From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
In one of the football world’s worst kept secrets, former Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz is now also former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz.
Back on June 29, following a lackluster showing in South Africa which saw Selecção knocked-out at the Last 16 stage, this seems the most natural scenario.
After all, Maradona and Dunga were sacked due to their side’s poor results, and Fabio Capello was only spared as the FA finally twigged that England yet again failing to match the insurmountable expectations set by the media may also be something to do with the players not bothering to turn up.
The problem was that Queiroz was signed to a four-year lucrative contract and the Portuguese federation was reluctant to pay the remainder of the contract.
The poorly conducted process about his conduct towards National Doping Agency officials seemed more of a smokescreen than a serious investigation, but Queiroz was nonetheless ready to stay on and his ‘scapegoat’ role in this farce granted him support from some quarters.
Carlos ponder unemployment in smart-casual garb
The final straw, however, was reached Tuesday when Portugal were defeated in Oslo and the alarm bells started to ring.
Interim manager Agostinho Oliveira – who seems fairly clueless sat on the bench in all honesty - promoted a few changes in the starting XI as he replaced full-backs Miguel and Fábio Coentrao for Sílvio and Miguel Veloso, while Tiago replaced Danny in the midfield.
Just out of curiosity, it is interesting to note that none of the starting midfield trio – Manuel Fernandes, Raul Meireles and Tiago – is exactly match fit.
It is true that injuries can be blamed by the lack of choice, but it was strange not to see Joao Moutinho from the start…again.
Now, trying to make up for the embarrassing home draw against Cyprus, Portugal started the match in commanding fashion playing in Norways’s own midfield and dictating tempo as the organized home side was happy to play conservatively and catch the Selecção on the break.
Against the run of play, the Scandinavians scored in a bizarre moment from goalkeeper Eduardo. Collecting a back pass from Sílvio, the Genoa goalkeeper took an eternity to deal with the ball and allowed John Carew to steal the ball.
As every Portuguese watched in horror, the ball rebounded to Huseklepp who easily tapped into an empty net.
The Portuguese tried to turn the tide and salvage something from the match, but their disjointed play and lack of creativity were not able to pose a real threat to the Norwegians who cheered loudly when the referee signaled the end of the 90 minutes.
Quote of the night though goes to Agostinho Oliveira who claimed that he had gained a team. Not sure whether he was being ironic…
After the match against Cyprus, he didn’t hesitate to criticize the backline; only Miguel was dropped as a tactical decision and by sheer coincidence he announced after the match against Norway that he’d no longer play for the national team following Simao, Paulo Ferreira and Deco.
According to the latest reports – and that may change by the time you read this – there are two frontrunners for the national manager post: Humberto Coelho and Paulo Bento.
Coelho was the manager that catapulted Portugal to the first tier of International football. Queiroz may have gestated the so-called ‘Golden Generation’, but it was Coelho who best reaped the rewards at Euro 2000 with a third place.
However, his results ever since have been more than questionable: he failed to qualify for World Cups with Morocco and Tunisia and had brief unsuccessful stints with South Korea and a Saudi club.
The fact he has been distant from the Portuguese football circle and the fact he lacks “club action” though decrease his chances.
On the other hand, Paulo Bento may be the right man for the job at the moment. He had a fairly good stint at Sporting – despite being sacked, he went out with his reputation intact – and possesses a set of traits that make him suitable for the job.
He’s young, not afraid to gamble on an inexperienced player and knows all the details of Portuguese football structure having played in that Euro 2000 tournament.
Two other juicy bits: he got the informal endorsement of Cristiano Ronaldo and he would be a cheap option for the Portuguese federation.
Bento: Cristiano's pick...
Luis Aragonés and Sven-Goran Eriksson are some of the other names mooted, but they are barely speculation let alone dark horses. A foreign option at this stage would be risky for two simple reasons:
Firstly, the whole Queiroz fiasco led to calls for an election at the Portuguese federation. You cannot simply pick an expensive foreign option when a new federation board may soon take over and want somebody else.
Secondly, the fact we have a double date with Scandinavian duo Denmark and Iceland in one month make it difficult for a foreign manager to come in and get acquainted to our football.
If you want to pick a qualified Portuguese that is not Mourinho, there are few options more qualified than Paulo Bento.
This is the short-term fix: a new manager with a tougher approach that is able to inject some confidence into a team that can still pretty much qualify for the Euro 2012.
The long-term plan is something for the federation and the League to think about: youth teams are playing more and more foreigners and the Portuguese talent pool seem to be shrinking.
The time to come up with a new strategy is now…but will something new arise from this crisis?
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