Posts Tagged ‘Valencia’

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.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

PLAYER PROFILE: Sporting Lisbon’s Adrien Silva Is Finally Living Up To His Potential

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Helder-Postiga-Portugal_2676792

Hélder Postiga, Valencia

A much-maligned centre-forward who split this past season with Valencia and Lazio. Hélder Postiga has provided some much-needed stability at the position during the Paulo Bento era. He scored six goals during qualifying which placed him second on the team to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Postiga has been a journeyman striker, very rarely settling in at any club. He played for FC Porto at youth level but never established himself as a regular player. Since then, he has spent time with Tottenham Hotspur, Sporting Lisbon, and Real Zaragoza. The 31-year-old is coming off a poor season where he battled various injuries.

This Season: Postiga scored only three goals in 15 league appearances with Valencia. After moving to Lazio on-loan in January, injuries continued to plague him. He played in five Serie A matches with the club, scoring zero goals. Postiga scored only four goals in 28 total appearances in all competitions this season.

Fun Fact: Although often criticized for his lack of technical ability, Hélder Postiga has been a very productive striker for Portugal. His 27 goals ranks him sixth on Portugal’s all-time scoring list. His goal-to-game ratio of 0.40 is only slightly lower than Cristiano Ronaldo’s 0.45.

Hugo Almeida, Beşiktaş

Hugo Almeida has height, physical strength and is good in the air. However, the Beşiktaş striker has had a very difficult time replicating his club form with the national team. He has scored only 17 goals in 54 matches for Portugal.

Almeida is also a product of FC Porto’s youth academy. And like Hélder Postiga, he never quite established himself with the club. After several loans, Almeida signed a permanent deal with Bundesliga club Werder Bremen where he began to produce regularly. In 2011, he moved to Beşiktaş where he has continued to put up impressive goal totals.

This Season: Hugo Almeida played in 31 Turkish League matches for Beşiktaş, scoring 13 goals and producing another five assists. The club finished third in the League table.

Fun Fact: Almeida has two very prominent tattoos on each of his forearms. On the right is an image of a cross. While, he has his name and those of his wife and two kids tattooed on his left forearm.

Éder, Sporting Braga

Sporting Braga striker Éder is often touted as Portugal’s great hope at the position. However, the 26-year-old missed most of the past season and a half because of knee and foot injuries. And he has yet to reach top gear with the Seleção. Éder has yet to score in seven appearances so far.

Born in the former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau, Éder started playing football with several lower division clubs in Portugal before signing with Académica in 2008. His breakthrough season came in 2012-13, when he managed to score 13 goals in 18 matches before his season was cut short due to injury.

This Season: Éder was seriously limited this season because of injuries. He managed three goals and two assists in 13 Primeira Liga matches for Sporting Braga.

Fun Fact: Éder told Portuguese football website Maisfutebol in May 2013 that he grew up watching English football and Manchester United in particular. In an October 2012 Champions League match at Old Trafford, he brilliantly dribbled past Michael Carrick before delivering a pass to teammate Alan for Braga’s second goal.

coentrao

Fábio Coentrão, Real Madrid

A mainstay in the squad since the last World Cup, Fábio Coentrão has been one of Portugal’s most consistent players over that time. This will be the third consecutive tournament for the silver-haired left-back. He was named to the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2012.

Coentrão began playing football as a winger with hometown club Rio Ave. But while at Benfica, manager Jorge Jesus converted him to left-back. Although he has never really lived up to the expectations that came along with his €30 million transfer to Real Madrid in 2011, he has remained a valuable contributor to the club’s success.

This Season: Coentrão battled injuries for most of the first half of the season. He played in only 10 La Liga matches for the club, which includes eight starts. However, he was excellent in the knockout stages of the Champions League, helping Real Madrid win their historic La Décima.

Fun Fact: Fábio Coentrão comes from a family of fishermen and has said repeatedly that he would have likely spent his life working on boats if his football career did not work out. As a youngster, the rest of his family left for France in search of a better life, leaving young Fábio to live with his aunt.

By that time, Coentrão was already tied to Rio Ave and his parents were confident that their son would succeed. It turned out to be an excellent gamble. At Rio Ave, he would become known as the ‘Figo das Caxinas.’ He will go to Brazil with a heavy heart. His father passed away last November. Coentrão dedicated the recent La Décima win to his memory.

João Pereira, Valencia

A attack-minded right-back that is known for his combative behaviour. João Pereira has been an automatic starter since Paulo Bento became manager in 2010. He recently produced an excellent assist on Cristiano Ronaldo’s 48th international goal, which moved the Real Madrid star into first-place on Portugal’s all-time scoring list.

Pereira is a graduate of Benfica’s football academy. He has also played for Gil Vicente, Braga and Sporting Lisbon. In 2012, he moved to La Liga club Valencia where he currently plays. Pereira battled inconsistency and injuries for most of this past season.

This Season: Pereira played in 25 La Liga matches this season with Valencia, starting 23 of those matches. The club finished a very disappointing eighth in the League table. They were eliminated in the semi-finals of the Europa League by eventual winners Sevilla.

Fun Fact: Pereira is one of the few players to have played for city rivals Benfica and Sporting Lisbon. Pereira was originally an attacker with Benfica but was eventually converted to right-back.

André Almeida, Benfica

One of the surprises of the squad. André Almeida is a very reliable defender, who could play on the left and the right sides, as well as in defensive midfield. The 23-year-old received his first international cap in October 2013 in a World Cup qualifier against Israel. Almeida started the match in place of the injured João Pereira.

Almeida was seldom used throughout most of the season. However, after a number of injuries to key players, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus began utilizing him more especially during the club’s Europa League run. He will primarily be counted on to provide defensive support at the back.

This Season: André Almeida played in 10 Primeira Liga matches for Benfica. He helped the club complete the Portuguese treble, winning the League, League Cup and Portuguese Cup championships.

Fun Fact: A native of Lisbon, Almeida has played for all three of the city’s biggest clubs. Originally a Sporting Lisbon youth player, he would join Belenenses in 2007. Benfica would sign him from the second division in 2011.

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.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Portugal is quietly developing the best young talent pool since the Golden Generation of the 1990s. Futebol Factory has compiled a list of some of the best breakthrough performers from the first half of the season.

The Portuguese league continues to produce some exciting young talent. Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, in particular has stood out this season. The Angolan-born defensive midfielder has attracted interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and other top clubs with his impressive displays.

At the same time, several promising players are heading abroad and succeeding in other top leagues as well. Former Benfica defender Miguel Vitor has adjusted very well in the Greek league with PAOK. While, Nelson Oliveira has made good strides on loan this season at French club Stade Rennais.

Ligue 1, in particular is well represented on the list. Along with Oliveira, Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient defender Raphaël Guerreiro have also played well.

Right-back Diogo Figueiras has earned a starting position in La Liga with FC Sevilla, playing alongside a strong Portuguese contingent in the Andaluz club. Rúben Vezo’s strong start to the season with Vitória Setúbal has earned him a January transfer to Valencia.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from the first half of the season laid out in a 4-3-3 formation.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

The 23-year-old goalkeeper earned a starting position with Lyon this summer with his impressive displays in the pre-season. The French-born Lopes has good technique and is known for making exceptional saves. He received his first call-up to the Selecção in September.

His strong start to the season was put in serious jeopardy when he suffered a fractured vertebrae in November in a Ligue 1 match against Guingamp. Lopes was expected to be out long-term but returned less than two months after the injury. He is expected to battle with Braga’s Eduardo as Portugal’s third-choice goalkeeper behind Beto and Rui Patricio.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

One of the several bright young stars that have come out of Vitória Guimarães in recent years. A local boy, who is a product of the club’s academy, the 21-year-old centre back has been solid for Rui Vitoria’s club.

Oliveira is steadily building up a good resume. He has played in the Europa League this season. And he has been a regular for Portugal at the U21 level as well. Most recently, Oliveira was named the best young player in the Portuguese first division for the month of December.

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

One of the best stories from the first half of the season. The 24-year-old Vitor endured loan spells at Desportivo das Aves and Leicester City, in between time sitting on the bench for Benfica. He spent 2012-13 in the club’s reserve squad in the second division.

Benfica finally gave him his unconditional release this past summer. He signed with Greek club PAOK and has thrived. Vitor has scored five goals for the club already this season. Portugal is not particularly deep at central defender. A strong second half could be enough to draw Paulo Bento’s attention.

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Like Miguel Vitor, left-back Luis Martins was never really given a fair chance at Benfica. He transferred to Gil Vicente in January 2013 where he has since flourished. This season, he has started all 14 matches for the club and scored two goals.

Martins played in the Portugal squad that reached the final of the 2011 U20 World Cup. This season, he has played himself into the U21 squad as well, which is undergoing qualifying for the European Championships in 2015. At only 21 years of age, Martins will surely be a player to watch in the future.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

The 23-year-old right-back has been impressive with FC Sevilla this early season. He was bought from Paços Ferreira in the summer to back up Coke, but has since replaced the Spaniard as first-choice. Figueiras is a skilled right-back who has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.

However, he still commits too many fouls and needs to learn how to balance his offensive skills with his defensive responsibilities. This season has not gone without a blemish, he is currently serving a four-match suspension for verbally abusing a referee.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

The 21-year-old has enjoyed an unbelievable ascent over the last six months. Carvalho’s performances in the pre-season with Sporting earned him a place in the starting XI. Since then he has impressed everyone with his simple, but highly effective displays.

Carvalho was voted the best player in the Portuguese league in October, November and December. He is drawing interests from several big European clubs. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, Carvalho is at this moment, a prime candidate to be in Portugal’s squad for the World Cup.

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

The 20-year-old midfielder has been behind many of Belenenses’ attacks this season. Silva is an offensively minded midfielder who has good vision and is a good passer of the ball. He is another former Benfica youth player who left for Lisbon rivals Belenenses in 2009.

Last season, while playing in the second division, he impressed club manager Mitchell van der Gaag in pre-season and earned himself a regular starting position. He helped the team to promotion last season and has continued to grow as a player.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder was bought from second division Feirense last summer and has impressed with his skill and vision. Expected to be used as a substitute this season, Silva has played himself in to Jesualdo Ferreira’s squad. He has also been used as a winger at times.

Silva’s has enjoyed a remarkable rise in Portuguese football over the last few years. He played with little known Atlético Povoense before signing with Alverca as a youth player. Silva would make the most of his playing time in the lower divisions and earned a transfer to Feirense in 2011. This year he has been selected for Portugal’s U20 and U21 squads.

Diogo Viana, Gil Vicente, Winger

A former Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto youth player, Diogo Viana is finally getting his chance to play full-time in the Portuguese top flight this season. And he has not failed to disappoint. Viana has been the main offensive threat for a surprising Gil Vicente club this season.

According to a report in the Daily Mirror in November, Premier League clubs Everton and Swansea City are interesting in signing the Portuguese winger. He recently signed an extension with the club that expires in 2016. The deal includes a release clause of €5 million.

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

The 23-year-old was a major part of Belenenses gaining promotion back to the top division. The Angolan-born winger, who has played for Portugal’s junior squads, has been in excellent form once again this season.

He was recently rewarded with a contract extension that will see him tied to the club until 2016. The deal includes a €4 million release clause. According to O Jogo, several clubs are interested in signing the talented winger.

Nelson Oliveira, Benfica (On Loan at Rennes), Striker

The Portuguese international has followed up a disappointing loan spell in La Liga last year with a much better season with Rennes. The 22-year-old has already scored seven goals so far with the French club after getting only four all of last season with Deportivo.

The young striker still has to improve his decision-making and ability to link up with his teammates. However, he is still making a strong case to be in Portugal’s World Cup squad. Rennes has expressed interest in signing him to a permanent deal.

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SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back
Rúben Vezo, Vitória Setúbal (Transferred To Valencia), Central Defender
Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back
Filipe Ferreira, Belenenses, Left-Back
Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder
Sérgio Oliveira, FC Porto (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Central Midfielder
Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger
Paulinho, Gil Vicente, Winger
Marco Matias, Vitória Guimarães, Striker

Related Posts:

TRANSFER WINDOW: Valencia Confirm Deal For Central Defender Rúben Vezo

SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro Is Hoping To Break Into The Senior Squad

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

Scout Report – William Carvalho

Can Helder Postiga Continue To Produce For Portugal?

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

It seems like the striker position is always a major topic of conversation for Portugal before every tournament. And this time around it will be no different.

The centre-forward position has been the ‘Achilles heel’ of the Selecção for some time. In truth, Portugal has only had one world-class quality striker and that was Eusébio.

Since the country’s return to the elite of world football in 2000, Portugal have used Nuno Gomes, Pauleta, and even Brazilian-born Liedson in the position. Former PSG striker Pauleta remains tied with Cristiano Ronaldo as the country’s top scorer but his goals were often lacking during major competitions.

In Paulo Bento’s time, Hélder Postiga has produced to a certain degree although many doubts remain over whether he is good enough to produce at the highest level as well.

Behind him is the much-maligned Hugo Almeida, who has had a difficult time scoring internationally. But for the first time in several years, there is hope. Éder and Nelson Oliveira are both young and very promising.

Futebol Factory breaks down the striker position for Portugal.

Tickets Booked: Hélder Postiga (Valencia)

On The Bubble: Hugo Almeida (Beşiktaş), Éder (Sporting Braga), Nélson Oliveira (Stade Rennais)

Valencia’s Hélder Postiga has been Paulo Bento’s choice for over two years now. He still remains the most likely to play up front for Portugal in Brazil.

The problem with Postiga is that his overall game is lacking. A conventional centre-forward, Postiga is not helpful on transitions, he does not create goals, nor does he possess a strong football IQ. Plus, he is now 31-years-old and is unlikely to be an option for much longer.

What Postiga offers, however, is goals and plenty of them. Despite the limitations of his game, Postiga has still produced for his country. He has scored 27 goals in 66 matches for Portugal in total, for an average of 0,41 goals a game. He scored six goals during the previous qualifying campaign.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal-per-game average is a slightly better 0,43. Although the Portuguese captain has recorded many, many more assists. And he has been able to produce at the highest level for his country.

Another major concern is that Postiga has not had a good start to this season with Valencia. He has scored only three goals in 13 matches and has battled some injuries as well.

Beşiktaş’ Hugo Almeida has become known for missing clear-cut opportunities for the squad. Paulo Bento and his predecessor Carlos Queiroz have selected him because of a lack of options. He has scored only 17 goals in 52 matches for Portugal.

Almeida filled in for an injured Helder Postiga in the second-leg of Portugal’s playoff against Sweden. He missed an easy header in the first half. But he did deliver a neat chip pass to Cristiano Ronaldo for his second goal of the match. Reminding Selecção supporters what he could do.

Sporting Braga’s Éder is an intriguing possibility at centre-forward. He is quick on his feet, good in the air and offers a lot more than just scoring goals. He remains the most likely to replace Postiga as Portugal’s first-choice striker.

Manchester United fans may remember him from last year’s Champions League match at Old Trafford. He dribbled past Michael Carrick to feed Alan for Braga’s second goal of the match. The Red Devils would come back and win but the assist went viral.

Éder suffered a serious knee injury in February but is healthy now and is back scoring goals. He has received six caps so far and has yet to score for his country.

And then there is 22-year-old Nélson Oliveira. He is a Benfica product, who is currently on loan at Ligue 1 club Rennes. After a disappointing loan spell with Deportivo La Coruna last season, he has rebounded this year with seven goals already.

Although his game is still a work in progress. He still needs to learn when to pass or make an attempt on goal. And he needs to work on his consistency and finish. But Oliveira certainly has the potential to be a world-class striker.

Though not very quick, he is big and strong, a good header of the ball and could create opportunities as well. Oliveira is not your conventional centre-forward and is often compared to Eric Cantona and current PSG striker Edinson Cavani.

Oliveira was on the Euro 2012 squad and remains a possibility for the World Cup. But he faces a difficult task to get there.

Paulo Bento has been selecting three strikers for most of the qualifying campaign, with Cristiano Ronaldo playing in the centre of the field in late stages of the game on occasion.

Clearly, the centre-forward position will be the most difficult to predict, but once again the most interesting to watch.

Related Posts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

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

Fábio Coentrão Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Cropped/Ludovic Péron

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

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

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

Futebol Factory looks at the full back position for Portugal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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Nani At Euro 2012  Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Nani At Euro 2012 Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Cristiano Ronaldo’s inspirational performance in the two-legged playoffs against Sweden has confirmed Portugal’s place in next year’s World Cup in Brazil.

But after a poor qualifying campaign, many doubts remain over whether the Selecção could reach another semi-final.

Despite having one of the greatest players in history, it is the supporting cast that is most important to Portugal’s success. Cristiano Ronaldo will produce so long as the rest of the squad plays well around him.

That said, many established internationals who have formed the core of the Selecção in recent years have not performed to their potential, either at club level or with Portugal.

Here is a list of Portuguese players who need to improve before the World Cup.

Rui Patrício, Sporting Lisbon, Goalkeeper

Portugal’s number one goalkeeper since the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Sporting Lisbon’s Rui Patricio is an excellent shot blocker and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, usually. So far this season, however, Patricio has made some high-profile blunders.

The latest came in a Portuguese Cup match against league rivals Benfica, when Patricio let a lazy header slip in through his legs. But before that, in a crucial World Cup Qualifying match against Israel, Patricio’s careless pass lead to an equalizing goal. The match ended 1-1 and a win could have meant automatic qualification for Portugal.

But like any quality goalkeeper, Rui Patricio recovered with ease against Sweden. In the first leg in Lisbon he made a brilliant save in the first half to keep the match scoreless. In the second leg, he stopped Sebastian Larsson in close, just moments before Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first goal of the match. He also could not be blamed for the two Swedish goals. Unless his club form dips significantly, Patricio is likely to continue as Portugal’s first-choice and he needs to be solid.

João Pereira, Valencia, Right-Back

The Valencia right-back has battled injuries and struggled with his fitness so far this year. His form since the Euro 2012 has not been to the standard that many would expect either. Pereira, who only stands at 1,72m, has struggled against more physical teams like Sweden.

Benfica’s André Almeida filled in admirably for Pereira in Portugal’s final two qualifying matches, but it appears unlikely that Bento will drop Pereira any time soon. Almeida and Sporting Lisbon’s Cédric Soares are excellent options at right-back but they lack the experience of Pereira.

Miguel Veloso, Dynamo Kyiv, Defensive Midfielder

The former captain of Sporting Lisbon is a free-kick specialist who probably deserves to be on a bigger club than Dynamo Kyiv. He provided the perfect cross for Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal in Lisbon against Sweden. But the problem with Veloso is that he is not a real defensive midfielder.

The 27-year old has performed the role well but he is more naturally a midfield creator or number eight-type player. Paulo Bento uses him in defensive midfield because of the absence of a quality option in that position. Veloso lacks the tackling ability and physicality to be considered a ‘true’ defensive midfielder. However, Veloso finally has competition with the emergence of Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho.

Rúben Micael, Sporting Braga, Midfielder

The Sporting Braga midfielder has been consistently called-up to the Selecção during the Bento era, and was once first-choice. However, over the last year, Micael has not performed to a level that many would expect. Now, with the emergence of Josué, André Martins, Adrien Silva and others Micael could conceivably not be selected for the World Cup.

Sporting Braga have endured a difficult start to the season and Micael’s performances have reflected that. But there are many months before the final squad is chosen and Micael should receive some playing time in upcoming friendlies. At the highest stage, experience is important and that may just make the difference for Micael.

Raul Meireles, Fenerbahçe, Midfielder

The 30-year old midfielder has been the object of much criticism for his play since moving to Turkey a year ago. The former Porto and Liverpool midfielder has seen the offensive side of his game decline in that time. However, there is no doubt that he still brings a lot to the club.

Meireles’ main attributes are his pace, tackling ability and strength in possession. Despite no longer creating many scoring opportunities, he has continued to produce in other ways for Portugal. Like Micael, his experience is very valuable in a major tournament. It was Meireles who scored both goals in Portugal’s 2-0 aggregate victory against Bosnia to reach the World Cup in 2010. Plus, he scored the first goal in Portugal’s 7-0 group stage victory over North Korea.

Nani, Manchester United, Winger

The great paradox of Portuguese football. On the one hand, Nani is an explosive forward who has the ability to take control of a game. However, he is also wasteful, inconsistent, injury-prone and tends to make poor decisions.

He had a good Euro 2012, helping Portugal reach the semi-finals, but has since struggled to rediscover that form. He is also still trying to regain match fitness after a groin injury. However, he was given a new contract and a boost of confidence by Manchester United, raising hopes that maybe Nani will still reach the potential he demonstrated only a few years ago.

At 27-years of age, he is by no means running out of time. His career could unfold like that of Franck Ribéry, who for years struggled with injuries and inconsistency. But at this point, Nani could just as easily become the next Ricardo Quaresma. Portugal needs him to be the former and now.

Pizzi, Espanyol (On Loan From Benfica), Winger

A supremely talented forward whose rights were purchased by Benfica this summer from Atlético Madrid. The 24-year old has been in disappointing form this season on loan at La Liga club Espanyol after an impressive breakout season last year.

There does not seem to be any apparent reason why Pizzi has failed to adjust to life at the Spanish club. Manager Javier Aguirre has played him on the wings and down the middle with little success. Portugal is extremely deep on the wings and Pizzi’s spot in Brazil is in serious doubt unless he begins to produce again.

Éder, Sporting Braga, Striker

Portugal’s great hope at the centre-forward position. Éder has quick feet, is good in the air, and has excellent intelligence. He scored 13 goals in 18 League matches last year before suffering a major knee injury in a League Cup match against Benfica in March.

After missing 6 months, Éder has returned to game action in good form although he does not have much in the way of goals so far. For Éder it is important that Sporting Braga overcomes the difficulties of this early season. With Hélder Postiga ageing, Éder could conceivably be Portugal’s first-choice striker by the beginning of the World Cup.

Nélson Oliveira, Stade Rennais F.C (On Loan From Benfica), Striker

22-year old Nélson Oliveira has been impressive this season while on loan at French club Stade Rennais. He has scored seven goals in 12 league matches so far after scoring only four all of last season with Deportivo La Coruña as part of the ill-fated Portuguese experiment.

Manager Paulo Bento has shown some great faith in him, despite the difficulties often associated with a young striker. Although that patience may have run out, at least for now. In Portugal’s 1-1 draw against Israel, Oliveira drew the ire of many when he twice decided to make an attempt on goal when he should have passed the ball.

He was not called up to Bento’s squad for the two-leg playoff against Sweden. But with the centre-forward position being such a problem area for Portugal for some time now, Oliveira is likely to appear in upcoming friendlies. And he may use the recent setbacks as motivation.

Hugo Almeida, Beşiktaş J.K, Striker

The 29-year old striker has been a constant presence in the Portugal squad for several years now despite never really establishing himself in the starting XI. Almeida has never managed to replicate his club form with the Selecção. Currently he has only 17 goals in 52 matches for Portugal.

Almeida has become known for missing clear-cut opportunities while playing for Portugal. He did provided a perfect chip pass to Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal’s second goal in Stockholm to help Portugal qualify reminding everyone what he could do. And he does have the ability to link up well with his teammates something Helder Postiga’s game lacks.

But Postiga produces goals at a far more consistent level for Portugal despite the limitations of his game. With Nélson Oliveira and Éder emerging, Almeida needs to start producing.

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PLAYER PROFILE: Portugal’s Striker of the Future Éder

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19-year old central defender Rúben Vezo will join La Liga giants Valencia in January, the Spanish club confirmed on Monday.

The Portuguese defender was in Spain on Monday to finalize the terms of a four-year deal that takes effect on January 1st, 2014 when the winter transfer window officially opens.

The transfer fee is believed to be around €1,5 million according to some sources although that was not confirmed by either club. Vezo’s current club Vitória Setúbal will receive 25 percent of a future sale of the player according to a news release on the Valencia club website.

The Setúbal-born Vezo is a product of the club’s youth academy. This is his first professional season with the senior side and he has not failed to impress, starting in eight league matches for the club. His performances have earned him a call-up to Portugal’s U19 squad.

Vezo was previously linked with a move to Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon according to national radio station Antena 1 but will be honing his craft at the Mestalla instead. He is believed to be a replacement for Adil Rami who is expected to join AC Milan on loan in January.

Vezo will be the fourth Portuguese national on the Spanish team, joining Hélder Postiga, João Pereira and Ricardo Costa.