Posts Tagged ‘William Carvalho’

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

Goalkeepers

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

Eduardo Did not play.

Anthony Lopes Did not play.

 

Defenders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Midfielders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Forwards

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

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

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

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

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

 

Manager

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

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.

Joao Mario Sporting

Overview: It was a summer of change at the Alvalade. Manager Marco Silva, who led the club to a third-place finish last season and a Portuguese Cup victory, is out. In his place is Jorge Jesus.

Jesus’ abrupt and unexpected departure from Benfica makes Sunday’s Portuguese Super Cup matchup between the two clubs the most anticipated in years. The signing of Jesus is a coup for club president Bruno de Carvalho who will have a manager with a proven track record at the helm this season.

Sporting have added several key players in the transfer window. The additions of Teo Gutiérrez and Bryan Ruiz should add scoring depth. They also appear to have addressed their problem at the centre of defense by signing Naldo and Michaël Ciani.

However, Sporting could still lose several players before the end of the summer transfer window including Islam Slimani, Jefferson and André Carrillo. And defensive midfielder William Carvalho is expected to miss at least the first two months of the season because of a leg injury and may very well be gone in January.

Sporting’s success this season, as with most, should depend on the progress of young stars like João Mário and Carlos Mané. Os Leões have not won the league since the 2001-02 season.

Key Additions: Michaël Ciani (Lazio), Naldo (Udinese), Teo Gutiérrez (River Plate), João Pereira (Hannover), Heldon (Córdoba), Simeon Slavchev (Bolton), Rúben Semedo (Reus), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), Ricardo Esgaio (Académica), Azbe Jug (Bordeaux), Iuri Medeiros (Arouca), Zakaria Labyad (Vitesse), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina)

Key Subtractions: Naby Sarr (Charlton), André Geraldes (Belenenses), Nuno Reis (Metz), Cédric (Southampton), Nani (Fenerbahçe), Shikabala, Miguel Lopes (Granada)

Manager Profile: A man that needs no introduction. The veteran manager won three league titles at Benfica before making a shock move to Sporting this summer. Despite never being overly popular with Benfiquistas, Jesus restored the team to glory. Prior to taking over in 2009, As Águias had only won one league title in the previous 15 seasons. He hopes to do the same at Sporting.

Players To Watch: João Mário is just the type of player that Jorge Jesus likes. The attacking midfielder is versatile and very balanced. With Nani gone and William Carvalho out to begin the season, Jesus will rely on João Mário to play a more important role.

Expectations: For Sporting, it has always been a matter of are they good enough. The club won the Portuguese Cup last season but slipped to third in the league table. With the addition of Jesus and improvements at the back end, Sporting should expect to mount a serious challenge for the league title.

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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Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

The new Primeira Liga season will commence on August 15th. And like always, there is no shortage of intriguing storylines to follow.

The Portuguese top flight has been expanded to 18 clubs from 16. Boavista has been allowed to return to the top division after a court decision deemed a previous relegation to be illegal.

And despite the modest resources of Portuguese clubs, the Primeira Liga always seems to produce excellent players every season. The ‘Big Three’ of Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and FC Porto, appear evenly matched, making the title race too close to call.

Here is a list of the top storylines to watch this season in Portugal.

Julen Lopetegui At FC Porto

Julen Lopetegui is best known for his success with Spain’s youth squads, and for a period managing Real Madrid’s reserve squad. Except for a short tenure in charge of Rayo Vallecano in 2003, the Spaniard has no prior coaching experience at senior level. But club president Pinto da Costa has had a long history of putting his trust in young, promising managers and has seen it pay off. Paulo Fonseca being the obvious exception last season.

Lopetegui has wasted no time building a squad in his own image. He has brought in Cristian Tello, Adrián López, Óliver Torres, and Casemiro. Porto has not gone more than one season without winning a league title since 2001-02. And with Benfica winning last season, and Sporting Lisbon getting stronger, FC Porto’s place as Portugal’s dominant force is being brought into question. The pressure is on.

Big Changes At Benfica

Portuguese clubs are used to losing their best players the summer after they win the league title. Success tends to elevate the value of players. And Portuguese clubs need to consistently sell players in order to be able to sign new players and stay competitive. But this played out to the extreme this summer, when defending champions Benfica sold an unusual amount of key players, including Ezequiel Garay, Jan Oblak and long-time target-man Oscar Cardozo.

The important question that many people are asking about Benfica going into the new season, is whether they could come together as a team quick enough to repeat as champions. The club’s scouting system is so strong that it always manages to find quality replacements. And for the first time in several years, Benfica have some intriguing academy graduates like João Teixeira.

Bebé At The Luz

The story of Tiago Manuel Dias Correia (known as Bebé) made headlines when he made a surprise move to Manchester United in 2010. But a lot has happened since then including growing out of favour at Old Trafford. He endured lackluster loan spells at Beşiktaş and Rio Ave as well, before enjoying a terrific second-half with Paços de Ferreira last season. Bebé demonstrated that he has the potential to be a quality centre-forward.

And it appears like he will get every opportunity to succeed at Benfica. The club lost two of their top three strikers from last season. Last year’s leading goalscorer Lima remains, but at age 30 it is unlikely that he will play at a high level that much longer. Plus, Jorge Jesus is said to have personally pushed for the club to sign the youngster. If Bebé does well, it would also be a major boost to the Seleção who are in desperate need of a striker.

Sporting Lisbon In Europe

After several tumultuous years, Sporting Lisbon appears to have stepped back from the brink of financial ruin. The club qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09 with a second-place finish last season. But what remains to be seen is whether this Sporting side is more ambitious than those of the past. The club has only advanced passed the group stage of the Champions League once in their history.

Sporting made some good signings this summer in an effort to add depth. However, the club was forced to sell Eric Dier to Tottenham. And the rumours of William Carvalho moving to a bigger club are expected to continue. Regardless, Sporting are not expected to lose many key players before the end of the transfer window on August 31st. The club looks to be in a good position to compete in Europe this season.

Boavista Returns

The Porto-based club was allowed to return to the Primeira Liga after a court decision overturned a previous sanction that forced the team into relegation in 2008, as a result of their involvement in the Apito Dourado scandal. Last season, Boavista was playing several notches below the Primeira Liga. As a result, the club was very active in the transfer window, almost completely reshaping their entire squad in the hopes of being competitive.

Former Portuguese international Petit will remain as manager. And he will have to rely on young players to perform if they are to avoid relegation. It certainly will not be easy. The club is still without a shirt sponsor. But the Boavista of the past had an excellent tradition of developing young players, many of whom would go on to play internationally for Portugal. They will have to rediscover that magic.

Revival Project At Braga

Sporting Braga is coming off a very poor season by their standards. Os Guerreiros were eliminated from the Europa League in the final qualification play-off by Romanian club Pandurii Târgu Jiu. Injuries and inconsistency would take a toll on the club. Jesualdo Ferreira was let go in February. Braga finished in ninth position and out of a Europa League position for this season.

Club president António Salvador hired former Portuguese international Sérgio Conceição as manager. Conceição has had some previous success with more modest clubs Olhanense and Académica. Braga also made some intriguing signings in Pedro Tiba, Marcelo Goiano and Tiago Gomes. Plus, with a healthy Éder and Rafa Silva, Braga should be a good club once again. And, it will be interesting to see how the notoriously hot-tempered Conceição will deal with higher expectations.

Young Talent On The Horizon

The great strength of the Portuguese League is its ability to discover the stars of tomorrow. Every summer, Portuguese clubs are forced to sell several players in order to stay financially secure. But every year, other quality players take their place. FC Porto have signed World Cup stars Yacine Brahimi and Bruno Martins Indi. Brazilians Talisca and Victor Andrade look like they could be quality players for Benfica as well.

And there is no shortage of promising home-grown talent. The Portuguese youth system is as strong as it has been in several years. Sporting Lisbon always has an abundance of promising players in its academy. Carlos Mané, Tobias Figueiredo and João Mário could be break out players this season. Benfica midfielder João Teixeira has looked good in the pre-season and could get some playing time with the senior squad. So has FC Porto defensive midfielder Rubén Neves.

Champions League Redemption

An emphasis on young talent, combined with strong management has prevented Portuguese clubs from falling behind Europe’s super-rich in the Champions League. Impressive, especially when you consider that other historically great clubs like Ajax and Celtic have been unable to do so. However, last season both FC Porto and Benfica were eliminated in the group stage. Although, Benfica’s run to the Europa League final allowed Portugal to surpass Italy for fourth in the UEFA coefficient rankings.

But the pressure is on for these clubs to do better this season. Benfica and Sporting Lisbon have already confirmed their place in the competition. While, FC Porto will have to qualify through a play-off against Ligue 1 club Lille. Success in club football’s most lucrative tournament is essential for the health of Portuguese clubs. Aside from the obvious financial gains, it also helps these clubs entice promising young footballers to play for them.

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Photo: Sporting Club de Portugal

Photo: Sporting Club de Portugal

Overview: Sporting Lisbon will be heading into this year with a lot of optimism. The club is coming off a solid season where they finished second in the table. They are not expected to lose many key players this summer. And its financial troubles appear to be a thing of the past.

But concerns do exist. Highly-rated midfielder William Carvalho is reportedly receiving some enticing offers from abroad and could still leave the club. And there is always a sense of uncertainty around a coaching change. Marco Silva did wonders with limited resources at Estoril, but will he be able to handle a squad with more talent and more egos?

Also, Sporting will be playing in the Champions League this season. Do they have the squad depth to compete in four different competitions this season, while still keeping with team president Bruno de Carvalho’s commitment to financial discipline?

The club signed some intriguing players this summer, including forward Junya Tanaka, midfielder Oriol Rosell and Ryan Gauld. And they always have plenty of quality players in their academy.

Sporting Lisbon has not won the Primeira Liga since the 2001-02 season. They will begin their pursuit of ending that drought when they face Académica in Coimbra on August 16th.

Key Additions: André Geraldes (Belenenses), Slavchev (Litex), Paulo Oliveira (V. Guimarães), Oriol Rosell (Kansas City), Tanaka (Kashima Reysol), Ryan Gauld (Dundee United), João Mário (V. Setúbal), Ramy Rabia(Al-Ahly), Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr (Lyon), Jonathan Silva (Estudiantes)

Key Subtractions: Elias (Corinthians), Weldinho (Palmeiras), Ivan Piris, Gerson Magrão, Wilson Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb), Zézinho (AEL Limassol), Victor Golas (Braga), Miguel Lopes, Rinaudo (Catania), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Diogo Salomão (Deportivo)

Manager Profile: 37-year-old Marco Silva takes over Sporting Lisbon this season after an excellent three seasons at Lisbon suburban club Estoril-Praia. Silva, who played for the club as a right-back for several seasons, helped them achieve promotion to the Primeira Liga in 2012 as manager. He followed that up with fifth and forth place finishes the last two seasons. He replaces Leonardo Jardim who moved on to AS Monaco.

Players To Watch: William Carvalho was the best player in the Portuguese league last season. If he does in fact remain with the club, it should be a pleasure to watch him play against Europe’s best in the Champions League. João Mário, Ryan Gauld and Carlos Mané are all exciting young players as well. Midfielders André Martins and Adrien Silva will need to be at their best if Sporting is to achieve something this season.

Expectations: Sporting Lisbon will hope to win the Primeira Liga for the first time in over a decade. As well as, advance past the group stage of the Champions League. The club has not won a trophy of any kind since the Portuguese Cup in 2007-08 and the pressure is mounting.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Fanny Schertzer

João Moutinho, AS Monaco

The motor of Portugal’s offence. João Moutinho is an excellent box-to-box midfielder who has been behind many of the team’s attacks over the last several years. This will be Moutinho’s third major tournament at senior level with Portugal, as well as his first World Cup.

The 27-year-old had an underwhelming season in Ligue 1, which included being named as one of the League’s ‘Flops’ by the influential French magazine L’Équipe. However, this certainly has not affected his performances for the Seleção. He delivered brilliant assists on two of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals during Portugal’s 3-2 play-off win against Sweden in Stockholm.

This Season: João Moutinho played in 31 Ligue 1 matches with As Monaco this season, scoring once and producing seven assists. The club finished second in the League table this season, behind only Paris Saint-Germain.

Fun Fact: After leaving Sporting Lisbon for league rivals FC Porto in 2010, then Sporting president José Eduardo Bettencourt referred to him as a ‘rotten apple.’ Moutinho shattered that perception while with the Dragões winning three Liga Primeira titles, and the Europa League over three seasons. He is also the only member of the squad to be born in the Algarve.

Miguel Veloso, Dynamo Kyiv

28-year-old Miguel Veloso has primarily played the defensive role in a midfield triangle under Paulo Bento. He has performed the role well, but appears likely to lose his position in the starting XI to emerging talent William Carvalho who is better suited for the role.

Veloso is a graduate of Sporting Lisbon’s distinguished academy. Since leaving Portugal in 2010, he has played with Serie A club Genoa and is currently with Ukrainian club Dynamo Kyiv. This will be Veloso’s fourth major tournament with Portugal. He could also play at left-back.

This Season: Miguel Veloso appeared in 20 League matches for Dynamo Kyiv, helping the club finish fourth in the Ukrainian League.

Fun Fact: His father, António was a talented defender who appeared in 40 matches for Portugal. He was part of the squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 1984. António Veloso won seven Liga Primeira titles with Benfica as well.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon

The Angolan-born defensive midfielder is widely expected to be one of Portugal’s key figures at the World Cup. The 22-year-old is part of an exciting emerging generation that should keep the Seleção competitive for the next decade. He made his international debut in the decisive 2nd leg of Portugal’s World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden.

Carvalho put together some impressive performances in recent friendlies against Cameroon and Greece. Another graduate of Sporting’s football academy, Carvalho had a successful 18-month loan spell at Cercle Brugge before establishing himself with the Lisbon club this past season.

This Season: William Carvalho was excellent this year for Sporting Lisbon, playing in 29 League matches for the club. The club finished second in the League table and qualified for the Champions League for next season.

Fun Fact: Carvalho was raised in Mira Sintra, just outside of Lisbon. As a 13-year-old, he reportedly turned down an invitation to join Portugal’s biggest club Benfica in favour of rivals Sporting Lisbon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga

The 21-year-old’s selection came as a surprise to some people. Rafa Silva had just finished his first season in the Liga Primeira when the squad was announced. But there is no denying his potential. Supremely skilled, industrious and blessed with excellent vision, Rafa will be counted on to produce creativity off the bench.

Nominally an attacking midfielder, Rafa was also used on the wing on several occasions this season with Sporting Braga. He made his international debut in a March 5th friendly against Cameroon, playing the entire first-half before withdrawing at half-time due to injury. Rafa is the youngest player on the squad.

This Season: Rafa Silva was a revelation this season with Braga, scoring eight goals in all competitions for the club. A thigh injury in March did not prevent him from being chosen for the World Cup.

Fun Fact: Rafa’s selection to the squad completes what has been an incredible rise for the youngster. He played for modest clubs Atlético Povoense and Alverca, before signing with Feirense in 2011. Rafa played in Portugal’s second division prior to this past season.

Raul Meireles, Fenerbahçe

A seasoned veteran who is often referred to as Portugal’s ‘pitbull.’ He rarely loses possession and has been an effective player on both sides of the game. Meireles has played in 73 international matches for Portugal which places him tied for second-most with Manchester United winger Nani on the current World Cup squad. This will be his fourth major tournament with Portugal.

Meireles has had a very distinguished career having won titles in Portugal, England and Turkey. That includes winning the Champions League with Chelsea in 2011-12. He was also voted as PFA Fans’ Player of the Year when he was with Liverpool in 2010-11. Meireles will likely play alongside João Moutinho in Brazil.

This Season: Meireles missed several matches in the first half of the season due to a thigh injury. However, he still managed to play in 20 League matches for Turkish side Fenerbahçe. Along with international teammate Bruno Alves, Meireles helped the club win the Turkish League this season.

Fun Fact: Raul Meireles’ appearance often makes more headlines than his performances on the field. He has numerous tattoos, which includes images of his wife and daughter. Currently, he is sporting a long beard and a Mohawk haircut.

Rúben Amorim, Benfica

The 29-year-old is a very reliable box-to-box midfielder, who could also play at right-back. Amorim has been effective when called upon with Portugal. Although not always first-choice at club level, Amorim has managed to earn a position on the squad after a good season with Benfica.

Amorim was a youth player for Benfica, before signing with Belenenses in 2003. He earned a transfer back to Benfica in 2008 after some impressive seasons. He was loaned to Sporting Braga in 2012-13, before returning to the Lisbon club this past season.

This Season: Rúben Amorim battled injuries this season, as he has done throughout much of his career. But he still managed to play in 17 Liga Primeira matches. And he was a valuable contributor to Benfica’s treble winning season.

Fun Fact: Amorim was a last-minute replacement for Nani four years ago, when the Manchester United winger picked up a clavicle injury and was unable to play in South Africa. Both will be on the squad this time around.

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Portugal continues to produce talent at a rate not seen for some time. This year, there were a high number of Portuguese youngsters flourishing in Europe’s top leagues as well.

Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient left-back Raphaël Guerreiro established themselves as two of Ligue 1’s most exciting young players. While Udinese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is a budding star in Serie A, a league that has not been kind to Portuguese talent in recent seasons.

And as always, the Primeira Liga continued to be fertile ground for promising young home grown talent. The clubs outside the traditional ‘Big Three’ in particular have in recent seasons put their faith in developing players from their academy, perhaps adjusting to new economic realities.

Of those selected to be on the list, four have received a call-up to the National Team. While Braga midfielder Rafa Silva and Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, will both be representing the Seleção at the World Cup this summer.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from this past season.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

23-year-old Anthony Lopes won the starting position at French club Olympique Lyonnais in training camp last summer and has been solid since. His season almost came to an abrupt end when he suffered a serious back injury in early November. He returned only five weeks later and has remained first-choice.

Lopes was on Paulo Bento’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup before being left out in favour of more established veterans. But his future remains very bright. He helped lead Olympique Lyonnais to a fifth place finish in a increasingly competitive Ligue 1, conceding only 34 goals in 32 League appearances for the French club. That includes 13 clean sheets.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

An immensely promising talent from Vitória Guimarães’ academy. The young centre back demonstrated this season that he has the athleticism and football IQ needed to be a top level defender. Sporting Lisbon recently signed him to a five-year contract where he is expected to compete for a starting position next season.

He is already very accomplished despite only being 22-years-old. He won the Portuguese Cup last season with Vitória Guimarães. This season, Oliveira played in the Europa League before the club was eliminated in the group stage. With Bruno Alves and Pepe both over 30, Oliveira could be an option for the Seleção soon if he continues to progress as a player.

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back

Another very promising defender. Rodrigues started 29 matches this season and was the focal point of a solid Nacional defense. Rodrigues was a major reason the Madeira club finished a better than expected fifth in the League table. The club conceded only 33 goals in 30 League matches this season overall.

Although he has only playd one full season in the Primeira Liga, many people are expecting a lot from him in the future. Together with Paulo Oliveira and Tiago Ilori, Rodrigues is part of a group of highly promising Portuguese central defenders that could conceivably reach the heights of the Seleção .

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

An offensively gifted full-back who has enjoyed a very good breakthrough season with Ligue 1 club FC Lorient. Like Anthony Lopes, Guerreiro was born and began playing football in France. However, he has chosen to represent the country of his father internationally. The 20-year-old has already played for Portugal’s Under-21 squad.

This season, Guerreiro has shown excellent attacking instincts and has become known for delivering good crosses into the box. His style is very well-suited for the Portuguese game and according to some sources Paulo Bento is said to be monitoring his progress. However, he still needs to improve his defensive play.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

Portuguese observers should already be well aware of this 22-year-old full-back from his time at Paços Ferreira. In his first season at La Liga club Sevilla, Figueiras started 19 League matches for the club and helped them win the Europa League. He has proved to be a strong offensive threat down the right-side and could even play further up the pitch.

Figueiras still needs to improve the defensive side of his game. He still commits far too many fouls. In La Liga this season, Figueiras picked up nine yellow cards and one red card in 22 total appearances. And he served a four-match ban for verbally abusing a referee. However, this is not an uncommon problem with many young attacking full-backs.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

William Carvalho leads a very strong group of midfielders on the list. The Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder was one of the outstanding performers this season in the Portuguese league. And big things are expected of him next month at the World Cup where he is likely to anchor the Portuguese midfield.

Carvalho is most often compared to former French international Patrick Vieira. The 22-year-old has great positioning, makes goods decisions with the ball and could also contribute offensively. He received his first international cap in the decisive World Cup qualifying match against Sweden. And he put in an excellent performance in a recent friendly against Cameroon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

21-year-old Rafael Ferreira Silva has enjoyed an impressive rise over the last 12 months. He was signed from second division side Feirense last summer and was recently selected to Portugal’s World Cup squad. He will be looked upon to provide some creativity from the bench.

Silva has demonstrated this season that he has the skill level and vision to be an elite player. However, like many gifted young players he needs to learn how to play as part of a system. Braga had a difficult season, having fired veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira. But under the right direction, Rafa could just become the playmaker Portugal has sought since the retirement of Deco four years ago.

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese, Attacking Midfielder

19-year-old Bruno Fernandes is former Boavista youth player who spend the 2012-13 season in Serie B with Novara. After helping the club to promotion, Fernandes was signed by Udinese last summer. He began this past season in the club’s reserve squad before earning a position in the starting line-up.

Fernandes would end the season as one of Udinese’s most important players, playing behind striker Antonio Di Natale. The young midfielder scored four goals and notched another six assists in 24 League matches for the Italian club, helping them remain in Serie A.

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

The young Sporting Lisbon winger could just emerge as one of Portugal’s great players. The 20-year-old was primarily used in Cup matches in the first half of the season. He scored a spectacular goal from just beyond the box in a League Cup match against Marítimo in January. In the second half, Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim began using him more often in League matches.

His talent is so evident that Manchester United is said to be very interested in signing him, despite the fact that he has yet to play an entire season in top flight. With Diego Capel and André Carrillo likely to leave this summer, Mané could be an automatic starter with Sporting Lisbon next season.

Ricardo Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Winger

A very promising attacker who was relatively unknown until this season. Horta was a Benfica youth player before signing with Vitória Setúbal in 2011. The club surprised everyone by finishing a better than expected seventh in the League total. Horta started hitting top gear in February after the arrival of João Mário on loan from Sporting Lisbon.

He would score six of his seven goals this season from February onwards. Horta has been selected for Portugal’s U19 and U20 squads as well. Sporting Lisbon are said to be interested in signing the youngster but Setúbal may not be willing to give him up so soon.

Bebé, Manchester United (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Striker

One of the great individual stories from this season in Portugal. Written off by so many in the media, the 23-year-old scored 12 goals in 27 appearances for Paços de Ferreira. That includes 11 goals in his final 16 matches. He also scored the opening goal in Paços de Ferreira’s 3-1 play-off win against Desportivo das Aves that assured that the club would remain in the Primeira Liga.

Bebé demonstrated that precocious talent that was not immediately evident while at Old Trafford and in previous loan spells. He scored an excellent volley against Braga in January which seemed to have given him a renewed sense of confidence. In a March League match against Arouca, he back-heeled a pass to himself before scoring. And now a move to one of Portugal’s biggest club’s seems likely.

SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon (On Loan at Vitória Setúbal), Central Midfielder

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 15 Young Players Who Could Play For Portugal At The World Cup

FEATURE: The Top Breakthrough Performers So Far This Season

SCOUTING REPORT: Olympique Lyonnais Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes Hopes To Realize World Cup ‘Dream’

SCOUTING REPORT: FC Lorient Left-Back Raphaël Guerreiro Is Enjoying A Breakout Season In Ligue 1

Scout Report – William Carvalho

SCOUTING REPORT: Udinese Midfielder Bruno Fernandes Could Be The Playmaker Portugal Needs

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mané Scores Brilliant Goal Against Marítimo

PLAYER PROFILE: Is Manchester United ‘Flop’ Bebé The Real Deal Afterall?

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

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

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

There was once again no shortage of intriguing headlines in Portugal this season. For the first time in several years, the League title was a three-horse race for most of the season producing plenty of drama along the way.

Benfica came out on top in the end, winning their 33th Portuguese title. While city rivals Sporting Lisbon firmly re-established themselves as serious contenders after years of financial mismanagement and poor performances.

However, this season was not without its disappointments. FC Porto and Benfica both failed to emerge from the group stage of the Champions League. And Benfica’s inability to win a European competition continued when they lost to Sevilla in the Europa League final.

But despite their modest resources, Portuguese clubs continue to produce elite talent at a level not seen in any other European League of its size. The emergence of William Carvalho, and other young players further added to the perception that Portuguese football is as healthy as ever.

Here now are the top eight storylines from Portugal this season.

Benfica Overcome The Memory Of Last Season’s Collapse

The memory of Benfica’s 2012-13 season is one that Benfica supporters will work hard to forget. The club rebounded in the best possible way by having one of their best seasons in recent memory. Although the loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final was difficult to accept for some fans.

After a relatively poor start to the season, Jorge Jesus’ club were almost perfect from November onwards. The club also appears to have some excellent young players in Lazar Marković, Ivan Cavaleiro and Jan Oblak that could keep the team competitive for years to come.

Revival At Sporting Lisbon

Despite once again falling short of the League title, Sporting Lisbon appears to have put financial ruin and poor performances behind them for good. Os Leões have regained the respect of their fans after some tumultuous years and optimism is high.

How did they do it? By going back to what made the club great in the first place. Not able to spend big like Benfica and FC Porto, manager Leonardo Jardim embraced the club’s famous academy and the results improved. The club went from having three managers last season, to a runner-up position this season. And they are looking forward to Champions League football in 2014-15.

FC Porto Struggles

On a negative note, FC Porto had one of their worst seasons in the Pinto da Costa era. A new manager, too many new players, dysfunction and a lack of squad depth all played a part in a third place finish for the Dragões.

It was unfamiliar territory for the club. Consistency and success is what we have come to expect from Porto over the last two decades. But it would be foolish to assume that Porto’s position as Portugal’s dominate club is coming to an end. The last time they failed to win the Portuguese League in 2009-10, Porto bounced back with a treble winning season.

Marco Silva’s Estoril

The most pleasant surprise this season was Estoril Praia who finished in fourth position. The suburban Lisbon club returned to top flight only two years ago. They managed to match the best finish in their history this season.

Much of the praise must go to their young manager Marco Silva who clearly has a good eye for talent. The club lost several good players last season after finishing a better than expected fifth. This season Gonçalo Santos, Sebá, Evandro and others established themselves as quality players.

Champions League Failures

In fairness, both Benfica and Porto were drawn in to two very difficult groups for this season’s Champions League. However, in past seasons both clubs would find a way to advance to the round of 16. This year, they started poorly and were unable to recover.

Benfica finished tied with Greek club Olympiacos in points with 10, a total that would get most clubs into the round of 16. However, Benfica was unable to beat Olympiacos over two encounters. Porto managed only one win and four goals in six matches.

The Curse of Béla Guttmann Continues

After leading Benfica to their second European Cup victory in 1962, Hungarian manager Béla Guttmann asked for a pay raise and was denied. After resigning, he famously declared ‘Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.’ The club has lost eight consecutive European finals since.

The latest came in the final of the Europa League against La Liga club Sevilla. Benfica came into the match as slight favourites but were missing a few key players due to suspensions. Despite getting the majority of chances, Benfica were unable to score and eventually lost to Sevilla on penalties.

Portugal’s Emerging Generation

It is no secret that the Primeira Liga is a breeding ground for many promising youngsters looking to develop their talent. But it was an exceptionally good year for emerging home grown talent. The accolades and praise for Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho are too numerous to name here.

However, Vitória Setúbal winger Ricardo Horta, Vitória Guimarães defender Paulo Oliveira, Nacional defender Miguel Rodrigues and Braga midfielder Rafa Silva are just some of the best revelations from this past season. Not to mention on-loan striker Bebé who scored an impressive 11 goals for Paços de Ferreira.

Ricardo Quaresma’s Return

Ricardo Quaresma is probably the most polarizing player Portugal has produced in a long while, if ever. He inspires delight and dislike in equal measure. But there is no doubt that his return to FC Porto in January was good for the competition.

The winger dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, once again inspiring many to wonder what could have been. Quaresma was particularly impressive in the Europa League matches against Napoli. He was unable to turn the tide for FC Porto as the Dragões finished a disappointing third. However, he did provide spectacle and thrills along the way.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 5 Reasons Benfica Won The Portuguese League Title This Season

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Scout Report – William Carvalho

William Carvalho Could Start In Brazil

William Carvalho Could Start In Brazil

The World Cup is still just over three months away and already many analysts and fans are trying to predict who Paulo Bento will bring to Brazil this summer.

The Seleção manager is expected to make his official announcement on May 19th, just before the squad re-convenes in Cascais for training. Portugal’s 5-1 defeat of Cameroon on March 5th in Leiria only raised expectations ahead of world football’s greatest event.

For most of Portugal’s recent World Cup qualifying campaign Paulo Bento relied on a group of experienced veterans that have been with the squad since he took over in 2010.

The Portugal manager has been criticized for being too conservative with his selections, while not recognizing the age and decline of several of his key players.

But in recent matches, Bento has showed signs that he may be ready to bend, calling up FC Porto midfielder Josué, Benfica defender Andre Almeida, Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, among others.

Against Cameroon, Bento surprised everyone by starting Sporting Braga’s Rafa Silva and Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro up-front with Cristano Ronaldo. This added to the perception that Paulo Bento is ready to embrace Portugal’s emerging generation of talent.

Here now is a list of 15 young players that could be on Portugal’s World Cup squad in Brazil.

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

The 23-year-old goalkeeper has been in excellent form this season for the French club. A serious back injury threatened to derail his World Cup dream in November, however, he has since recovered and resumed his position as Lyon’s number one goalkeeper.

Lopes received his first international call-up in September but is yet to receive a cap. However, he was selected for the recent friendly against Cameroon. Lopes is likely to face competition from FC Sevilla’s Beto and Sporting Braga’s Eduardo for one of the two positions behind Rui Patricio.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Olympique Lyonnais Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes Hopes To Realize World Cup ‘Dream’

André Almeida, Benfica, Right-Back/Defensive Midfielder

A very dependable and versatile player, who has seen his playing time at Benfica dramatically reduced this season. The 23-year-old is most comfortable on the right side, but could also play left-back and in midfield. Although, he is limited on the offensive side of the ball.

Almeida played very well for Portugal in two World Cup qualifiers in October in place of the injured João Pereira. However, he was not selected against Cameroon. Portugal are very deep at the full-back positions and it seems unlikely that Almeida will be going to Brazil.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s André Almeida Breaks Through

Cédric Soares, Sporting Lisbon, Right-Back

An offensively gifted full-back that has been a major part of Sporting Lisbon’s success this season. The 22-year-old is widely considered as a future star for the Selecção. He received his only international call-up in October 2013 but did not play.

Soares’ situation is the same as André Almeida. Despite João Pereira’s poor season, he is still widely expected to start in Brazil. Miguel Lopes, Antunes and Sílvio are all more experienced alternatives. But the Sporting right-back is one for the future.

Related Post: PLAYER PROFILE: Cédric Soares Targeted By Several Clubs in England And Germany

Tiago Ilori, Liverpool (On Loan at Granada), Central Defender

The 21-year-old moved to Liverpool this summer after some excellent displays at the end of last season with Sporting Lisbon. He did not see any action with the English club in the first half of that season and was sent on loan to La Liga club Granada.

Portugal does not have a lot of depth at the centre of defence. Pepe and Bruno Alves are both over the age of 30. Ilori is a top-level prospect and if he could manage to put together some consistent performances for Granada, Paulo Bento could decide to bring him to Brazil.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Central Defender Tiago Ilori

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

William Carvalho’s place on the squad is an almost certainty. If he stay healthy, it is only a question of whether he will start in Brazil or not. The 21-year-old has been a revelation for Sporting Lisbon this season and has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford this summer.

Carvalho received his first cap in the deciding leg of a World Cup qualifying play-off against Sweden in November. The youngster was brought on to help preserve the lead. He received his first start against Cameroon and earned rave reviews with his performance. Whether it is a direct result of Carvalho or not, Portugal looked more organized and stable defensively than they had throughout qualifying.

Related Post: Scout Report – William Carvalho

Josué, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

A talented midfielder, who has also been used as a winger at times this season with Porto. Josué is a modern playmaker who has great vision, passing ability and a strong sense of the game. However, he has a history of disciplinary issues, including a suspension for spitting earlier this season.

He received his first cap with Portugal against Israel in October. He started his first match with the Selecção just days later against Luxembourg and played very well. Since then, Josué has been regularly selected for the squad. He has received four cap with Portugal so far.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Paços de Ferreira’s Playmaker Josué

Adrien Silva, Sporting Lisbon, Central Midfielder

Adrien Silva is an interesting case. As Sporting Lisbon’s manager, Paulo Bento gave Adrien Silva his senior debut in 2007. Since then, the French-born Silva has been on loan twice. He has been integral to Sporting’s success this season and was recently named his club’s Player of the Year for 2013.

Adrien was selected in September 2013 as an injury replacement for Ruben Micael but did not receive a cap. Portugal’s depth in midfield means that he is unlikely to be selected for Brazil. His name has been around so long that many forget that he is only 24-years-old. His time may not have arrived, yet.

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

André Martins, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

Sporting Lisbon’s midfield ‘brain,’ André Martins has been behind many of the club’s scoring chances this season. Martins is probably the closest thing that Portugal has to a ‘pure’ playmaker. He possesses strong offensive instincts, combined with excellent passing and an ability to control the match.

The 24-year-old has received two caps with Portugal but has not been selected since August 2013. Like several players on the list, Martins will likely be a victim of Portugal’s depth in midfield. But with Raul Meireles and Ruben Amorim aging, it is realistic to think that Martins’ days with the Selecção are not too far away.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Promising Midfielder André Martins

André Gomes, Benfica, Central Midfielder

Another supremely talented midfielder, 20-year-old André Gomes has not seen very much first-team action with Benfica this season. Although he has continued to play regularly and produce for Benfica B in the second division. Gomes will need to work his way back into Jorge Jesus’ line-up to have any chance of going to Brazil.

He received his only call-up to the Selecção for an international friendly with Ecuador in February 2013 but did not see any action. The young midfielder was a hot commodity during the January transfer window before his rights were sold to a third-party investment fund. He is certainly one to watch for the future.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica Midfielder André Gomes Is Being Pursued By Europe’s Top Clubs

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The 20-year-old was signed by Braga from second division Feirense last summer. Expected to play a limited role, Rafa played himself into a regular starting position this season. He has speed, vision, as well as excellent dribbling and passing ability.

Paulo Bento played Rafa and Ivan Cavaleiro alongside Cristiano Ronaldo against Cameroon on March 5th. He would play the entire first half, making two very good attempts on goal. However, he aggravated a thigh injury during the match and is expected to be out for six weeks. He should be back playing well before the squad is chosen on May 19th.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star

Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger

The young winger began this season with Benfica B in the second division. His performances earned him some first-team action. However, since the New Year Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has not used him very much. Eduardo Salvio’s return from injury, combined with Benfica’s title aspirations could mean that Cavaleiro will not play very much before the World Cup.

Cavaleiro had a nervous first-half against Cameroon, but did manage a beautiful back-heel assist to Fábio Coentrão for Portugal’s third goal in the 5-1 win. The Selecção has several of their regular wingers injured, including Nani and Zenit St.Petersburg’s Danny. Paulo Bento could be tempted to take Cavaleiro to Brazil.

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

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

The extremely promising Bruma arrived on the scene a year ago with Sporting Lisbon. After a contract dispute this summer, the youngster left for Turkey. He won the Silver Shoe at the 2013 U-20 World Cup, scoring five goals in four matches. He had a positive start to the season with Galatasaray before suffering a serious knee injury in early January.

In October, Bruma was call-up by Paulo Bento as a replacement for the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal’s final World Cup qualifying match against Luxembourg. However, he was not selected for the Sweden matches in November. Bruma is expected to be out a while longer and faces a race against time just to be ready for Brazil.

Related Post: PLAYER PROFILE: European Giants Chase Sporting Lisbon’s Bruma

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

A speedy, skilled winger who has worked his way into more playing time with Leonardo Jardim’s squad in recent weeks. The 19-year-old has earned accolades for scoring some excellent goals this season as well. He has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United this summer.

Mané has yet to receive a call-up to the Selecção but it would be foolish rule it out. Paulo Bento’s change of heart regarding young players on the squad could mean that there is room for Mané. He suffered a thigh injury in a recent match for the U-21 squad which is not expected to keep him out for long. If he continues to play regularly for Sporting, Mané could just earn a spot.

Related Post: SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mané Scores Brilliant Goal Against Marítimo

Nélson Oliveira, Benfica (On Loan at Stade Rennais), Striker

A Wild Card at the striker position for Portugal. Oliveira first came to prominence at the 2011 U20 World Cup for Portugal. Currently on loan in Ligue 1, he started the year positively but has not scored since November 2nd. He was selected for Euro 2012 but has not been part of the squad for the last several matches.

Paulo Bento has demonstrated a lot of faith in the 22-year-old in the past. He is currently battling a thigh injury which could keep him out weeks. There is still time for Oliveira to demonstrate that he is ready to produce on the international level. But he needs to start scoring again.

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