticism. But he has remained a mainstay on the squad. His teammate at Braga, Custodio has received some caps under Paulo Bento but is no longer first-choice at club level. But he is a good defensive midfielder who plays simple, reliable football.

Benfica’s Ruben Amorim is currently out with a knee injury but has in the past been selected by Bento as well. His performances for Benfica have been positive so far this year and he has been a reliable substitute for Portugal when called upon. Nominally a central midfielder, he could also play right-back.

Olympiacos’ Paulo Machado is no longer first-choice with the Greek club, although he was recently called up for an international friendly against the Netherlands and remains in contention.

In the youth category, Paulo Bento has a level of quality not seen for some time if ever. William Carvalho, André Martins and Adrien Silva have formed the Sporting Lisbon midfield this season and all have very good potential.

Angolan-born William Carvalho has been one of the best players in the Portuguese League this year with his excellent displays in defensive midfield. So much so that, Arsenal, Manchester United and Juventus have taken notice.

A calm demeanor, combined with good passing, physical strength and strong football IQ, have many people predicting big things for the 21-year-old. He received his first cap in Portugal’s 3-2 win against Sweden.

Andre Martins and French-born Adrien Silva have been selected by Paul Bento before, although they were left out against Sweden. Both have been in good form this season for a resurgent Sporting Lisbon side. Martins is a playmaker or Number ten-type, while Silva is a box-to-box midfielder.

FC Porto’s Josué is another promising midfielder for the Selecção, who could also play on the wing. He recently started in place of Raul Meireles against Luxembourg and played very well.

Although he has a history of disciplinary issues. He was reportedly released from FC Porto in 2011 for that reason. So far this year he received a one game suspension for spitting on another player.

In addition, he was also caught on camera flashing a obsence gesture to the crowd after Cristiano Ronaldo’s third goal in Stockholm. Paulo Bento has not spoken publicly on the incident but he is well-known for being a strict disciplinarian.

Benfica’s André Gomes remains another possibility. He received his first call-up to the national team in February against Ecuador but did not play. Gomes is widely touted as a future star but is currently not seeing much action with Benfica.

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

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

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SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Promising Youngster André Gomes

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

TRANSFER WINDOW: Josué And Licá Join FC Porto

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

PLAYER PROFILE: Manchester United Are Interested In Signing William Carvalho

TRANSFER WINDOW: João Moutinho And James Rodriguez Officially Join AS Monaco

Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

Portugal has always had a great deal of depth at the full back positions. Ahead of the World Cup next year, Paulo Bento has several hard choices to make.

Fábio Coentrão and João Pereira have commanded the flanks for most of Paulo Bento’s time as Portugal manager, with their bursts of speed and sound offensive instincts.

However, early season injuries, combined with a loss of playing time at their respective clubs have many people doubting whether both will be ready for Brazil.

Futebol Factory looks at the full back position for Portugal.

Tickets Booked: Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valencia)

On The Bubble: André Almeida (Benfica), Vitorino Antunes (Málaga), Cédric Soares (Sporting Lisbon), Sílvio (Benfica), Miguel Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais)

For most of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign Fábio Coentrão and João Pereira have occupied the full back positions with Portugal, with the exception of injuries or suspensions. However, both have been battling injuries and inconsistency so far this season which has caused them to miss action.

Real Madrid’s Coentrão is currently sidelined with a thigh injury. Also, despite being one of Portugal’s best performers over the last several years he has not always been first-choice with Real Madrid. José Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have at times favoured Brazilian Marcelo at left-back.

The 25-year-old has struggled to replicate the form he had with Benfica, perhaps due to the more defensive-minded managers at Real Madrid. Although, recent reports have him signing an extension with the club which could mean more playing time.

Valencia’s João Pereira is also trying to regain his form after suffering a thigh injury last month. Also, the 29-year-old’s performances for the Selecção have not been great over the last year. He will need to improve because there are several good alternatives at right-back.

Benfica’s André Almeida filled in for Pereira in two World Cup qualifiers against Israel and Luxembourg last month and played very well. However, he regularly splits playing time with defensively challenged Maxi Pereira at Benfica which is a concern.

Málaga’s Vitorino Antunes has played very well in place of Coentrão in recent matches and it appears likely that a place in the squad is his to lose.

Sílvio, who is currently on loan with Benfica from Atlético Madrid, is known for his excellent crosses and is good defensively, but is often injured. He recently missed several weeks with a serious knee injury but is back playing. He could play on both the left and the right.

Miguel Lopes has received some caps under Paulo Bento although not since the early stages of 2014 World Cup qualifying. He is currently on loan with Ligue 1 club Lyon from Sporting Lisbon. Like Silvio, he has also battled injury problems throughout his career. But he is back playing again.

And Sporting Lisbon’s Cédric Soares is an offensively gifted right back who has been selected in the past. Although he is yet to receive his first cap for Portugal.

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

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

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SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

TRANSFER WINDOW: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany

PLAYER PROFILE: Vitorino Antunes Receives Portugal Call-Up

TRANSFER WINDOW: Sílvio Not Named To Atlético de Madrid Squad And Is Expected To Join Benfica

Rui Patricio Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Now that Portugal has qualified for next year’s World Cup in Brazil in spectacular fashion, the months of preparation and prognostication could officially begin.

Over the next few weeks Futebol Factory will be analyzing each position. Today, we begin with the last line of defence, the goalkeeper.

Sporting Lisbon’s Rui Patricio is firmly established as Portugal’s number one. The real competition appears to be for the final two spots on the squad.

Tickets Booked: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon)

On The Bubble: Beto (Sevilla), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Eduardo (Sporting Braga)

Despite some high-profile ‘frangos’ against Benfica and Israel in recent weeks, Rui Patricio remains Portugal’s best option in goal.

Apart from that, the situation becomes far more complicated. For most of the recent qualifying campaign, Paulo Bento has selected Patricio, Beto and Eduardo.

But Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was selected first as an injury replacement and eventually in place of Eduardo. He is now out of action after fracturing vertebrae in his back in early November.

The injury was not as serious as initially thought and the 23-year old could be back sometime in January. If he returns to the level he was at before it is possible that he could still be selected for Brazil.

Beto has been playing well at La Liga club Sevilla and looks to have the edge over Eduardo, who has had some early struggles for Braga.

Eduardo was once Portugal’s first-choice goalkeeper and the country’s best player in South Africa. But since moving to Genoa he has seen his quality decline. He has been loaned to Benfica, Turkish club İstanbul BB and now Braga.

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TRANSFER WINDOW: Arsenal in Pursuit Of Rui Patricio

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.

Related Posts:

TRANSFER WINDOW: Pizzi And Sidnei Loaned To Espanyol

TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Striker Nélson Oliveira Officially Joins Rennes On One-Year Loan Deal

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

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

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

The following is an overview of a three-part feature series by Futebol Factory that profiled some of Portugal’s most promising footballers.

Last year, Josué, Tiago Ilori, Bruma and Amido Baldé established themselves as potential Seleção players. This year’s list of players is just as rich in quantity and quality.

In January 2014, Futebol Factory will release a mid-season review of all 21 players listed in this series. Each player will receive a letter grade based on their performance in the unofficial first half of the season.

Here now is a complete summary of the 21 Portuguese youngsters that could break out this season.

Goalkeepers:

Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyonnais)
José Sá (Maritimo)

Defenders:

Raphaël Guerreiro (FC Lorient)
Roderick Miranda (Rio Ave)
Miguel Vitor (PAOK)
Ricardo Ferreira (Olhanense)
Nuno Reis (Sporting Lisbon)
Flávio Ferreira (Malaga)
Diogo Figueiras (Sevilla)

Midfielders:

Danilo Pereira (Marítimo)
Luís Gustavo (Rio Ave)
William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon)
João Mário (Sporting Lisbon)
Filipe Chaby (Sporting Lisbon)
Ricardo Alves (Belenenses)
Tiago Silva (Belenenses)
Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto, On Loan at Paços de Ferreira)
Rafa (Sporting Braga)

Forwards:

Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting Lisbon)
Aladje (Sassuolo)
Nelson Oliveira (Benfica, On Loan at Rennes)

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 2

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 3

TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Striker Nélson Oliveira Officially Joins Rennes On One-Year Loan Deal

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

Anthony Lopes Has Shown Some Great Promise With Lyon This Pre-Season

Anthony Lopes Has Shown Some Great Promise With Lyon This Pre-Season

Futebol Factory is profiling some of Portugal’s most promising young talent in three feature articles ahead of the new football season.

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

A quality goalkeeper that has played for Portugal at the U21 level. French-born Lopes played the last 5 Ligue 1 matches last season for the French club and has already figured prominently in Europa League qualifying matches so far this month. He also impressed in Lyon’s 4-0 defeat of Nice in the first match of the Ligue 1 season.

The French-club is currently without a proven stopper and could be tempted to go with Lopes. They have also shown some great faith in him by signing Lopes to a contract extension that will see him stay with the club until 2016. Rui Patrício is the uncontested Portuguese number one but it never hurts to have a quality alternative.

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Centre Back

Unceremoniously released by Benfica this off season, the central defender was quickly signed by Greek giants PAOK. Vitor has played alongside former Benfica player Kostas Katsouranis in PAOK’s Europa League qualifying matches against Metalist Kharkiv.

A very prominant figure with Portugal’s U21 squads, the 24-year old is expected to finally get his chance to play everyday in Greece. A chance he was never really given in Portugal. He joins a club that has been good to Portuguese talent in the past, including Sérgio Conceição and Vieirinha.

Ricardo Esgaio, Sporting Lisbon, Winger/Right-Back

An exciting player who is a big part of Sporting’s amazing pool of young talent. The 20-year old recently signed a long-term extension with the club that will see him under contract until 2018. He also played in the U20 World Cup.

Supremely talented and versatile, Esgaio scored 17 goals in 27 matches for Sporting B squad in the second division last year. However, this might not yet be the year that Esgaio makes the big leap to the senior side. Sporting has depth on the wings, and Leonardo Jardim might decide that it is better for him to continue to develop in the second division or possibly on loan.

Sérgio Oliveira, FC Porto (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Midfielder

Sérgio Oliveira has been in the spotlight since he was the youngest player ever to play for FC Porto’s senior side at the age of 17. He has found opportunities at the Cidade Invicta very limited since then, being loaned out to several clubs in recent years.

He played last season with Porto’s B squad in the second division, scoring 5 goals in 29 matches. Still only 21 years of age, Oliveira should receive playing time at Paços de Ferreira. A natural central midfielder, Oliveira is a free-kick specialist.

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Midfielder

Recently signed to a long-term extension, João Mário is one of the most talked about young players in Portugal today. The central midfielder captained Portugal’s U20 squad at this summer’s World Cup. For many it has always been a matter of when, not if.

Sporting’s new manager Leonardo Jardim has shown a willingness to ‘test’ young players in the past with Braga. However, João Mário might find it hard to play regularly this season because of the club’s investments in Adrien Silva, Andre Martins, Andre Santos and Zakaria Labyad.

Filipe Chaby, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

Another supremely promising midfielder from Sporting’s famed academy. The 19-year old missed most of last season with a serious knee injury however, he has played very well this summer in exhibition matches for the senior squad.

Recently signed to a long-term extension, Chaby will be hard-pressed to earn a position on Leonardo Jardim’s starting XI given the club’s depth in young midfielders. However, Chaby is certainly a player to watch going forward.

Aladje, Sassuolo, Striker

Born in Guinea-Bissau and currently playing in Italy, Aladje has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the last two months. A surprise addition to Portugal’s squad for the U20 Toulon Tournament, Aladje wrestled the starting striker position away from Betinho. He would score 3 goals in 4 matches at the U20 World Cup and was even profiled in an article on the FIFA website.

Until now he has only played football in Italy’s lower division but this appears likely to change after he moved to Serie B graduates Sassuolo this summer. Aladje is part of a promising generation of young Portuguese strikers that could finally deliver the country a major trophy.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Young Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 3

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