From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
When Carlos Queiroz announced his 24-men squad – not a typo, it’s just that the national coach will later drop one unlucky spare wheel – few were expecting big surprises, as 90% of the team is a no-brainer.
However the remaining 10% are at least debatable and much like the latest performances of the Portuguese team lack a certain something.
Allow the Portugeezer to explain himself:
1. Conservative squad
The national manager was never known for his boldness and this squad pretty much confirms it.
While it’s obvious Queiroz is still unsure over Pepe’s fitness - hence announcing a 24 man squad - even if he drops one of Pepe, Ricardo Costa or Zé Castro, he’ll be taking five centre-backs to South Africa.
Why would he do that? We possess accomplished performers for that position and we should be looking for players who could add something different in the midfield or attack.
People may complain about Moutinho and Rúben Amorim not being included in the squad, but they would probably not be the best options.
The duo are often praised for their steady, consistent play, but you could make an argument that you’d rather have a bit more instant impact from a player being used in a substitute role. Furthermore, let’s not forget Amorim is yet to play a single game for the Selecção.
The player who could eventually bring something different would be Carlos Martins (yes you read it right!). The 28-year old midfielder enjoyed a good season at Benfica, even if he was not a starter week in week out, and on a good day can score from distance and pick out forwards with clever passes.
His fiery temperament and inconsistent form may mean he’s unlikely to feature in the starting XI, but as an impact player he could certainly play a part at some stage.
2. Keepers’ criteria
It’s strange to see Eduardo, Beto and Daniel Fernandes when it could have easily been Quim, Hilário and Rui Patrício!
To be fair, Eduardo has been Queiroz’s first-choice for some time now and he fully deserves his inclusion in the team, especially considering his magnificent season at Braga.
However, Beto has only played once for the national team and he has only established himself as a starter at FC Porto in the last few games of the season, which begs the question: why was he and not one of Hilário or Quim selected?
There was much fuss when then-manager Scolari shunned iconic goalkeeper Vitor Baia – at the time, Portuguese and European champion - but isn’t the non-inclusion of Benfica goalkeeper Quim the same case on a smaller scale?
The Daniel Fernandes call-up is more of a question of personal taste than anything else. He’ll be Portugal’s third choice goalkeeper and Patrício may already be too big for that role.
3. The toll of expectations
Everyone pretty much agrees that the Portuguese team doesn’t cope well with lofty expectations, but Queiroz was still very adamant on his self-imposed target of mimicking the World Cup 2006 feats, where we reached the semi-finals of the tournaments.
In all honesty though, that may be a bit unrealistic at the moment.
Despite the third place in the FIFA Ranking, Portugal failed to shine throughout the qualifying campaign; we had to settle for a second place in a relatively easy group and were then forced to play Bosnia to clinch our ticket to South Africa.
The group of players chosen by Queiroz has enough talent to do well in the tournament, but the overall quality of the squad is lower than the Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 squads, thanks to the decline of the aging ‘golden generation’.
There’s no Figo, of course, and a few players such as Ricardo Carvalho, Deco and Paulo Ferreira are already past their prime, which coupled with our recent lacklustre displays are enough reasons to be cautions and downplay any hype this team may or not have.
World Cup 24-men provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Eduardo (Braga), Beto (FC Porto), Daniel Fernandes (Iraklis)
Defenders: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Miguel (Valencia), Fabio Coentrão (Benfica), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Bruno Alves (FC Porto), Ricardo Costa (Lille), Rolando (FC Porto), Pepe (Real Madrid), Duda (Malaga), Zé Castro (Deportivo)
Midfielders: Tiago (Atlético Madrid), Deco (Chelsea), Raúl Meireles (FC Porto), Miguel Veloso (Sporting), Pedro Mendes (Sporting)
Wingers/Forwards: Simão Sabrosa (Atlético Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Danny (Zenit St Peterburg), Liédson (Sporting), Hugo Almeida (Werder Bremen)
What do you think? Has Queiroz made the right choices? Can we realistically achieve the semi-finals of the tournament?
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To be honest, I have a bad feeling about this one. Queiroz just doesn't inspire any confidence, and the 'Manuel Fernandes' affair was hilarious, the guy wasn't even on the 50-man squad, but then is chosen to be one of the 6 reserves. And the absence of Carlos Martins, as you point out, says a lot about Queiroz himself. Deco is well past his prime, yet there is nobody in the squad that can naturally fill that role. The truth is, Queiroz called up 12 or 13 potential starting XI players, and the rest are players that don't make people wonder why they're not starting...they're 'safe players. He didn't take the players that were in best form, like he promised. As I said......I have a bad feeling about this one.
Despite usually posting well-written articles, this time you fail to convincingly ascertain the problems in the squad. Quite conservative, you are right, as he should have picked one more in midfield, which looks like lacking that unpredictability you say.
Meireles is an overrated player and shouldn't be playing with Mendes, who's better.
I agree with you; Meireles had a below-par season and at the moment I wouldn't include him in the starting XI.
If fully fit, Mendes should always play. A truly underrated midfielder that was somehow overlooked by Scolari and only now has the chance to shine for the Seleccção.
Also, if it was up to me, I would play in a formation similar to the one employed by Real Madrid, with Ronaldo as a forward alongside Liedson and taking full advantage of our wingers.
We'll see what happens...
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