Posts Tagged ‘Miguel Veloso’

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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 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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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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William Carvalho has played a central role in Sporting Lisbon’s early season resurgence. The 21-year old has earned accolades because of his calm demeanour and strength in possession.

Carvalho has played in defensive midfield this season, supporting the back line as well as providing cover for Adrien Silva and Andre Martins to go forward and create opportunities. His excellent displays in pre-season earned him a starting role over Argentine Fito Rinaudo and many predict even greater things for him in the future.

A product of Sporting’s distinguished academy, Carvalho spent the previous camapign on loan in Belgium with Cercle Brugge. His manager at the club Foeke Booy has said that he could evolve into ‘a powerful box-to-box’ midfielder.

Former Sporting interim manager José Couceiro gave Carvalho his first invite to the senior club in 2011 and believes that he could be an option for Portugal as early as the next World Cup

“I think that William will be an option for the Mundial and it is always important for the Seleção to have options. Of course it is up to the manager to select the player or not, but he has already shown a tremendous amount of growth as a player. He has the character and attitude to continue to develop,” he said in a recent interview with A Bola.

In August, the young midfielder was included in Paulo Bento’s pre-squad ahead of a World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland and an international friendly against Brazil. Although he was left off the final squad, many believe that Carvalho has a very bright future with the Seleção.

Portugal has been without a ‘true’ defensive mdfielder for several years now. Paulo Bento has used former Sporting captain Miguel Veloso in the role since 2011 and he has performed it well, although the team has shown some defensive weaknesses during qualifying.

Carvalho signed an extension with Sporting in the summer that will see him under contract until June of 2018. The contract includes a release clause of €45million. He is represented by Pini Zahari.

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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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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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PORTUGAL: André Martins In Seleção Squad Ahead Of World Cup Qualifier Against Russia

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Sporting Lisbon midfielder André Martins was the one notable addition to Paulo Bento’s Portugal squad that will face Russia in a crucial World Cup 2014 qualifier on June 7th in Lisbon.

The 23-year-old Martins began playing regularly again for Sporting under previous manager Jesualdo Ferreira and told media on Wednesday that Ferreira was fundamental in his first international call-up.

Ruben Micael and Nani who missed out on selection in March due to injury return to the squad this time around. As do Nelson Oliveira, Ricardo Costa and Ruben Amorim. Real Madrid central defender Pepe was not chosen because he will be serving a yellow card suspension.

Paulo Bento’s squad will face a confident Russia side coached by veteran Italian manager Fabio Capello who are undefeated in four matches so far in group F and remain firmly in first place. Portugal remains tied with Israel in second place with four matches to go.

The Seleção will also face Croatia in an international friendly in Geneva on June 10th.

Full Squad

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

Defenders: João Pereira (Valência), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Sílvio (Deportivo), Bruno Alves (Zenit), Luís Neto (Zenit) e Sereno (Valladolid), Ricardo Costa (Valência);

Midfielders: André Martins (Sporting), Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Miguel Veloso (D. Kiev), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Custódio (SC Braga), Paulo Machado (Olympiakos), Rúben Amorim, Rúben Micael (SC Braga, on loan);

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

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Full Squad

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

Defenders: João Pereira (Valencia), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Sílvio (Deportivo), Bruno Alves (Zenit), Pepe (Real Madrid), Luís Neto (Zenit), Sereno (Valladolid)

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Miguel Veloso (D. Kiev), João Moutinho (FC Porto), Custódio (Braga), Carlos Martins (Benfica), Paulo Machado (Olympiakos)

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Danny (Zenit), Varela (FC Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg), Pizzi (Deportivo), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas)

Portugal manager annouced his squad for two important World Cup qualifying away matches against Israel and Azerbeijan amid injury worries and poor form.

The Seleção will know that their margin of error will be small after some poor results so far in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Portugal are currently 3rd in group F with 7 points after 4 matches.

Though not in any real danger of missing qualification, a stretch of poor results against lesser teams has put serious pressure on manager Paul Bento to get back on track. A loss to Russia, and an unexpected draw with Northern Ireland in Braga has many fans concerned about the team’s form.

This combined with a lacklustre draw with Gabon and a loss to Ecuador in friendlies. The team has been plagued with defensive mishaps and wasteful possession since their successful European Championships last June.

Bento will welcome back central defender Pepe from injury but will be missing one of his most potent offensive weapons in Nani who picked up a hamstring injury in Manchester United’s FA cup match against Chelsea.

Sporting Braga’s Eder and Ruben Micael are both out with injuries. Joao Moutinho is battling a thigh injury but was selected and is expected to start against Israel on March 22nd.

Vieirinha received his second call-up after some good performances with his Bundesliga club Wolfsburg. Deportivo winger Pizzi, Benfica’s Carlos Martins and Olympiakos’ Paulo Machado made their return to international play.

Deportivo’s Nelson Oliveira, Benfica’s Andre Gomes, Besiktas’ Manuel Fernandes, Malaga’s Vitorino Antunes and Benfica’s Andre Almeida are notable omissions.

Paulo Bento admitted to reporters that gaining automatic qualification by winning their group is less than realistic at this point but insisted that qualifying through a playoff, “Does not define our status,”

Oscar Cardozo’s goal in the 61st minute of play gave Benfica a deserving victory over one of the best clubs in this year’s Europa Cup competition.

The goal came as Jorge Jesus’ club came close to conceding a goal moments before. Andre Almeida who was playing right-back for the Águias crossed the ball into the box. Cardozo sought the opportunity, dribbled past a defender and slid it over Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno for the only goal of the game.

The Portuguese side have the added advantage of having an away goal going into the second leg on February 21st at the Estádio da Luz.

The news was not so good for Portuguese players on foreign clubs on Thursday. Fenerbahçe and Portuguese international midfielder Raul Meireles received a straight red in the 4th minute of play against Belarussian club Bate.

The former FC Porto player was dismissed after a hard tackle on former Stuttgart and Arsenal player Aliaksandr Hleb. Luckily, his Turkish club held on to the 0-0 draw going into the second leg in Istanbul, which Meireles will be ineligible for. But Meireles’ terrible first season in Turkey continues.

The result was not so good for Rolando, who is on loan at Italian club Napoli. Rolando received his first start for the club, playing in the middle of a three-man backline. But it was a match to forget for the Porto defender, as Napoli went on to lose 3-0 to Czech club Viktoria Plzeň.

Elsewhere Luis Neto and Danny started the match for Zenit St.Petersburg as they went on to defeat Liverpool 2-0. Former Porto attacker Hulk opened the scoring for the Russian club.

Andre Villas-Boas’ Tottenham side continued to impress with a 2-1 victory over French side Olympique Lyonnais. Gareth Bale scored both goals for the Spurs, the winner coming in the closing minutes of the match.

Portuguese midfielder Sergio Pinto’s Hannover 96 lost 3-1 to Russian side Anzhi. Olympiakos’ Paulo Machado could do little to prevent a 3-0 defeat by Levante in Spain.

Miguel Veloso’ Dynamo Kyiv drew 1-1 with Bordeaux in the Ukraine. Romanian club CFR Cluj started 5 Portuguese players but lost 2-0 to Inter Milan. Rodrigo Palacio scored both goals after coming on for his injured countrymen Diego Milito.

Former Portugal international Tiago played the entire match for Atletico Madrid who lost 2-0 to Rubin Kazan despite playing the entire second half with an extra man. Former Sporting player Bruno Pererinha was featured on the bench for his new club Lazio but did not play in the Italian team’s thrilling 3-3 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach.