Posts Tagged ‘pepe’

CnKEAjDXEAAkm7A.jpg large

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

Pepeenfada

Pepe, Real Madrid

Portugal’s stalwart at the centre of defence. This will be the fourth major tournament for Brazilian-born Pepe. A serious knee injury forced him to miss the first two matches of the last World Cup in South Africa. He returned to action ironically in a group stage match against Brazil which ended in a scoreless draw.

After a mediocre season last year, the 31-year-old bounced back with one of his best in 2013-14. He has been stellar for Portugal in big occasions, having been named to the Team of the Tournament for Euro 2008 and most recently, Euro 2012. He will line up along side Bruno Alves in Brazil.

This Season: Pepe was once again at the heart of Real Madrid’s success. He played in 30 La Liga matches this season, scoring four goals. The Portuguese international helped Real Madrid win La Décima this season as well, although he would miss the final due to injury.

Fun Fact: Pepe is a practicing Roman Catholic. He traveled to the shrine town of Fátima after Portugal’s semi-final defeat against Spain to ‘Give thanks to Our Lady.’

Bruno Alves, Fenerbahçe

A strong, tactically astute central defender, who is also very good in the air. Bruno Alves received his first international call-up in 2007 when he was with FC Porto. He currently has 70 caps for Portugal which places him third all-time among defenders behind only Ricardo Carvalho (75) and Fernando Couto (110).

The 32-year-old previously won four Primeira Liga titles with FC Porto before leaving for Zenit St. Petersburg in 2010. He was named the Primeira Liga’s Player of the Year in 2009. Alves spent this past season with Turkish club Fenerbahçe, alongside fellow Portuguese international Raul Meireles.

This Season: In his first season in Turkey, Bruno Alves played in 25 League matches for Fenerbahçe. The club was disqualified from European competition because of involvement in a match-fixing scandal. But the İstanbul-based club won the Turkish League title, finishing nine points ahead of rivals Galatasaray.

Fun Fact: Alves comes from a very proud football family. His father Washington, was a Brazilian footballer who played professionally in Portugal, mainly with Varzim Sport Clube. His older brother Geraldo has had a long, successful career and played this past season in Romania. Younger brother Júlio Alves is currently with Rio Ave.

Ricardo Costa, Valencia

Despite not always being first-choice at club level, Ricardo Costa has been consistently chosen to represent Portugal. Although his contribution has largely been limited to late-match substitute. The 33-year-old is currently sitting on 16 caps.

Costa began playing football with Boavista before signing with city rivals FC Porto in 1999. He would never receive regular first-team football at the club. He would leave to join VfL Wolfsburg in 2007. Costa would help them win the Bundesliga in 2008-09, before joining Valencia in 2010. He served as team captain this past season for the La Liga club.

This Season: Ricardo Costa battled through some injuries this season, but still managed to play 20 League matches for the club. Valencia had a very disappointing season for their standards. They finished eighth in the League table and will not play in Europe next season.

Fun Fact: Ricardo Costa will be one of only two Portuguese internationals to represent his country in three World Cups. This other is Cristiano Ronaldo.

Luís Neto, Zenit Saint Petersburg

The 26-year-old was selected to play in his first major tournament for Portugal. He received his first international call-up in October 2012 and currently has six caps. Luis Neto has been a very reliable defender in his short career with the Seleção.

Neto played for his hometown club Varzim before leaving to join Madeira-based Nacional in 2011. After a short stint with Serie A club Siena, Neto moved on to Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg.

This Season: Luis Neto had a rather poor first half of the season. However, after the arrival of André Villas-Boas as manager in March his fortunes began to improve as did the club’s results. He played in 25 League matches, which included 22 starts for the club. Zenit would finish second in the Russian Premier League, only one point behind CSKA Moscow.

Fun Fact: Luis Neto was named to Portugal’s under-21 squad for the 2009 Lusophony Games, winning a silver medal.

Pepe Will Lead Portugal's Defence  Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Roger Gorączniak

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Roger Gorączniak

Over the next few weeks Futebol Factory will be analyzing Portugal at each position. At centre back, Portugal boasts a very experienced group of players.

Pepe and Bruno Alves have carried the load for the Selecção for the last few years and are widely expected to do the same in Brazil.

Paulo Bento will bring four centre backs to the World Cup. Luis Neto and Ricardo Costa appear to be front-runners to grab the two back-up positions, but with more than half the season to go there is plenty of time for others to mount a challenge.

Tickets Booked: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Pepe (Real Madrid), Luis Neto (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Ricardo Costa (Valencia)

On The Bubble: Daniel Carriço (Sevilla FC), José Fonte (Southampton), Henrique Sereno (Kayserispor), Miguel Vítor (PAOK), Rolando (Inter Milan), Tiago Ilori (Liverpool)

Brazilian-born Pepe will lead the Portuguese back line in Brazil. The 30-year old missed the beginning of the last World Cup with a serious knee injury. One of Portugal’s best performers at Euro 2012, he famously traveled to the shrine-town of Fátima after the tournament to pray. After a poor 2012-12 season, he has been in good form so far this year.

Pepe will likely be partnered with Bruno Alves, who also has Brazilian heritage on his father’s side. The 31-year old is a tough tackler, a free-kick specialist, and is dominate in the air. He is currently playing with Fenerbahçe in Turkey with fellow Portuguese international Raul Meireles.

Manager Paulo Bento has been very consistent with his selections at centre-back. Valencia captain Ricardo Costa and Zenit’s Luis Neto have both performed admirably when called upon.

But that does not rule out the possibility of another player being selected for the squad. Injuries and a decline in form could open the door for someone else.

Rolando, who is on loan at Inter Milan from FC Porto, has received caps during Bento’s time as Portuguese manager. So has Kayserispor’s Henrique Sereno.

After that there are some intriguing players that could play themselves onto the squad. Southampton’s José Fonte has been in excellent form this season for the club and some feel that Bento has unfairly overlooked him.

Former Benfica player Miguel Vítor has also impressed with Greek club PAOK this season. Former Sporting Captain Daniel Carriço is finally healthy and if he manages to put together some consistent performances with Sevilla, Bento could be tempted to select him.

Liverpool youngster Tiago Ilori remains a possibility, but he would need to start playing regular football before he could be considered.

Related Posts:

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

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

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

TRANSFER WINDOW: Portuguese Defender Bruno Alves Officially Joins Fenerbahçe

PLAYER PROFILE: Former Benfica Defender Miguel Vitor Loving Life In Greece

TRANSFER WINDOW: Former Sporting Idol Daniel Carriço Moves To Sevilla On Loan

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Central Defender Tiago Ilori

TRANSFER WINDOW: Portuguese Defender Rolando Loaned To Inter Milan

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

Related Posts:

MATCH PREVIEW: Portugal Will Rekindle Rivalry With The Netherlands In International Friendly

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

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.”

Related Posts:

PORTUGAL: Fábio Coentrão’s Late Goal Salvages Draw Against Israel

MATCH REVIEW: Portugal Rebound With A Deserving Win Against Azerbaijan

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

ng90FE319E-24F0-4CD8-95F0-91EDD3177162

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).

Related Posts:

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

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

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Jan SOLO

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Jan SOLO

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the opening goal of the match, as Real Madrid easily defeated Turkish-side Galatasaray in Champions League action on Wednesday. Fábio Coentrão also started the match for Los Blancos and Pepe came on as a late substitute in the Real Madrid victory.

In the 9th minute, Mesut Ozil found Cristiano Ronaldo alone on the fast break. The Portuguese star chipped it over Galatasaray goalkeeper Fernando Muslera for the opening goal. Ronaldo would come close again off a free-kick before the end of the first-half.

Karim Benzema would score for Real Madrid in the 29th minute, while Gonzalo Higuaín followed with a third goal in the second half to give the Spanish giants a decisive 3-0 win. The second leg of the quarter-final match-up will be played April 9th in Istanbul.

After the match Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho acknowledged that his club was in an ideal situation going into the second leg but added that it was important not to underestimate their opponents.

“I have enough experience to understand that we have a very good result, but that it is not over. I will try everything in my power to convince my players of that, and that we have go there seriously.”

“Of course, if we score one goal, they have to score five. But I think we have to go there with the same mentality.”

In other Champions League action on Wednesday, Málaga and Borussia Dortmund played to a 0-0 draw. Portuguese left-back vitorino Antunes played the full match for the Spanish side, while former Portugal international Duda came on as a late substitute. The second leg will be played in Germany next Tuesday.

Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/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,”