Posts Tagged ‘Selecção’

Portugal U19 Euro

Portugal were beaten 2-1 by England in the final of the UEFA U19 European Championships in Gori, Georgia on Saturday. It was the youth division’s third tournament of the summer and the closest any of which came to claiming a title.

Despite the loss, many decided to concentrate on the positive performances by several promising players, most notably right-back Diogo Dalot and striker Rui Pedro Sousa, who both belong to FC Porto. It was Portugal’s fifth final at youth level since 2011. However, they have only won once, at the 2016 U17 European Championships.

An optimist would say that just getting to a final is a sign of the program’s growing strength, especially considering that Portugal made no finals in youth level between 2004 and 2010, but Portugal has more often fallen at the final hurdle as of late.

After arriving in Lisbon on Sunday, Portugal U19 manager Helio Sousa reiterated the words of U20 manager Emilio Peixe and U21 manager Rui Jorge, that Portugal have a very healthy youth development system.

I am enormously proud of the hard work put in by these group of footballers, not just the 18 that made it to this tournament, but the more than 30 that played for the U19 squad this year. The three finals in four years shows the quality we have at the clubs and federation particularly in our U15 to U20 levels.

The senior team’s manager Fernando Santos recently said that Portugal needs to improve its recruitment system which continues to lag behind other countries. Still, it does seem like Portugal is getting tangible results despite whatever shortcomings, especially when compared to the mid-to-late 2000s. And this has obviously helped improve the senior squad.

But, development does not end at youth level. It goes beyond that. Winning titles is always a good thing but much depends on what happens to these players after the tournaments end, particularly at club level.

Overall, Portugal have won 11 times in 23 finals at youth level.

Year Opponent Tournament Result
1961 Poland U18 Euro Won 4-0
1971 England U18 Euro Loss 0-3
1988 Soviet Union U18 Euro Loss 1-3 extra time
1988 Spain U16 Euro Loss 0-0, 2-4 on penalties
1989 Nigeria U20 World Cup Won 2-0
1989 East Germany U16 Euro Won 4-1
1990 Soviet Union U18 Euro Loss 0-0, 2-4 on penalties
1991 Brazil U20 World Cup Won 0-0, 4-2 on penalties
1992 Turkey U18 Euro Loss 1-2 in extra time
1994 Italy U21 Euro Loss 0-1 in extra time
1994 Germany U18 Euro Won 1-1, 4-1 on penalties
1995 Spain U16 Euro Won 2-0
1996 France U16 Euro Won 1-0
1997 France U18 Euro Loss 0-1 in extra time
1999 Italy U18 Euro Won 1-0
2000 Czech Republic U16 Euro Won 2-1 in extra time
2003 Italy U19 Euro Loss 0-2 in extra time
2003 Spain U16 Euro Won 2-1
2011 Brazil U20 World Cup Loss 2-3 in extra time
2014 Germany U19 Euro Loss 0-1
2015 Sweden U21 Euro Loss 0-0, 3-4 on penalties
2016 Spain U17 Euro Won 1-1, 5-4 in extra time
2017 England U19 Euro Loss 1-2

Andre Silva

The editors of PortugalFutbol.net and FutebolFactory.com are proud to announce our annual list of 10 players to watch this season. After much deliberation, we whittled down the pool of talented players to ten, but couldn’t help but add some honorable mentions. These are players who we believe have a realistic shot at making it to the senior Portuguese National Team by the end of the season.

Miguel Silva, Vitória Guimarães, Goalkeeper

The 21-year-old goalkeeper was outstanding at times last season. The highlight was a probably scoreless draw against Sporting CP in February. He has good size for a goalkeeper but is also blessed with good aerial ability. Pedro Martins replaced Sérgio Conceição this summer at Vitória Guimarães, which could mean Silva is relegated to the bench. But, there is little doubt the young keeper will one day be first choice.

Nélson Semedo, Benfica, Right-Back

Last season, he earned a spot in Rui Vitória’s squad for the Super Cup against Sporting CP after an excellent pre-season. He scored his first senior goal a week later against Estoril. In October, Fernando Santos handed him a start in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Serbia. But his meteoric rise came to an end after he suffered a major knee injury with the national team. He would miss several months and played sparingly after returning when Benfica was in a title race. If he stays healthy, Semedo should be a key part of Benfica’s squad this season.

Rúben Semedo, Sporting, Centre-Back

After a successful half-season on loan at Vitória Setúbal last season, Semedo was recalled to Sporting in January, where he played a huge role in the team’s excellent defensive record. In the 14 matches Semedo featured in, Sporting only conceded eight goals. This season, it remains unclear how prominent of a role Rúben Semedo will play in Sporting’s backline. But if last season was anything to go on, this Sporting team will find success through rotation, meaning that Semedo will get a chance to show his worth.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Central Midfielder

Already Porto’s youngest scorer in the league, the youngest Portuguese player to play in the Champions League, and the youngest player ever to captain a team in the Champions League, Neves has a bright future ahead of him. His quality is evident, and if he is used similarly to the past two seasons, Neves will mainly play a rotation role, ready to fill in should Danilo get injured. But as Neves continues to develop, Porto coach Nuno Espírito Santo may be forced to give him a more prominent role on the team.

João Carlos Teixeira, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

He could prove to be an excellent steal for Porto. Teixeira left Sporting CP for Liverpool at the tender age of 20 but never settled at the club, despite a positive loan spell at Brighton and Hove Albion in 2014-15. After Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers, Teixeira was used in cup matches. Still, he did not factor in the German’s plans for this season. He will have to compete for playing time this year at Cidade Invicta, but Teixeira has talent in abundance and is at the age where many players take a major step forward.

André Horta, Benfica, Attacking Midfielder

After a handful of appearances for Vitória Setúbal in the 2014/2015 season, Horta was given a starting spot last season, and did not disappoint. Renato Sanches’s departure to Bayern Munich opened up a spot in Benfica’s midfield. Rui Vitória, always looking to youth, has turned to Horta as the next heir to the throne. If his pre-season performances are any reflection, Horta looks to have secured a spot in the team’s midfield. And should he continue his form throughout the season, Fernando Santos just may have another quality midfielder to add to his growing list.

Iuri Medeiros, Sporting CP, Winger

The Azorean attacker was terrific last season at Moreirense, on loan from Sporting CP. And before that, with Arouca. João Mário’s move to Serie A looking increasingly imminent, which will leave a major gap in the team’s attack. Medeiros feels comfortable in midfield and on the wings, but was primarily used on the right side at Moreirense, and looks a good candidate for Mário’s spot. His best attributes are his close-control, dribbling, vision and goal-scoring ability. The 22-year-old has already scored goals against FC Porto and Benfica.

Ricardo Horta, SC Braga, Winger

The 21-year-old spent two lacklustre seasons at Málaga, in which he was in and out of the squad. But he has remained a key part of Portugal’s youth squads. He has been loaned to Braga for this season, as a suitable replacement for Rafa Silva who is likely to leave this month. He should get a chance to play at A Pedreira this season. José Peseiro’s focus on attacking football should favour a player like Horta. And it should be a real pleasure to watch him play against his brother André, who joined Benfica in the summer.

Gonçalo Guedes, Benfica, Winger

Benfica coach Rui Vitória was busy signing players this summer and Guedes’s place could be under threat. New arrivals such as Franco Cervi, Andrija Živković, and André Carrillo, coupled with Salvio’s return to fitness, mean Guedes will have to convince Rui Vitória he belongs in the starting XI. But with recent news of Jonas’s injury and subsequent surgery, perhaps Guedes could find a spot in Benfica’s team outside of his usual position. Already capped twice at senior level, a solid season could see Guedes factor into Fernando Santos’s plans.

André Silva, FC Porto, Striker

Portugal’s woes in the striking department have been evident since the retirement of Seleção legend Pauleta in 2006, but the road ahead looks bright with André Silva. In last season’s Taça de Portugal final, Silva’s scored twice, the second of which an excellent last-minute overhead kick. With former first-choice striker Vincent Aboubakar faltering and many of Porto’s striking reinforcements from last season primed to leave, all signs point toward this season being Silva’s for the taking.

Honorable Mentions

Daniel Podence, Sporting, Winger
Ivo Rodrigues, Paços Ferreira, Winger
Paulo Henrique, Paços Ferreira, Left-Back
Andrezinho, Paços Ferreira, Attacking Midfielder
Gil Dias, Rio Ave, Winger
Xande Silva, Vitória Guimarães, Forward
Fabinho, Feirense, Attacking Midfielder
Ricardo Ferreira, Braga, Center Back

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

Renato Sanches - Benfica

The first half of the Primeira Liga (Liga NOS) season officially came to an end this past weekend, making it an ideal time to reflect on some of the best home-grown Revelações. Portugal is in the middle of an exciting emerging generation. And the talent is no longer primarily concentrated among the country’s “Big Three.” Here are just some of the top revelations this season from Portugal.

Rui Silva, Nacional, Goalkeeper

The 21-year-old back-stopper has been one of the most consistent performers this season in the Primeira Liga. Silva replaced the injured Gottardi at half-time in a September match against Academica and has not looked back. Since then, he has conceded only 18 goals in 13 matches, and kept his club in matches against Sporting CP and FC Porto.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

No list of promising Portuguese players is complete without the FC Porto midfield prodigy. Neves burst on to the scene last season with some impressive performances at the tender age of 17. He has continued to grow this season. In October, he became the youngest captain in the history of the Champions League. And he recently became the youngest player in club history to amass 50 senior matches for the Dragons.

João Palhinha, Moreirense FC, Defensive Midfielder

Portugal has never had a better crop of young defensive midfielders. Palhinha, who is on loan from Sporting, has been terrific this season for Miguel Leal’s club. The 20-year-old possesses a good combination of size, positioning and defensive instincts, making him ideal for the position. Palhinha and fellow Sporting loanee Iuri Medeiros have been fundamental to Moreirense’s turnaround from a poor start.

Renato Sanches, SL Benfica, Central Midfielder

The 18-year-old began the season with Benfica’s B squad but has since solidified his position in Rui Vitoria’s midfield. His individual highlight was a brilliant 40-yard strike against Academica in December. He has also not looked out of place against tougher competition in the Champions League. And the most telling statistic, Benfica has won nine of the ten league matches Sanches has played this season. The only blemish was a scoreless draw against União da Madeira.

Diogo Jota, Paços de Ferreira, Winger

The talented teenager has made a major impact for Paços since his debut in the second-half of last season. Jota has scored five goals and created another six, in 16 matches this season. He has formed a good partnership with Bruno Moreira. And together, they have propelled the club to fifth-place. It seems like Jota is destined to move on to a bigger club this summer. Benfica are said to be very interested.

Honorable Mention

Miguel Silva, Vitória de Guimarães, Goalkeeper
Nélson Semedo, SL Benfica, Right-Back
Rúben Semedo, Vitória Setúbal, Centre Back/Midfielder
André Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Attacking Midfielder
Iuri Medeiros, Moreirense FC, Midfielder/Winger
Gonçalo Guedes, SL Benfica, Winger
Gelson Martins, Sporting CP, Winger

Dani Osvaldo FC Porto

Sporting and FC Porto received most of the headlines this weekend after resounding victories in match-day seven of the Primeira Liga season. Both clubs share top spot in the table with 17 points each.

After a famous victory against former manager Jose Mourinho and Chelsea during the week, the Dragões trounced Belenenses 4-0 at home on Sunday. After a scoreless first-half, summer signing Jesús Corona put Porto ahead just after the break. Brahimi, Osvaldo and Marcano rounded out the scoring.

Manager Julen Lopetegui credited his club’s mental strength for the victory.

“We deserved to be winning at half-time, but couldn’t score, despite our superiority, as we missed too many shots. We had several situations to score, played well, facing a team with good players, and we were waiting on the perfect timing. The team had mentality, was capable of working and winning,” he said.

The win may have come at a price. Team captain and defensive-stalwart Maicon may be on the sidelines for a few weeks after leaving the match in the first-half with a thigh injury.

Sporting followed up a disappointing 1-1 draw against Beşiktaş in the Europa League, with a convincing 5-1 win against Vitória Guimarães at Alvalade. Islam Slimani scored a hat-trick, with Teo Gutiérrez and Adrien Silva scoring the other two. It may have been Sporting’s most complete performance of the season.

William Carvalho made his first appearance at Alvalade after returning from a leg injury and looked to be in top form.

“Yes, this performance was a good response. We have worked hard, despite the problems,” he said.

“The objective is to play well and win. Now we have to work hard and think about the next match.”

Last year’s champions Benfica had their match against União de Madeira postponed because of thick fog. A new date has not been announced.

Outside the ‘Big Three,’ Rio Ave is the biggest surprise so far. Pedro Martins’ club sit alone in third position. Braga could only manage a scoreless draw against Arouca but still sit comfortably in fourth position. Benfica rounds off the top five, with one game at hand.

Moreirense and Academica currently sit in the relegation zone with three points each. Academica won their first match of the season beating Marítimo 1-0. Moreirense played Tondela to a 1-1 draw and remain the only club without a league victory this season.

The Liga NOS will now go on a two-week hiatus for the international break and the Portuguese Cup. On 25 October, Benfica and Sporting will clash at the Estádio da Luz. FC Porto will also play Braga.

André Carrillo and Sporting heading for a split?

It looks like André Carrillo is on his way out of Sporting. The Peruvian had not dressed for the club for several matches because of on-going contract negotiations.

Last week, the drama turned into a full-fledged saga when the club announced that they had formally suspended the player. They also released a 32-point press release detailing alleged acts of impropriety by Carrillo and his representatives.

The club accused Carrillo and his people of deliberately sabotaging negotiations. Sporting also accused the player and his representatives of trying to force his way out of the club, among other allegations.

Carrillo was signed by the club in 2011 from Alianza Lima. He was one of the very few good signings by Luís Godinho Lopes. Current club president Bruno de Carvalho spoke about Carrillo on the TVI program Prolongamento on Monday.

“Carrillo told me that he no longer wanted to play for Sporting because he was no longer committed to us,” he said.

“We tried to re-sign Carrillo for a year and a half. In football, there are problems that just cannot be resolved.”

Carrillo’s contract expires this summer which means the club will have to sell him during the January transfer window.

Cristiano Ronaldo hits a milestone and surpasses Raul

It seems like every week Cristiano Ronaldo is breaking a new record. This past week, the Portugal captain scored his 500th career goal and also surpassed Real Madrid legend Raul to become the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Ronaldo was put in alone by Isco in the first-half of Real Madrid’s Champions League match against Malmö FF. And he made no mistake. Late in the second half, he flicked Lucas Vázquez’s pass into the goal, as Real won 2-0.

It has been a long, remarkable journey for the boy from Madeira. He scored his first senior goal for Sporting on 7 October, 2002 against Moreirense. Back then, he was just another in a line of supremely-talented wingers coming out of the club’s Alcochete academy.

So much has happened since then. His transfer to Manchester United, Euro 2004, Germany 2006, Moscow 2008, Real Madrid, Euro 2012, Lisbon 2014 and that special night in Stockholm. Not to mention the three Ballon d’Or.

It is hard to believe that he will ever slow down. Although, his game has changed since he turned 30 last year. Ronaldo seems to have lost the ability to score from free-kicks. And he no longer scores from distance as he once did.

But, his decline appears to be a long way off. Although, he appears to be evolving into a one-touch goalscorer, his production is not dropping. And given his well-known commitment to fitness and his desire, Ronaldo should be able to play at a very high level for several more seasons.

Seleção to face Denmark on Thursday in Braga

Portugal will play Denmark in Braga on Thursday. The Seleção sit first in Group I with 15 points. A draw will be enough to qualify for Euro 2016 next summer. They will travel to Serbia after the match.

“It is true that we are close to qualifying, but we still have a lot to do. It will be two difficult matches [against Denmark and Serbia],” Portugal manager Fernando Santos said.

“Denmark is a club of great quality, both collectively and individually. For Denmark, this is a final because it is their last match of the group. We need to approach this match as a final as well.”

Benfica right-back Nelson Semedo received his first senior call-up. João Moutinho, Tiago and Fábio Coentrão were selected after sitting out previous matches because of injuries. Luis Neto and Rafa Silva also return to the squad.

William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, Andre Gomes, Pepe, Paulo Oliveira and Vieirinha were left out because of injuries or fitness issues. Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was originally selected but was forced to withdraw after coming down with gastroenteritis. Dinamo Zagreb’s Eduardo was named in his place.

Portugal’s U21 squad will continue their Euro 2017 qualifying campaign this week against Hungary, before facing Greece on Tuesday. Rui Jorge’s squad beat Albania 6-1 in their first qualifying match last month. However, they will have to make do without André Silva who is out with an ankle injury.

Carlos Mane Sporting

Portugal’s performance at the FIFA U20 World Cup and UEFA U21 European Championships strengthened the perception that Portuguese football is on the ascendency once again.

Andre Gomes, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva are just some of the players that have established themselves over the past few seasons. The editors of FutebolFactory.com and PortugalFutbol.net have compiled a list of ten players who they think could make a big breakthrough this season.

José Sá, Maritmo, Goalkeeper

The 22-year-old was excellent this summer at the U21 UEFA European Championships as Portugal’s first-choice backstopper. He conceded only one goal in five match in the tournament before losing to Sweden on penalties in the final.

Sá has only appeared in 11 matches with the senior squad over the last two seasons and has spent most of his time with Maritmo B in the Segunda Liga. Manager Ivo Vieira could turn to Sá if last season’s first-choice Romain Salin falters.

Tobias Figueiredo, Sporting, Centre Back

Long touted as one of Sporting’s finest youth prospects, Tobias Figueiredo began to establish himself in the second-half of last season with the club. From January forward, Tobias managed 12 league starts, which helped him earn a place on the Portuguese squad for the U-21 European Championships.

This season, Tobias faces strong competition at Sporting, now that the club has purchased experienced defenders Naldo and Ewerton. However, he could manage to earn some more playing time under Jorge Jesus, especially in Cup competitions.

João Cancelo, Valencia, Right Back

A product of Benfica’s youth academy, João Cancelo joined Valencia on loan from the Portuguese club last summer. After playing a back-up role in his first season, Valencia purchased Cancelo for €15 million this summer. This season, it remains unclear Cancelo will play a bigger role at the club.

An attacking full-back by trade, Cancelo is just as comfortable going forward and attacking as he is in one-on-one defensive situations. The 21-year-old was also part of Portugal’s U-21 European Championships squad this summer.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

It was a dream start to his career for the then 17-year-old last season. He earned a start in Porto’s first match of the season, scoring a goal against Marítimo, becoming the youngest goalscorer in history for the club. He made his first appearance in the Champions league just days later.

However, the emergence of Casemiro and a serious knee injury in December threw his season off course. The 18-year-old has talent in abundance and should have the opportunity to play a bigger role with the club this season.

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

Last summer, Teixeira was impressive during Benfica’s pre-season, and all signs were pointing towards then-coach Jorge Jesus giving the midfielder a place in the first team. Teixeira was instead relegated to the B team, where he still managed to be one of their top performers.

With Rui Vitoria now in charge at the Luz, it is unclear where Teixeira will fit in the pecking order. Teixeira has been a key figure for Benfica B for over two seasons now, and a promotion to the senior team cannot be far away.

Carlos Mané, Sporting, Winger

The 21-year old has been part of the supporting cast for the club over the last few season. Last year, he managed an impressive nine goals in 41 appearances for Sporting in all competitions. Nani’s departure leaves the door open for Mané to establish himself this season.

Mané comes from a long tradition of skilled wingers that have emerged from the club’s famed academy at Alcochete. He could play on both flanks and has developed a reputation for scoring quality goals. He should flourish in Jorge Jesus’ preferred 4-4-2 formation which will allow him more freedom to drift inside.

Bruma, Real Sociedad (On loan from Galatasaray), Winger

An exciting prospect who burst on to the scene with some electrifying displays for Sporting in 2013. A contract dispute eventually lead to him moving to Turkish club Galatasaray that summer. Two full season’s gone and the talented winger has yet to live up to his immense potential.

A move to La Liga club Real Sociedad could be exactly what he needs. Manager David Moyes developed the reputation for nurturing young talent during his days with Everton. And the Basque club should improve on their 12th place finish from a year ago after some quality signings.

Gonçalo Guedes, Benfica, Winger

Another supremely talented winger. The 18-year-old made his first appearances for Benfica last season but spent most of the campaign with the B squad where he was named the Breakthrough Player of the Season in Portugal’s Segunda Liga.

With Eduardo Salvio facing a long recovery time because of a knee injury, Guedes could see more playing time this season. Benfica’s new manager Rui Vitoria spent some time with the club’s youth academy in the past and could give Guedes and others a chance to flourish.

Ivan Cavaleiro, AS Monaco, Winger

Cavaleiro spent last season on loan at struggling La Liga side Deportivo but still managed more than a few positive moments. He was named to the Team of the Tournament at the U-21 UEFA European Championships and soon after signed with Ligue 1 club AS Monaco.

The club is managed by former Braga and Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim, and boasts several Portuguese internationals which should help Cavaleiro adjust to the new situation. Early signs suggest that Jardim has every intention of making the winger an integral part of his Monaco machine.

Gonçalo Paciência, Académica de Coimbra (On loan from FC Porto), Striker

For some time, the Portuguese National Team has been seriously lacking a quality striker. Since the retirement of Pauleta, Portugal has used several players with Hélder Postiga being the only one to provide any real consistency. Paciência offers the best long-term hope.

He will spent this season on loan at Primeira Liga club Académica, his first full season in top flight. Many Portuguese fans will be watching intently to see how he performs. If he can replicate some of his performances at youth level where he is a prolific goalscorer, Portugal may just resolve their striker conundrum.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

FUTEBOL - Joao Mario jogador do Sporting, no jogo Sporting vs Benfica referente a 20ª jornada da I Liga 2014/15, realizado no Estadio Jose de Alvalade, em Lisboa. Domingo 8 de Fevereiro de 2015. (ASF/RUI RAIMUNDO)

João Mário Was One of the Best Young Players in the Portuguese League This Season

In the summer, the editors of Futebol Factory and PortugalFutbol.net put together a list of 10 players that could make a positive impact at club level for the first time. Now that the season has finished, we decided to assess each player’s progress and assign a final grade.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

Valencia’s impressive season has in part been because of the team’s impressive defensive record. Los Che conceded only 32 goals in 2014-15. At the heart of this impressive defense were Nicolás Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi, meaning Ruben Vezo only managed seven league appearances for Valencia this term. Still, Vezo impressed when given the chance to play, and with Otamendi touted to make a big-money move away from Valencia this summer, Vezo may get his chance next season. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

Guerreiro had a positive first season in the French top flight a year ago but he has taken a big leap this season. The 21-year-old was moved to the left side of midfield at Lorient by manager Sylvain Ripoll early in the season which seemed to unleash his potential. He made his debut for the senior Seleção in November against Armenia and scored a late winner at Old Trafford against Argentina just days later. He scored seven goals this season in Ligue 1. He seems destined to move to a bigger club this summer. Grade: A-

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

The young midfielder was very impressive during Benfica’s summer tour and it appeared likely that he was going to play a role this season. However, it just did not happen. One solitary appearance in the Champions League in December is all he could manage for the main squad. Still, he was an important figure for Benfica B and remains one of the club’s best young prospects. Grade: D+/Incomplete

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

From Benfica benchwarmer to one of the hottest commodities around. Attacking midfielder André Gomes was a central figure in Valencia’s resurgence this season, helping them qualify for the Champions League. He scored his first goal of the season in September against Getafe and was also named to La Liga’s Team of the Month. He is now drawing interest from Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United Grade: A

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The next big thing to come out of Sporting’s academy. João Mário had a positive loan spell at Vitória Setúbal a year ago but still began this season as André Martins’ understudy. In late September, with Martins faltering, Sporting manager Marco Silva gave João Mário a start against Gil Vicente. He created two goals in the 4-0 victory and remained first-choice from then on. He has also become a permanent member of the senior Seleção. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

At only 20 years of age, Bruno Fernandes already has two seasons of top-flight football behind him. He followed up his impressive debut season with a more underwhelming one this time around. Fernandes recorded five goals and five assists in 24 matches last season. This term, he only managed two goals and one assist in 29 matches. Fernandes still managed to score an impressive goal against Inter Milan in a Serie A match in December but faltered in the second half of the season as his opportunities became more limited. He will certainly be looking to improve next season. Grade: B-

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Tozé joined Estoril on a two-season loan deal from FC Porto at the beginning of this season, and has since hit the ground running. After scoring 21 goals from midfield last season for Porto B, many were wondering if Tozé could manage such an impact in the Portuguese top flight. Although not as prolific as last season, he established himself as one of Estoril’s most vital attacking players. With another season likely at Estoril, we can expect more of the same from Tozé. Grade: B+

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It was not a very positive first half of the season for Marcos Lopes. He struggled with a nagging hamstring injury that saw him miss more than two months. However, he returned in January with a renewed sense of purpose. He had a memorable match against French giants Lyon in February, scoring a goal with a brilliant left-footed strike that gave Lille the 2-1 victory. He is currently on duty with Portugal at the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Grade: B+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

Bruma suffered a serious knee injury last season which saw him missed 6 months of action. He began this season healthy but soon fell out of favour with then manager Cesare Prandelli. A string of bad results led to Prandelli’s eventual sacking. When new coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu took charge, Bruma returned to his spot in Galatasaray’s starting XI. Since then, Bruma has performed admirably, but has yet to truly reach the heights many expect of him. Grade: B+

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Málaga’s 20 year-old winger has enjoyed a largely successful first season at the Spanish club. After arriving from Vitória Setúbal in the summer, Horta had to adapt quickly to the more challenging La Liga. Despite some impressive performances in the Copa del Rey and La Liga, Horta’s season was that of adjustment, and not of consistency. He saw less action in the second half of the season when Málaga began challenging for a Europa League position. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

The 22-year-old has steadily rebuilt his career after moving to Paços from FC Porto last season. He was the driving force behind a much improved side this season. And he captained Portugal’s Under-21 squad to qualification for the European Championships. A move back to Porto is now in the cards. Grade: B+

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco, Attacking Midfielder

The 20 year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise over the last year. His loan to AS Monaco caught many by surprise last summer, but the left-footed maestro has thrived under former Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim. He made his senior Seleção debut against Cape Verde in March, and he should be one of the players to watch at this summer’s U-21 European Championships. Grade: A

Hernâni, Vitória Guimarães/FC Porto, Winger

After a stellar first half of the season for Vitória Guimarães, Hernâni earned a move to FC Porto in January. Though he found playing time at a premium at Porto, Hernâni did manage some impressive, if brief, cameos. Next season, Hernâni will certainly hope to win a starting position and rediscover his terrific form. Grade: B

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

After breaking into the Sporting Lisbon setup last season, Carlos Mané enjoyed a successful follow-up season this term. Competing with Nani and André Carrillo, Mané still managed to make a positive impact primarily as a substitute. With Nani’s expected departure from Sporting this summer, Mané could establish himself as a regular starter next season. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

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Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

There is no question that the Portuguese national team is in a transitional phase. The Selecção’s group stage exit in Brazil just reinforced the claim that the squad will look very different in the next few years. There has perhaps never been a time in recent memory when the country has had so many promising young players.

In the summer, we chose ten that we thought would be able to make a positive impact at club level this season. Since then, four of these players have made their debuts for the senior Selecção, to go along with André Gomes and Bruma who had been selected before. This article will look at the progress of each player and will assign them a grade based on their development so far.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

The 20-year-old started this season in positive form, starting Valencia’s first five league matches. But since then, he lost his place to the more experienced Shkodran Mustafi. The positive play of former Porto defender Nicolas Otamendi has also made it difficult for him to find playing time. He still looked confident and demonstrated some good awareness in limited action. The youngster has a very bright future but needs to continue to develop his game. For now, he sits and waits. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

The 21-year-old has continued to add to his impressive reputation. Fernando Santos gave him his first start in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Armenia, where he was excellent. But that was just the beginning. In the next game against Argentina, he scored deep into injury time with a brilliant header that brought Old Trafford to its feet and gave Portugal the win. At club level, he has been used primarily as a left midfielder, a role that he has performed well. He has notched five goals so far for Lorient. Grade: A

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

Despite some impressive performances in the pre-season, Texieira has not been given many first-team opportunities, even with the injuries Benfica have had this season. Teixeira has been limited to Benfica’s B team, where he remains one of the top performers. That said, Teixeira has continued to push closer to the main squad throughout this season. And with Jorge Jesus’s renewed youth policy, it should only be a matter of time before Teixeira gets his chance. He might have to go out on loan before that happens. Grade: C-

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

Gomes’ surprise move to Valencia this summer left many people wondering if it was the best thing for his development. At that point, he had barely been able to hold a steady position at Benfica. But the midfielder has established himself as the driving force behind Los Che. The 21-year-old appears to be thriving under Portuguese manager Nuno Espírito Santo, and his club is challenging for a Champions League position for next season. He was named to the Team of the Month for September as well. Grade: A+

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The youngster has been one of the best revelations this season in the Primeira Liga. After beginning the season primarily as a bench player, Sporting manager Marco Silva handed him his first start in a 4-0 victory against Gil Vicente on September 21st, pitching in two assists. Soon after, Fernando Santos came calling. He made his Selecção debut against France as a second half substitute in October. He has demonstrated in recent matches that he needs to work on his consistency. But there is no question that João Mário has the talent to be an elite player and he is well on his way. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

20-year-old Bruno Fernandes has continued to thrive in Serie A this season. Under new manager Andrea Stramaccioni, he has continued to improve his game despite than necessarily being a regular starter. He scored a memorable goal in December against Inter Milan, delivering a snap-shot that fooled Samir Handanovič. Udinese would go on to win the match 2-1. Like João Mário, Fernandes is a playmaker with excellent vision and an innate ability to read the game. But like many young players, consistency and discipline has been a problem. Grade: B

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Another supremely-talented attacking midfielder, the 22-year-old Tozé has had a positive start to life in the Portuguese top-flight. Under José Couceiro, he has been an integral part of the Estoril attack. Couceiro has primarily used Tozé at his natural position in the middle behind the striker. He has demonstrated the vision, technical skill and awareness that made him a force in Porto’s B squad last season. He still remains far from a finished product. He still commits far too many fouls and is occasionally wasteful in possession. Grade: B

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It has not been the most positive first-half of the season for ‘Rony’ Lopes. The 18-year-old was starting to solidify a place in the Lille squad when he suffered a hamstring injury against Bastia back on 27 September.He made his return against Saint Etienne on November 1st, even providing a clever assist on a goal by Michael Frey in the first-half. However, Lopes aggravated his injury and came off just before the half. He returned to action recently after missing more than two months and has appeared in only 10 Ligue 1 matches so far. If he remains healthy, Lopes has the biggest potential for improvement of any player on the list. Grade: C+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

The beginning of this season was filled with nothing but uncertainty for Bruma. He was coming off a serious knee injury but was healthy again. Galatasaray had a new manager in Cesare Prandelli. Things have not gone as Bruma hoped, with Prandelli favoring other players. His lack of playing time coincided with poor results at Galatasaray, and Prandelli was sacked in late November, after only managing six wins in sixteen games. Under Prandelli’s replacement Hamza Hamzaoglu, Bruma has been playing much more often, and his season appears to be back on track. Grade: B-

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Horta joined Malaga from Vitoria Setubal in the summer after an impressive 2013/2014 season. After a positive start to the season, his performances began to trail off somewhat. Since then, manager Javi Gracia has primarily used him as an impact sub. He scored a wonderful goal in the first leg of his team’s Spanish Cup tie against Levante in early January, and followed it up with another goal in the return leg. It is clear that Ricardo Horta needs more time to adjust to life in La Liga, but the signs are mostly positive, with plenty of room for growth. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Josué Sá, Vitória Guimarães, Central Defender

After starting this season with his club’s B team, Josué Sá made the step up to the first team in October. Playing alongside the impressive João Afonso, he has figured more and more as the season has progressed. He has made big strides and has plenty of room for growth. Grade: B

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

Rúben Neves’s performances in the pre-season were impressive enough to earn him a start in Porto’s first match of the season against Maritimo. He made the most of it, scoring a goal to become the youngest player to do so for his club. However, a dip in form in in November, combined with a knee injury means that he is no longer first-choice. Grade: B+

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

He had a positive first season on a bad Paços de Ferreira club a year ago. This season under Paulo Fonseca, he has thrived in a more withdrawn, defensive-minded role in midfield. He is currently one of the club’s most important players and has demonstrated that he is on the right path in his development. Grade: B

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco (On Loan from Benfica), Attacking Midfielder

Originally not expected to play a major role at the French club, the 20-year-old has won over the confidence of Leonardo Jardim. He played in the Champions League. And helped the U-21 squad overcome Holland in a playoff to qualify for the European Championships, scoring an impressive goal in the second-leg. Grade: B+

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

Play time has not come easy for the 20-year-old this season especially with the arrival of Nani. However, he has made the most of it, scoring several crucial goals including an injury time winner against Arouca early in the season. He also scored a memorable goal in the U-21 playoffs for Portugal dribbling past a defender. Grade: B-

Hernâni, Vitória de Guimarães, Winger

He has come out of complete obscurity to become one of Vitória de Guimarães’ most important players this season. He was named the best young player in October and November and seems destined to play for one of the ‘Big Three’ in the future. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

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Adrien Silva/Sporting

Adrien Silva/Sporting

Portugal’s group stage exit at this summer’s World Cup further highlighted the need to inject some youthful vigor into the squad. But it was their Euro 2016 qualifying stage defeat to minnows Albania that has proven to be a watershed moment.

The loss precipitated the removal of Paulo Bento as manager. But the squad has looked disjointed, unmotivated and generally lacking in new ideas for some time now. Newly-appointed Fernando Santos will be entrusted with the task of getting this talented group of individuals winning again.

A Selecção is still blessed with a reliable core of veterans in Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, João Moutinho and Nani. And for the first time in several years, the country is producing a plethora of promising youngsters that are just beginning to emerge as viable options.

The problem is that many of these young players are not ready to make the big leap into international football. This is at least partly due to the fact that several Portuguese clubs have neglected academy players in recent years. But there are several promising Portuguese young players that could step in and make an immediate impact during this qualifying campaign.

Rúben Vezo, Centre Back, Valencia FC

The 20-year-old defender first came to prominence last season with Primeira Liga club Vitória Setúbal. After less than a dozen matches with the club, Vezo was signed by Spanish giants Valencia. After moving over to La Liga in January, Vezo only made a few appearances. But this season, Vezo is getting a chance to start under Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo and has done well so far.

Centre-back will be a particular area of concern for Fernando Santos. Of the four that Paulo Bento took to Brazil, only Zenit’s Luis Neto was under the age of 30. But Portugal does have many promising youngsters in the position. Liverpool’s Tiago Ilori should receive more playing time while on loan at Bordeaux. Nacional’s Miguel Rodrigues and Sporting’s Paulo Oliveira are promising as well. But it is Ruben Vezo who appears to be the most ready to step in.

Cédric Soares, Right-Back, Sporing Lisbon

A member of the Portugal squad that lost in the U-20 World Cup finals to Brazil in 2011. Since then, the Sporting product has had a successful loan spell at Academica. And he has established himself as a regular starter at right-back for Sporting. Cedric has received one selection for A Selecção but is yet to receive a cap. A rib injury likely prevented him from being selected for the Albania match. Instead, Paulo Bento went with Valencia’s Joao Pereira, who has fallen out of favour at Valencia.

It is reasonable to think that Cedric will begin to see regular selection soon. Pereira barely played in the pre-season and appears unlikely to break into the Valencia line-up anytime soon. Benfica’s Silvio is still recovering from a broken leg. While Andre Almeida is reliable, but does not provide the offensive prowess that Cedric does. He appears to be the natural choice right now.

William Carvalho, Defensive Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

Paulo Bento’s decision to go with Miguel Veloso in the holding midfield position at the World Cup was emblematic of everything that was wrong with A Selecção in Brazil. Bento finally handed Carvalho a start in the final group match against Ghana. Carvalho was named the Best Revelation in the Primeira Liga last season. And some felt that he was unfairly passed over for Player of the Year.

Carvalho was linked with a move to several big Premier League clubs this summer, but remains at Sporting Lisbon for now. He is often compared with former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira. And their styles are not dissimilar. Although not blessed with much pace, Carvalho relies on positioning and an impressive ability to read the game. He is good in the air and has also showed an ability to deliver good long balls.

Adrien Silva, Central Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

The Sporting Lisbon midfielder has been selected twice for Portugal but never received a cap under Paulo Bento. The French-born Silva has been one of Sporting’s most consistent performers over the last few seasons. At 25-years-old, he is the oldest player on this list. However, he also happens to be the most ready to step in and make a difference with A Selecção .

Silva may not have the offensive up-side of other young Portuguese midfielders like Marcos Lopes, Andre Gomes and Bernardo Silva. However, what he can offer is experience and a better overall game. The Sporting midfielder has been playing consistently for several years now. He appears set to inherit Raul Meireles’ position at the heart of Portugal’s midfield. A box-to-box midfielder, he is primarily known for his tackling ability and energy.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray

The former Sporting Lisbon winger did not have the best first season in Turkey. He struggled to find playing time with then Galatasaray manager Roberto Mancini. He would eventually suffer a serious knee injury in January that would rule him out for months. But Bruma has had a positive start to this season, and finally appears set for his breakout campaign.

Bruma will find it difficult to earn a starting position with Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani holding down Portugal’s two spots on the wing. But he could be used as a substitute, particularly in the later stages of the game. Bruma has demonstrated at youth level that he has excellent finishing ability. With Portugal’s striker situation far from being resolved, Bruma could provide some much needed goals.

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Marcos Lopes Will Play With Ligue 1 club OSC Lille This Season

Marcos Lopes Will Play With Ligue 1 club OSC Lille This Season

Portugal is once again producing quality young footballers at a scale not seen since the ‘Golden Generation’ that emerged in the late 1990s.

But at no time has there been more Portuguese youngsters playing abroad in Europe’s top leagues. Only three of the ten players on this list will be playing in Portugal this season.

Please note, this list includes only players that have yet to establish themselves as national team players but who we believe can conceivably do so during Euro 2016 qualifying. Both Bruma and André Gomes have received call-ups but have yet to establish themselves as regular players.

Here now is a list of 10 Portuguese young stars to watch this season.

Ruben Vezo, Central Defender, Valencia FC

Last season was probably the best debut season Ruben Vezo could have asked for. He was definitively promoted to Vitória de Setúbal’s first team after two successful seasons with the club’s under-19 side. And it only took him half a season to catch the eye of La Liga giants Valencia. After making 12 appearances for Vitória de Setúbal , the central defender was off to Spain. Used primarily as a backup at Valencia for the rest of the season, Vezo still managed to appear eight times, scoring once.

This season, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo, Vezo should play a more prominent role, especially considering Ricardo Costa and Jeremy Mathieu have left the club. Vezo will now compete with Nicolas Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi for playing time, two well-established internationals. This is no easy task, but Vezo has the tools to develop into a solid defender. And at only 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to reach that potential.

Raphaël Guerreiro , Left-Back, FC Lorient

Having been born and raised in France, it could be said that Raphaël Guerreiro is a bit different from other players on this list. Born to a French mother and a Portuguese father, Guerreiro’s allegiances thus far lie with Portugal, despite never having played in the Portuguese league. He is already an established first-team player at French side Lorient. Despite having played only one season in top-flight, Guerreiro is already viewed as one of the most promising left-backs in Ligue 1.

It appears that little will change this season, with many touting him for another good campaign. With another successful season under his belt, larger clubs will surely come knocking for Guerriero’s services. He has reportedly drawn interest from Premier League clubs West Ham and Liverpool . If he can manage to stay healthy, Raphael Guerreiro could be the subject of a bidding war next summer.

André Gomes, Midfielder, Valencia CF

The 21-year-old midfielder began making a name for himself in Benfica’s reserve squad with some dominant performances at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. He would make his senior debut with the club that season in a Portuguese Cup match against Freamunde, scoring a goal in a 4-0 victory. His performances would earn him some playing time in the Champions League as well.

Gomes has exceptional technical ability and is versatile as well. He played in defensive midfield last season with Benfica, but his attributes are better suited for an attacking role. After being heavily linked with a move to the Premier League in January 2014, his rights were sold to an investment fund for €15 million. Gomes will be part of a resurgent Valencia side this season.

João Teixeira , Midfielder, Benfica

Few would have expected João Teixeira to have been as involved in Benfica’s pre-season as he has been, playing mainly as an anchor man in the midfield. Teixeira made 28 appearances for Benfica’s B team last season, but only 16 of those were starts. Still only 20-years-old, Teixeira has been a welcome surprise in Benfica’s otherwise underwhelming pre-season.

With the team’s first-choice holding midfielder, Ljubomir Fejsa out injured for the foreseeable future, Teixeira is now creating competition for Ruben Amorim. Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has a history of nurturing young talent, as he did with Andre Gomes. And should Teixeira be given a first-team role this season, look for big things.

João Mário, Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

João Mário has long been viewed as a top Portuguese prospect. The midfielder has been at Sporting since he was 11-years-old, but has only managed one first team appearance so far. After spending the entire 2012-2013 season playing for Sporting’s B side, João Mário was loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga outfit Vitória de Setúbal for the second half of last season. He immediately earned a regular place on the team and managed to make 15 league appearances.

His performances were enough to earn him the ‘Young Player of the Month’ award for January and February, ahead of the likes of William Carvalho, Ricardo Horta, and Bebe. João Mário was recalled to the Sporting senior squad this summer and he appears to be in contention for a starting position. His work this pre-season has not gone unnoticed. Former Sporting midfielder Luis Vidigal delivered a glowing recommendation for the player in a recent interview. ‘ It is only a matter of time before Marco Silva realizes the value of João Mário,’ Vidigal said.

Bruno Fernandes, Attacking Midfielder, Udinese Calcio

Unlike most players on this list, Bruno Fernandes never played for one of the ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football. In fact, the Udinese midfielder never even played for a club in Portugal’s top division. The former Boavista youth player accepted a modest offer from Italian club Novara in 2012. He has adjusted well to the Italian game, helping Novara to promotion the following season and earning a move to Udinese last summer.

Fernandes started last season in Udinese’s reserve squad, but eventually earned his way into the starting line-up. He impressed with his vision, technical skill and creativity, playing mainly in the ‘Number 10’ position behind the striker. Fernandes would make 24 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals. And he is finally receiving some recognition in his home country, having been selected for the U-19 and U-20 youth squads.

Tozé, Attacking Midfielder, Estoril-Praia

A supremely-gifted attacking midfielder who will be officially on-loan for the next two seasons at Estoril. The 21-year-old is a graduate of FC Porto’s youth academy and has been a regular player for Portugal at every youth level. He was dominant last season playing for Porto’s reserve squad in the Segunda Liga, scoring 21 goals in 40 appearances.

As well as having an eye for goal, Tozé has a well-rounded game. He is technically skilled and is versatile as well. He could play in the centre of the pitch, as well on the wings. He should receive more playing time with Estoril, who will be playing in the Europa League this season. Current manager José Couceiro, did an excellent job with a young squad at Vitória de Setubal last season. Tozé appears ready to make the next step.

Marcos Lopes, Attacking Midfielder, Lille OSC

Perhaps the most talked-about teenager in world football. Marcos Lopes first made a name for himself as a Benfica youth player, before leaving for Manchester City in 2011. He would score in his first ever appearances for The Citizens in a January 2013 FA Cup match against Watford, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. He continued his dominant performances for Manchester City’s youth squad.

Lopes played for Portugal this summer at the U-19 UEFA Championships, helping his country to the final where they eventually lost to Germany. An attacking midfielder, with exceptional technical ability and vision, Lopes feels most comfortable on the left side of the pitch. His style of play has often been compared to Ronaldinho. The 18-year-old will spend this season on loan at Ligue 1 club Lille.

Ricardo Horta, Winger, Málaga CF

19-year-old Ricardo Horta was one of the top revelations last season in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The supremely talented winger is a former Benfica youth player, who moved south to Vitória Setúbal in 2011. He started playing regularly for the club last season, eventually helping them finishing a better than expected seventh in the league table. Horta would score seven goals for the club along the way.

It came as no surprise when La Liga club Málaga signed him this summer. Horta has not wasted any time impressing his new fan base. He scored a beautiful long-range goal in the pre-season against Australian club Perth Glory in late July. And he has dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, making him one of the top young players to watch this season in La Liga.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray S.K.

Once hailed as ‘Portugal’s next big thing,’ Bruma’s career has stalled due to a serious knee injury sustained last January. The timing for the winger’s injury could not have been worse. He was just beginning to find his feet at Galatasaray with a series of positive performances in both the Turkish league and the Champions League.

Bruma was selected to the national team for the first time in October 2013, just a few months before his injury. Any hopes he had of representing his country at the World Cup were all but finished. But Bruma is now healthy and back playing football. He had a positive pre-season, which is something that his new manager Cesare Prandelli should take note of. At only 19-years-old, Bruma already has the tools to become an elite player and soon.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

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110

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.