Posts Tagged ‘Nani’

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Portugal’s uncompromising style of play did not win them much admiration among neutral fans or the media but it was undoubtedly effective. Much credit should go to manager Fernando Santos who engineered a victory by utilizing the full strength of his squad. Football Factory rated each player on their performance over the entire tournament.

Goalkeepers

Rui Patricio He was not always busy but proved to be solid when called upon. He made a crucial stop in the penalty shootout against Poland. And he made several quality stops against France in the final. Named Best Goalkeeper at the tournament. Patricio is currently enjoying the best period of his career. 9

Eduardo Did not play.

Anthony Lopes Did not play.

 

Defenders

Raphael Guerreiro He was probably Portugal’s most consistent outfield player. The French-born Guerreiro provided the cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Wales. He was deservedly named to the team of the tournament. 8

Eliseu He filled in for Guerreiro against Hungary and Poland. The Benfica left-back looked much improved in his defensive duties, although he did not offer much in attack. 6

Pepe The Real Madrid man began the tournament with a poor display against Iceland and Hungary in the group stage. However, he was near flawless in the knockout stages.  A thigh injury kept him out of the semi-finals. But he returned in time to face France and put in a Man-of-the-Match performance for his country. Named to the Team of the Tournament. 8

Ricardo Carvalho The 38-year-old has been a solid contributor since returning to the international scene following Fernando Santos’ appointment. He looked slightly out of step especially in the 3-3 draw against Hungary. He was dropped in favour of Jose Fonte for the knockout stages. 6

Jose Fonte One of the great stories in this squad. The former Sporting CP academy graduate only made his international debut less than two years ago at the age of 30. He replaced Ricardo Carvalho against Croatia and was solid the rest of the way. 7

Bruno Alves He filled in admirably for the injured Pepe in the semi-final against Wales. 6

Cedric Soares Took over for Vieirinha against Croatia. His crucial mistake in the early stages against Poland led to the Robert Lewandowski goal. However, the Southampton right-back did not hang his head. Instead, he would be one of Portugal’s best performers the rest of the way. 7

Vieirinha The biggest disillusionment of this tournament for Portugal. He failed to provide sufficient cover on the Iceland goal in the first match. He was ineffective in attack and at times, a liability on defense. Santos rightly dropped him in favour of Cedric. 5

 

Midfielders

William Carvalho The holding midfielder replaced Danilo against Austria and put in an outstanding performance helping to drive the attack while supporting the Portuguese backline. Although he made less of an impact from then on, he still provided the stability the team needed. 7

Danilo Pereira The FC Porto midfielder suffered a back injury in the match against Iceland and lost his position in the starting XI to William.  Although, he would make a valuable contribution as a substitute. He filled in for the Sporting midfielder as a starter in the semi-final against Wales and even came close to scoring on one occasion. 6

Renato Sanches Named Best Young Player in the tournament. His long run in extra time against Croatia led to Quaresma’s goal. He scored the tying goal against Poland. Although, he was less of a factor against Wales and in the final. Still, he only added to his burgeoning reputation. It will be almost impossible to top the year he has had. 7

Andre Gomes He earned a starting spot against Iceland and put in an excellent display, creating the goal scored by Nani. But, his injury against Croatia would greatly limit him. He made a positive substitute appearance against Wales but did not appear in the final. 6

Adrien Silva The Sporting captain made his debut in the tournament against Croatia. He earned Fernando Santos’ confidence with some impressive performances on the way to the final. Unselfish, hardworking and tough, he embodies Portugal’s championship-winning side more than anyone. 7

João Moutinho A starter at the beginning of the tournament, the Monaco midfielder was not at his best in the group stage. He was forced to withdraw at half-time against Hungary due to an injury. However, he came in as a late substitute against Poland and provided a dangerous through-ball to Ronaldo, who could not capitalize. He made a major impact as a substitute in the final, helping to create the winning goal. 7

João Mário Much was expected of the Sporting midfielder at the beginning of the tournament. He was noticeably quiet against Iceland and was dropped in favour of Quaresma in the second match. Back as a starter against Hungary he provided an assist on Cristiano Ronaldo’s back-heel goal. His decision-making left much to be desired at times in the knockout stages but he was much better in the final. 7

 

Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo The Portuguese captain was not always at his best in this tournament. He was a frustrated figure against Iceland and Austria but silenced his critics with a brace against Hungary. He was decisive again in the semi-final against Wales. His tournament seemed destined to end once again in tears when he was forced to withdraw in the final because of a knee injury. But, his teammates rallied around his absence and handed him that elusive championship at international level.  8

Nani The 29-year-old rebuilt his damaged reputation. He finished tied with the team-lead in goals with three and added an assist on Sanches’ goal against Poland. He did all that while playing out of position. His move to Spanish club Valencia was finalized during the tournament.  8

Ricardo Quaresma At 32, the journeyman winger looks to have finally come into his own on the international scene. He was generally ineffective in his only start of the tournament against Austria. However, he proved to be a valuable option off the bench, scoring a late goal against Croatia and then putting away the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Poland. 7

Rafa Silva He was originally expected to play a more prominent role. However, the Braga winger was limited to a short cameo in the late stages of the draw against Austria. He looked dangerous but was not able to break the deadlock. He is one for the future.  Incomplete

Éder Just weeks ago at pre-tournament friendlies the striker was whistled at by Portuguese fans every time he touched the ball. He made short substitute appearances against Iceland and Austria before the final. In a tournament of ample drama and great storylines for Portugal, it seems almost fitting that ‘the ugly duckling’ would score the most famous goal in the country’s history. 7

 

Manager

Fernando Santos He will never earn style points from the mainstream media but the 61-year-old found a way to win. By preaching unity and sacrifice above all, Santos got the most out of his players. He seemed to know how to make changes at the right time. Bringing on Sanches early in the second-half against Croatia and Éder in the final, seemed insane at the time but paid off enormously. 10

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Portugal will not go into Brazil as one of the favorites among most pundits and fans. However, with the world’s best player and a reasonably balanced squad, it is not outside the realm of possibility that the country can win their first tournament at senior level next month.

The mood surrounding the Portuguese squad is one of cautious optimism. The relative success of Euro 2012 did much to dispel the notion that Portugal is in decline as a footballing nation. But still, the Seleção will go into the World Cup with less talent than in 2002 and 2006, but likely more than four years ago.

Several important players like Nani, João Moutinho and Fábio Coentrão had relatively poor seasons. And there are also concerns about the fitness of several players, including Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal can only be considered a dark horse, but one that is capable of making an impact, possibly more than that.

Portugal as a nation, prides itself on exceeding expectations. And it is that motivation that should drive the Seleção in Brazil. Here now are the 5 reasons Portugal can win the World Cup, courtesy of Futebol Factory.

Almost Home-Field Advantage

Portugal will be one of the best supported countries in Brazil. Tickets for a training session on June 12th sold out in less than six minutes this week. The common language and strong historical ties between the two countries will no doubt benefit the Seleção.

Many Portuguese emigrants who settled in Brazil left the country only a few decades ago, maintaining strong connections. And of course there will always be a hint of post-Colonial resentment towards Portugal in its former colony. However, the squad could expect to receive a warm welcome.

Little Pressure

There is a greater sense of optimism in Portugal than in previous tournaments. The squad is playing better, and most supporters believe that they should get stronger in the coming years. And in contrast to its rivals, the squad has little to prove going into the tournament.

Brazil will be playing at home. Anything less than a win would be a major disaster. The Spanish public has become accustomed to no less than complete success. Germany always expects to win. While, Argentina will be playing in their own continent. And recent performances at the World Cup have not been good enough.

Recent Success

Since the 2000 European Championships, Portugal has qualified for every tournament. In that time, they have made four semi-finals (Euro 2000, Euro 2004, Germany 2006, Euro 2012), and failed to make it out of the group stage just once. This is a level of success that is matched by few countries.

The Seleção are drawn into a tough group with Germany, Ghana and the United States. But this is unlikely to phase the team. Portugal was in a similar situation at Euro 2000, South Africa 2010 and Euro 2012. In each case, Portugal advanced into the knockout stage.

Strong Team Mentality

Portugal manager Paulo Bento is often criticized for his conservative approach to tactics and squad selections. However, it does serve a purpose. The core of the group has been together since the Euro 2012 qualification campaign. The Seleção will go into the tournament with a tried and tested system.

Time and time again, the squad has faced adversity. But the character and unity that comes along with a certain level of consistency has helped the squad overcome disappointing results, and bad qualifying campaigns. At Euro 2012, Portugal overcame a loss to Germany in their first match to finish second in the group. And they came within inches of eliminating a far more talented Spanish side in the semi-finals.

Cristiano Ronaldo

He is often sighted as the first reason. There is no player that elevates his country like Cristiano Ronaldo does. But it is the supporting cast that is the key to Portugal’s success. Paulo Bento has certainly succeeded where Carlos Queiroz failed. Ronaldo is not the only threat anymore. He has become the most important element of a system that benefits him and his teammates.

Great players do not win tournaments by themselves. But, they can make the difference in crucial moments. Diego Maradona did not win the 1986 World Cup by himself. It is just part of football folklore. The Argentine great could not have defended every corner, made every pass or scored every goal. Ronaldo cannot do it either, but what he can do is give Portugal every opportunity to win.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Portugal’s great hope. Cristiano Ronaldo will go into the tournament as the reigning World Footballer of the Year, as well as the consensus best player in the World. The Portuguese captain is at the height of his individual ability, although there are concerns about his fitness.

Once widely criticized for his perceived lack of productivity with the national team, Ronaldo is now Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He proved that he could lead his country deep in a major tournament at Euro 2012. However, the 29-year-old needs to win the World Cup to establish himself as one of the greatest players in history.

This Season: It was another excellent season for the global superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 31 goals in La Liga, winning the Pichichi award as the league’s top scorer. He also set a new single season record for Champions League goals with 17, helping Real Madrid win La Décima.

Fun Fact: Cristiano Ronaldo was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. His profile was written by none other than Pelé who compares the Real Madrid forward to former Portuguese international Eusébio. He writes that the two have ‘the same elegance and creativity.’

Nani, Manchester United

The Manchester United winger is almost as vital to Portugal’s success as Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani is coming off an injury-plagued season. A healthy and productive Nani would be a major boost to Portugal’s chances. He has formed a good partnership with Ronaldo in the past.

This will be Nani’s third major tournament with Portugal. He was forced to withdraw from the 2010 World Cup because of a shoulder injury. Nani had a good Euro 2012, which included being named the Man of the Match in Portugal’s 3-2 group stage win against Denmark.

This Season: Nani struggled through groin and hamstring injuries this season. He played in only 11 League matches for Manchester United.

Fun Fact: Nani is trained in Capoeira, a kind of Brazilian martial arts dance. He has been known to celebrate a goal by doing the ‘Leap of death’ move.

Vieirinha, Wolfsburg

The 28-year-old was an excellent player for Portugal’s youth squads but only received his first senior selection in March 2013. Vieirinha has put together some excellent performances for the Seleção in limited action.

Vieirinha suffered a serious knee injury last September and was thought to be ruled out for the World Cup. He returned in time to play in Wolfsburg’s final Bundesliga matches. A product of FC Porto’s academy, Vieirinha moved to Greek club PAOK in 2008. He was signed by Wolfsburg in 2012 after several stellar seasons.

This Season: Vieirinha appeared in 11 Bundesliga matches for Wolfsburg. The German club finished a solid fifth in the league table.

Fun Fact: Vieirinha was named the Player of the Tournament at the 2003 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, which Portugal won by beating rivals Spain in the final. He was also named PAOK’s Player of the Season twice, as well as the Greek Super League’s Best Foreign Player in 2011.

Silvestre Varela, FC Porto

The 29-year-old has been primarily used as an impact substitute during his time with the Seleção. He scored a memorable goal against Denmark to give Portugal a 3-2 win in the group stage of Euro 2012. He currently has 22 caps for Portugal.

Silvestre Varela is a graduate of Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy. But after spending several seasons on loan, he moved to Estrela Amadora. FC Porto signed him in 2009 and he has been a productive player for the club ever since. He has won the Primeira Liga on three occasions, the Portuguese Cup twice, and the Europa League in 2010-11.

This Season: Silvestre Varela played in 25 League matches for FC Porto, scoring five goals and adding another five assists. But the Dragões had a very disappointing season by their standards, finishing third in the league table.

Fun Fact: Silvestre Varela appeared to be a lock for South Africa 2010 after an impressive first season with Porto. However, he broke his left fibula in training ruling him out for the entire tournament.

Portugal’s Inspirational Captain. Cristiano Ronaldo Hopes To Lead His Country To Glory. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

The Selecção will head into the World Cup with a wealth of talent on the wings. If both stay healthy, Cristiano Ronaldo will surely partner with Nani up front in a 4-3-3 formation.

In Ronaldo, they have perhaps the greatest winger of all-time. But his success, and with it, the success of the Portuguese national team depends on the supporting cast.

Paulo Bento has stayed with Nani, despite the Manchester United winger’s struggles with inconsistency and injuries. The 27-year-old is still trying to reach the potential many people expected of him.

FC Porto’s Silvestre Varela has been a consistent performer for the Selecção and will most likely be in the squad as an impact substitute.

That should leave one more position available for Brazil. Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha appeared to be the front-runner for that position but he suffered a major knee injury that has ruled him out for the tournament.

Zenit’s Danny has been consistently selected for the squad for several years now but has never made a compelling case for more playing time. FC Porto’s Licá, Galatasaray’s Bruma and Espanyol’s Pizzi could still play themselves onto the squad in time.

Futebol Factory looks at Paulo Bento’s options on the wings.

Tickets Booked: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Silvestre Varela (FC Porto)

On The Bubble: Bruma (Galatasaray), Danny (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Licá (FC Porto), Pizzi (Espanyol)

In Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has at their disposal one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. It is hard to recall just four years ago when the Portuguese captain was receiving heavy criticism for not replicating his club form for his country.

Enter Paulo Bento, and the Madeirense is set to surpass former PSG striker Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading scorer. An excellent achievement considering he is only 28 and is a winger.

Many great players like Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer have won major tournaments in their late 20s. If he stays healthy, Ronaldo should be at the height of his individual talents next summer.

This will be the best chance Ronaldo will have to win the World Cup, doing so he would solidify his place alongside the very best of the global game.

But he cannot do it alone.

In Nani, Paulo Bento has one of the most explosive talents in the game today. However, the Cape Verdan-born winger is very volatile. He had a very good Euro 2012 and it is essential that he recaptures that level.

Currently, Nani is splitting time with several wingers at Manchester United. But since none are making a strong case for automatic first-choice, Nani could yet convince David Moyes he deserves more playing time. He missed the World Cup last time out due to a shoulder injury which could serve as more motivation.

Silvestre Varela has been in good form this year for FC Porto and has performed well as a substitute for his country in the past. He scored an excellent goal in Portugal’s 3-2 win against Denmark at Euro 2012.

Zenit’s Danny has been one of the best players in the Russian League for several years now but has never replicated that form for Portugal. At 30-years-old, this could very well be his final chance to prove himself. He faces some fierce competition for his place.

Licá and the supremely talented Bruma are making strong cases for a spot in Brazil. 25-year-old Licá received his first cap in a friendly against Brazil in September. And Galatasaray’s Bruma has played very well this year and some believe he has Ronaldo-esque potential.

Pizzi has endured a rough start to life at Espanyol and faces an uphill battle to be selected for Brazil. The 24-year-old had a breakout season with Deportivo La Coruña last year but has been benched in recent matches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Squad

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

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

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

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

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

Cristiano+Ronaldo+Northern+Ireland+v+Portugal+5kI6kIiWmBkl

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Squad

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

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

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

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

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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

The Seleção will renew its rivalry with The Netherlands in an international friendly on Wednesday, August 14 at Algarve stadium in Faro.

The match will mark the first time Portugal will face the Oranje since its dramatic 2-1 win in the final group stage match at the 2012 European Championships. Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored both Portuguese goals in that match will of course captain the Seleção for the match, barring injury.

Paulo Bento’s Portuguese squad was announced on Tuesday and there were few surprises. Real Madrid defender Pepe made his return after missing out last time due to a yellow card suspension.

Missing out this time around are Beşiktaş striker Hugo Almeida, Sporting Lisbon midfielder Andre Martins, and Espanyol winger Pizzi. Sporting Braga striker Éder is still recovering from a knee injury and was not selected.

Bento’s squad is hoping to prepare for a series of critical World Cup qualifying matches in September and October. They are currently in first place in group F with 14 points in 7 matches. However, Russia is only two points behind despite playing two fewer matches.

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

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

Midfeilders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahçe), João Moutinho (Mónaco), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Custódio (Braga), Rúben Amorim (Benfica), Rúben Micael (Braga)

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

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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