Next summer's U-21 European Championship, to be held in the North of Portugal, has had its dates changed upon the Portuguese Football Federation's request: it will now be held between 23 May and 4 June.
Luíz Felipe Scolari's comments about the non-selection of João Pinto and Vítor Baía (see 20/12 below) are set to throw out some sparks, if Tuesday's reactions are anything to go by. When asked for his response to FC Porto 'keeper Vitor Baía's case, the outspoken Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa did not mince his words: "As a matter of principle, I don't respond to cowards, and I consider that a person is a coward if he throws up suspicions, says things and then says he's not telling. So I don't deal with cowards, I don't know how to and I don't want to."
Meanwhile, on radio João Pinto called for Scolari to clear up the suspicions by coming clean with what "changing room factors" actually are.
For his part, Scolari said that "technical and changing room factors" are what he bases the call-ups of all players on, and that Baía and Pinto have only been singled out by the press because of their media impact.
National team coach Luíz Felipe Scolari has revealed the motives for some of his more unpopular actions and has looked forward to the World Cup in Germany next summer in an interview for the CNID (Clube Nacional de Informação Desportiva).
On his controversial ignoring of former international stars Vítor Baía of FC Porto and João Pinto of Boavista, he said: "I will never talk about players I don't call up. But even so, I can tell you that in these two cases - and even though they were already out of the team when I arrived in Portugal - I have technical and changing room factors that I will never reveal but that could be the basis for my decisions."
When asked why he doesn't go to watch games very often, he had this to say: "Do you think I should be spending the Federation's money to go and see games involving players that have worked with me for more than two years and that I know very well? When TV transmits the games they play in morning noon and night? But let me tell you, we do a lot of observing. In Portugal and abroad, always to have a look at young players, people who could one day get a chance. I don't think we need to publicise that, and I really don't think I need to go to a stadium to watch Porto, Benfica or Sporting play. I go, of course, just to see football, because I know I'm not going to have any surprises - I know those teams inside out."
He spoke about Portugal's participation in the World Cup with a mixture of optimism and caution: "We respect all opponenets, but we can't complain about the draw and we feel that we have a chance to get through to the second phase. Of course it's better than being, for example, in the group that Holland got. But these opponents demand an even higher level of concentration. Angola and Iran have nothing to lose, and we can't forget that Mexico are going to be in their fourteenth World Cup Finals. We have to be faithful to ourselves and face each game as if it were a Final. If we do, maybe we can get to the Mexico game [the last in the group] having already qualified. We'll do everything we can for that."
Meanwhile, Inter Milan winger Luís Figo was less cautious: "Portugal can win the World Cup .. although Brazil are favourites. I'd like Portugal, Brazil, Sweden and Italy to be in the semis," he told reporters at the opening of a shop in Rome Monday.
Portugal have won the right to stage the 2006 European Championship at U-21 level. The tournament will take place between 25 May and 4 June next year. The stadiums that will be used will be those of Águeda, Aveiro (Beira-Mar), Barcelos (Gil Vicente), Braga (Sporting Braga), Guimarães and Bessa (Boavista). The municipal stadium in Braga, with its famous two-sided design built into a quarry, will be the stage for the Final. Funding will come from private sponsorship, both in Portugal and via UEFA; the Portuguese Government were quick to point out that no public money will be spent. Portugal beat Italy to stage the tournament.
FPF president Gilberto Madaíl has said that UEFA are asking for some unreasonable guarantees from Portugal if the country wants to organise the 2006 U-21 European Championship. Among the sticking points is UEFA's insistence on using exclusivley its own sponsors for the event. The winner of the bid to hold the tournament will be announced Thursday.
National team coach Luís Felipe Scolari, on a trip to Brazil, has told the press there that Portugal can go all the way in Germany next summer. "We're in the top ten in the international ranking and our objective is to get to the final. We did well at Euro 2004, and we expect great things in the World Cup."
Portugal's U-21s qualified for the European Championship at that level Wednesday with a 2-1 win over Switzerland in front of 20,000 at the Bessa Stadium in Oporto. Portugal started tamely and went down to a goal by Degen on 20 minutes. After the first leg in Switzerland, which finiahsed 1-1, that goal would have put the Swiss through, but things picked up for the Portuguese side in the second half with the entry of subs Diogo Valente of Boavista and Varela of Sporting, and it was the latter who got the winner on the hour after Hugo Almeida had levelled on 54 minutes.
The teams lined up:
Portugal: Bruno Vale, Filipe Oliveira, José Castro, Semedo, Vítor Rodrigues, Nuno Morais (Diogo Valente 46), Raul Meireles, Ricardo Quaresma (Paulo Sérgio 87), João Moutinho, Hugo Viana (Varela 46), Hugo Almeida.
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio, Lichtsteiner (Sutter 71), Rochat, Von Bergen, Buhler, Callà (Tsimba 81), Dzemaili, Salatic, Ziegler (Zambrella 74), Chiumento, Degen.
The Portuguese Football Federation hopes to organise the tournament next summer, especially since the infratructures are in place from Euro 2004, but Italy are also strong contenders.
Portugal chalked up their 11th game without a defeat Tuesday with a more-difficult- than-expected 1-1 draw in Belfast against Northern Ireland. Portugal had their chances, but their only goal came on 40 minutes through an own-goal, Craigan chesting in a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. Eight minutes into the second half, Feeney headed in to fix the score. Luís Felipe Scolari tried several experiments, with Sporting Braga's Paulo Santos making his début in goal and five changes in the second half, but the experiments did not really bear fruit.
The teams lined up:
Northern Ireland: Taylor, Brunt, Murdock, Craigan, Capaldi, Gillespie (Sproule 86), Jones (McAuley 46), Elliot (McCann 46), Davis, Feeney (Shiels 86), Quinn (Thompson 77).
Portugal: Paulo Santos, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Fernando Meira, Jorge Ribeiro, Costinha, Petit (João Alves 66), Cristiano Ronaldo (Hélder Portiga 68), Tiago (Frechaut 76), Luís Boa Morte (Caneira 62), Pauleta (Nuno Gomes 46).
The Portuguese U-21 side were featured on the UEFA official site Tuesday. The team play Switzerland at the Bessa stadium Wednesday to see who qualifies for next year's European Championship.
Portugal U-21s got a positive result in the first leg of the European Championship play-off against Switzerland in Zürich. The 1-1 scoreline must give Portugal hope for the second leg at Boavista´s Bessa Stadium on Wednesday. Switzerland went in front after only two minutes, 'keeper Bruno Vale trying to dribble round Chiumento in his own six-yeard box and being punished for it by the Swiss forward. Ricardo Quaresma equalled the score with a free-kick on 17 minutes. Portugal must be favourites to go through, but the return will be no walkover as Switzerland proved on the night that they are no mugs.
The teams lined up:
Switzerland: Diego Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Rochat, Buhler, Calla, Dzemaili, Baykal (Salatic, 60), Ziegler (Zembrella, 77), Chiumiento, David Degen.
Portugal: Bruno Vale, Filipe Oliveira, José Castro, Semedo, Valdir, Manuel Fernandes (Nuno Morais), Raul Meireles, Ricardo Quaresma, João Moutinho, Hugo Viana (Varela, 70), Hugo Almeida.
Portugal beat Croatia 2-0 in a half-empty Estádio Municipal de Coimbra Saturday. Portugal had the better of Croatia for most of the friendly, and a goal in each half reflected their superiority: Petit scored from a free-kick on 32 minutes, bending the ball round the wall, and Pauleta cracked home a second from an angle on the right on 65 minutes after being put through by Cristiano Ronaldo.
The teams lined up:
Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel (Paulo Ferreira, 61 m), Fernando Meira, Ricardo Carvalho, Caneira (Jorge Ribeiro, 80 m), Costinha, Petit (Frechaut, 73 m), Cristiano Ronaldo (João Alves, 75 m), Tiago (Hélder Postiga, 78 m), Luís Boa Morte, Pauleta.
Croatia: Butina, Tomas, Robert Kovac (Bosnjak, 46 m), Simunic, Srna (Tokic, 46 m), Niko Kovac, Jerko Leko, Babic, Niko Kranjcar, Prso, Balaban (Ivan Leko, 75 m).
National coach Luíz Felipe Scolari has named his squad to face Croatia and Northern Ireland in the upcoming friendlies. There is a first call-up for Sporting Braga 'keeper Paulo Santos, who has let in just one goal in nine games as Braga take the Liga by storm. Also included is FC Porto striker Hélder Postiga, who has been relegated to his club's 'B' Team for disciplinary reasons. Inter's Luís Figo, who seems to be able to pick and choose when he wants to play these days, is rested.
The squad is:
Goalkeeprs: Paulo Santos (Sp. Braga), Ricardo (Sporting)
Defenders: Fernando Meira (Stuttgart), Jorge Andrade (Coruña), Jorge Ribeiro (Moscow Dynamo), Miguel (Valência), Marco Caneira (Valência), Frechaut (Moscow Dynamo), Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
Midfielders: Petit (Benfica), Costinha (Moscow Dynamo), João Alves (Sporting), Tiago (Lyon), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Hélder Postiga (FC Porto) Luís Boa Morte (Fulham)
Forwards: Nuno Gomes (Benfica), Pauleta (PSG) Simão (Benfica)
In an interview with the Russian sports paper Sovetskiy Sport, Moscow Dynamo chairman Alexei Fedorichev said that Portugal's national coach Luíz Felipe Scolari would be in Moscow next week for talks about a possible move to the wealthy Russian club. Fedorichev also said that he had spoken to Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo. "Nothing's impossible," he said.
Portugal will play two friendlies in November: on the 12th the play Northern Ireland in Belfast, and on the 15th they receive Croatia, the venue to be announced.
Franz Beckenbauer, the man responsible for the organisation of next summer's World Cup, has visited Portugal as part of a tour of all the qualified countries. He named Brazil and Germany as favourites for the title.
Portugal are to arrange three friendlies in the run-up to next summer's World Cup in Germany. The dates have been set: 12 and 16 November (possibly against the Republic of Ireland on one of those dates) and 1 March next year.
Portugal's U-21s will play Switzerland in the play-off for access to next summer's European Championship. The first leg will be on 12 November in Switzerland and the return leg on 16 November at Boavista's Bessa stadium.
Portugal will be among the top seeds in the draw for the qualifying phase of the 2008 European Championship. They will thus avoid being in the same qualifying group as the other top seeds England, France, Holland, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Greece. The draw will be made in Montreaux, Swizerland, on 27 January 2006.
After the dismal performance against Liechtenstein at the weekend, Portugal finished up their World Cup qualifying campaign on a bright note Wednesday with a 3-0 win against Latvia at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto. The match was notable for Pauleta equalling and then breaking Eusébio's scoring record (41) for the Selecção; the Azores-born PSG striker now has 42. He dedicated his goals to his wife, children and family and also to former Benfica and Selecção striker from the 60s José Torres, who is very ill with Alzheimer's.
With the pressure off after confirming qualification on Saturday, Portugal relaxed a little and put together some good football throughout. Pauleta got his first on 18, chesting and volleying from just inside the area a superbly floated through ball from Maniche. He got his record-breaking second just two minutes later, finishing off some good interplay between Deco, Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, although his left-footed chip took a significant deflection off a defender to fool 'keeper Kolinko. Pauleta was replaced by Postiga to a standing ovation on 56 minutes, and it was left to sub Hugo Viana to put the cherry on the cake of a comfortable qualifying phase with an excellent drive five minutes from time.
The things they said:
Luíz Felipe Scolari: "We qualified on Saturday, so that was a much happier day than today. I do what I think is right ... There's not point the public shouting ... If a draw is good for the team, and the team can't at that time get the win, then I play for the draw".
Figo: It's difficult to be World Champions ... but it doesn't cost anything to dream".
Deco: "Eighth place in the finals is the very minimum objective, but I believe we're going to go there thinking we can win it".
Hugo Viana: "I'm counting on being at the World Cup".
Gilberto Madaíl (president of the Portuguese Football Federation): "We did an exemplary campaign, without defeats ... My confidence in Luíz Feleipe Scolari was never in doubt".
Jurijs Andrejevs (Latvia coach): "Portugal have a good chance in Germany. They might even reach the semis ... and why not, the final".
In Portugal's group, Slovakia received Russia in a vital head-to-head and they drew 0-0, leaving Russia down and out and Slovakia heading for the play-offs. Estonia won 2-0 at Luxembourg, who finished without a single point.
National coach Felipe Scolari put a lid Tuesday on a minor storm that was brewing between him and the president of the Footbal Federation Gilberto Madaíl, who had been less than effusive about Portugal's qualification for Germany next summer, confirmed against Liechtenstein on Saturday. The press had run speculations that Scolari was about to leave the ship, but the Brazilian said Tuesday: "The president sometimes acts like a fan. Everyone in the selecção understands that, and I neve questioned what he said after the Liechtenstein game. I just said what I always say: that if I don't have a good World cup, there's the possibility of my leaving."
Portugal's final group game against Latvia in the Estádio do Dragão Wednesday should see some changes to the side that beat Liectenstein, including the replacement of the disastrous Ricardo with Quim in goal. The probable line-up will be:
Quim, Miguel, Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Nuno Valente, Petit, Maniche, Deco, Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta
Portugal's U-21s finished the qualifying phase of next year's European Championships with ten wins out of ten. They beat Latvia 3-0 Tuesday. Giant FC Porto striker Hugo Almeida opened and closed the scoring, the first on 19 minutes from a cross by Porto teammate Ricardo Quaresma, the last on 67 minutes froma free-kick. In between, Varela had made it 2-0 on the hour.
There follows a play-off phase in which the first teams in the groups play the second teams in other groups. The draw will be in Nyon, Switzerland on Thursday. The games will be played over two legs on the 12/13 and 15/16 November. The teams to have got this far are:
GROUP 1: Holland, Czech Republic
GROUP 2: Denmark, Ukraine
GROUP 3: Portugal, Slovakia or Russia (meeting Wednesday)
GROUP 4: France, Switzerland
GROUP 5: Italy Slovenia
GROUP 6: Germany, England
GROUP 7: Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro
GROUP 8: Croatia, Hungary
The finals will be held in one of the qualifying countries between 25 May and 06 June 2006.
A petition has been started on the Web to get a Portuguese version of the official FIFA site ahead of the World Cup. As of 11/10/05, there were already 390 signatures. This is the wording of the petition:
Considering the fact that three national teams (Portugal, Brazil, Angola) of countries whose official language is Portuguese have qualified for next year's World Cup Finals, and there are 200 million people who use Portuguese as their mother tongue, comprising a vast universe of people interested in consulting the offical FIFA site, which I presume is your responsibility, I hereby request that you take the necessary steps for the site to also be presented in Portuguese.
Portugal confirmed their place in the World Cup Finals in Germany next summer by beating Liechtenstein 2-1 in Aveiro Saturday. They only needed a point on the night to clinch qualification, but they made hard work of it, letting their modest visitors almost upset their plans. In fact it was Liechtenstein who took the lead, against the run of play. On 32 minutes, Fischer and Paulo Ferreira were challenging for a long bouncing through ball but Ferreira had to pull out of the challenge when he caught sight of 'keeper Ricardo charging recklessly towards them, way out of his goal. The ball broke loose and Fischer simply walked it into the net. Two minutes later, Portugal should have had a penalty when a Figo shot was tipped over the bar by defender d'Elia, who should also have been sent off. Somehow, neither the referee nor the linesman saw the handball, and all Portugal could get was a corner.
But three minutes into the second half, an unchallenged Pauleta relieved a little of the stress with a textbook header down and in from a Ronaldo cross on the left. It was Pauleta's 40th goal for the Selecção, and he now stands just one goal away from equalling Eusébio's record. Portugal had the chance to take the lead on 57 minutes, Pauleta fouled in the box, but captain Luís Figo blasted the penalty way over. Liechtenstein could have re-gained the lead on 78 minutes, Ricardo once again at fault as he punched out weakly for Beurgmeier to shoot goalwards, only to see his teammate Beck get in the way of a certain goal. It was left until five minutes from time for Portugal to make the result safe, Nuno Gomes, on for Cristiano Ronaldo two minutes before, dipping to head in from close range. Justice, it must be said, was done ... but Portugal had ridden their luck to get there.
Portugal lined up:
Ricardo, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Nuno Valente, Petit, Maniche (Tiago, 70), Cristiano Ronaldo (Nuno Gomes, 84), Luís Figo, Simão (Hugo Viana, 74), Pauleta
Portugal's final group game, against Latvia at the Estádio do Dragão on Wednesday, now becomes a formality.
Coach Felipe Scolari recognised that it hadn't been plain-sailing: "It was difficult because we made some mistakes we don't usually make ... we didn't take out chances, and there were about ten of them. In Germany, it can't be like that because the best 32 in the world are going to be there. We're going to have to be better if we want to aspire to something ... If we look in the files of the Portuguese Selecção, that will have been the first time we've conceded a goal like that - it was absurd." Scolari also intimated for the first time that the squad foir next summer is almost picked already: "I have around 20 of the final 23 chosen ... but we'll still analyse other players. They're all going to be evaluated until the final day of the call-up."
Luíz Felipe Scolari has chosen 22 players for his squad for the World Cup qualifying games against Liechtenstein and Latvia, on 8 and 12 October, respectively. Alex (Wolfsburg) and João Moutinho (Sporting - to the U-21s) are left out, while Miguel, Tiago, Hugo Viana and Nuno Gomes return. Scolari has also kept faith with 'keepers Ricardo (Sporting) and Quim (Benfica), both on the bench at their respective clubs.
Goalkeepers: Ricardo (Sporting), Quim (Benfica)
Defenders: Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Jorge Andrade (Deportivo), Nuno Valente (Everton), Fernando Meira (Stuttgart), Miguel and Caneira (Valência).
Midfielders: Costinha and Maniche (Moscow Dynamo), Hugo Viana (Valência), Tiago (Lyon), Petit (Benfica), Deco (Barcelona).
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Figo (Inter Milan), Luís Boa Morte (Fulham), Simão (Benfica), Hélder Postiga (FC Porto), Pauleta (Paris Saint-Germain), Nuno Gomes (Benfica).
Portugal need just one point from the first game against Liechtenstein to qualify for the World Cup Finals next summer in Germany.
Agostinho Oliveira has also named his U-21 squad for the game against Latvia on 11 October: Sporting's João Moutinho returns after a short tour of duty in the senior side.
Académica: José Castro
Barreirense: Miguel Ângelo;
Boavista: Diogo Valente
Estrela Amadora: Bruno Vale
Os Belenenses: Paulo Sérgio
União: Vítor Rodrigues
Marítimo: Filipe Oliveira
Marco: Pedro Ribeiro
Penafiel: Pedro Araújo
FC Porto: Hugo Almeida, Ivanildo, Paulo Ribeiro, Raul Meireles, Ricardo Quaresma
Benfica: João Pereira, Manuel Fernandes
Sp. Braga: Davide
Sporting: João Moutinho, Miguel Garcia, Semedo, Varela.
The players of the Selecção met up Tuesday in the traditional Hotel Amazónia, next to the National Stadium on the outskirts of Lisbon, ahead of the upcoming games. First to arrive was left back Nuno Valente. Last ... Luís Figo.
Benfica midfeilder Petit has been released from international for the upcoming World Cup qualifying games against Luxembourg and Russia because of a thigh injury. He is not expected to be replaced.
Former Portuguese international midfielder Paulo Sousa is joining the squad in the run-in to the two qualifying games ... as trainee coach.
Felipe Scolari has called Nuno Valente to the squad for the games against Luxembourg (03/09 in the Algarve) and Russia (07/09 in Moscow). The full back is in dispute with his club, FC Porto, over his involvement in the Selecção, and has not played this season. Scolari also maintains faith in Ricardo despite the 'keeper's disastrous start to the season with Sporting.
Goalkeepers: Quim (Benfica), Ricardo (Sporting);
Defenders: Alex (Wolfsburg), Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea), Jorge Andrade (Deportivo Coruña), Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Caneira (Valência), Nuno Valente (FC Porto), Fernando Meira (Stuttgart);
Midfielders: Petit (Benfica), Figo (Inter Milan), João Moutinho (Sporting), Boa Morte (Fulham), Simão (Benfica), Costinha (D. Moscow), Deco (Barcelona), Maniche (D. Moscow);
Cristano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Hélder Postiga (FC Porto), Pauleta (PSG).
Agostinho Oliveira has named his U-21 squad for the upcoming games against Luxembourg (02/09) and Russia (06/09), both for qualification to the European Championship at that level.
Goalkeepers: Bruno Vale (E. Amadora), Paulo Ribeiro (FC Porto);
Defenders: Valdir (E. Amadora), Nuno Morais (Marítimo), Miguel Garcia (Sporting), João Pereira (Benfica), José Castro (Académica), Semedo (Sporting), Pedro Ribeiro (Marco), Vítor Rodrigues (União da Madeira);
Midfielders: Davide (Sp. Braga), Diogo Valente (Boavista), Hugo Viana (Valência), Manuel Fernandes (Benfica), Filipe Oliveira (Marítimo);
Forwards: Hugo Almeida (FC Porto), Paulo Sérgio (Belenenses), Ricardo Quaresma (FC Porto), Ivanildo (FC Porto), Varela (Sporting).
Portugal beat a difficult Egypt in São Miguel in the Azores Wednesday in a friendly to prepare the squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg and Russia. Portugal, mundane in the first half, were transformed in the second with the entrance of several young players, notably debutants João Moutinho of Sporting, just 18, and João Alves of Sporting Braga. Portugal finally broke the deadlock on 50 minutes, a short corner from Figo on the left finally finding its way to the back post where an unmarked Fernando Meira prodded it in. On 69 minutes, João Alves slipped a sublime through ball to Hélder Postiga who kept a cool head to knock it past the Egyptian 'keeper in the one-on-one.
Local boy Pauleta of PSG, nursing an injury, was made captain and played the first 45 minutes in front of a home crowd of around 13,000.
The teams lined up:
Portugal: Quim, Alex, Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Paulo Ferreira, Petit, Figo, Tiago, Hugo Viana, Hélder Postiga, Pauleta. Plus: Fernando Meira, Marco Caneira, Boa Morte, João Alves, João Moutinho, Ricardo Quaresma.
Egypt: Nader El-Sayed, Fathi, Shawki, Nahaas, Tarek El-Sayed, Rabbou, Ghali, Abdelnadi, Zaki, Gomaa, Mido. Plus: El Hary, Aboutraika, El Saqua, Azmy e Halim Ali.
In Portugal's Qualifying Group 3 for the World cup, Slovakia could only draw 0-0 in Liechtenstein, meaning they missed the chance to go level on points with Portugal at the top, although they have played a game more. Meanwhile, Russia could also only draw 1-1 in Latvia, meaning they also missed the chance to make up ground on Portugal.
Group 3 looks like this:
1. Portugal, played 8/ 20 points
2. Slovakia, 9/18
3. Russia, 8/15
4. Latvia, 9/14
5. Estonia, 9/11
6. Liechtenstein, 9/5
7. Luxembourg, 8/0
Portugal U-21s lost 0-1 at home to their Hungarian counterparts in Viseu Wednesday in a friendly to prepare for the upcoming qualifying games of the European Championship. Feczesin got the only goal on 69 minutes. It was the first defeat in ten matches for Portugal, but they deserved no more for a scrappy perfomance.
Portugal lined up:
Bruno Vale (Paulo Ribeiro, 46 m), João Pereira (Miguel Garcia, 46 m), Pedro Ribeiro (José Castro, 46 m), Semedo, Valdir, Raul Meireles (Morais, 46 m), Manuel Fernandes (Vítor Rodrigues, 77 m), Filipe Oliveira (Davide, 46 m), Paulo Sérgio (Varela, 46 m), Diogo Valente (Ivanildo, 46 m), Hugo Almeida.
Luíz Felipe Scolari said Tuesday that the withdrawal of Cristiano Ronaldo from the sqaud to face Egypt in the Azores Wedensday was down to undisclosed "personal reasons". Meanwhile, the Brazilian coach will call up his sqaud for the Group 3 World Cup qualifiers against Luxembourg and Russia on 25 August .
FC Porto left back Nuno Valente, normally a first choice for the Selecção, is caught in a tug of war between his club and country. Porto say that he has to choose between playing for the club or, as is his wish, especially with the World Cup just around the corner, playing for Portugal. Valente was injured playing for the Selecção last season, and Porto had to contract a new player (Leandro do Bonfim) to cover for him.
Portugal's friendly against Egypt in the Estádio de São Miguel in Ponta Delgada in the Azores Wednesday is expected to be a sell-out, especially since it is the first time local hero Pauleta, currently at Paris St Germain, will be playing for the Selecção in front of his home crowd. "Playing in the Portuguese shirt in my home town, in front of my friends, my family and my folk will be a very special moment in my career", he told the FPF official site.
Portugal trained Monday at the National Stadium near Lisbon, without Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo or Sporting's Custódio, replaced respectively by Luís Boa Morte of Fulham and João Alves of Sporting Braga. It is the latter's first call-up to the senior squad. The squad flies Tuesday to the Azores.
Luís Filipe Scolari announced his squad Thursday to face Egypt in the Azores on 17 August. Sporting midfielders Custódio and João Moutinho are there for the first time.
Goalkeepers: Ricardo, Quim;
Defenders: Jorge Andrade, Alex, Fernando Meira, Paulo Ferreira, Caneira, Ricardo Carvalho
Midfielders: Petit, Custódio, Hugo Viana, João Moutinho, Tiago, Figo, Ricardo Quaresma
Forwards: Hélder Postiga, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pauleta
The U-21 squad to face Hungary on 16 August was announced Thursday:
Goalkeepers: Bruno Vale (E. Amadora), Paulo Ribeiro (F.C. Porto);
Defenders: Valdir (E. Amadora), João Pereira (Benfica), José Castro (Académica), Semedo (Sporting), Miguel Garcia (Sporting), Nuno Morais (Marítimo), Pedro Ribeiro (Marco), Vítor Rodrigues (União);
Midfielders: Davide (Sp. Braga), Diogo Valente (Boavista), Edgar Marcelino (Roosendaal), Manuel Fernandes (Benfica), Raul Meireles (F.C. Porto);
Forwards: Filipe Oliveira (Marítimo), Hugo Almeida (F.C. Porto), Ivanildo (F.C. Porto), Paulo Sérgio (Belenenses), Varela (Sporting)
The Portuguese Football Federation has applied to hold the 2006 or 2007 U-21 European Championships. The candidature for 2006 would depend on Portugal qualifying for the final stages, whereas in 2007 the country could hold the competition whether it qualifies or not. Portugal still has the infrastructure intact that made Euro 2004 so successful.
Portugal has dropped from 8th to 10th in the FIFA rankings. The Top Ten are:
1 (1) Brazil, 846 points
2. (3) Argentina, 787
3. (4) Holland, 781
4. (2) Czech Republic, 778
5. (6) Mexico, 768
6. (10) USA, 765
7. (5) France, 749
8. (7) England, 744
= (10) Spain, 744
10. (8) Portugal, 739
National coach Luíz Felipe Scolari will announce his squad for the friendly with Egypt (Ponta Delgada, the Azores, 17 August) on 11 August. The game will be preparation for the Group 3 World Cup qualifier on 3 September against Luxembourg.
National coach Felipe Scolari said Friday that anything less than eighth place in the World Cup Finals would be a disappointment (Portugal are ranked eighth in the world by FIFA), this despite the fact that Portugal have still not mathematically qualified for the finals yet. He also said that the public bickering with FC Porto was of the club's making, not his.
Scolari was speaking at the presentation of website Maisfutebol's World Cup 2006 section (in Portuguese), which can be visited here.
France comfortably beat Portugal 4-1 in the final of the Toulon Tornament Friday. Haddad, Briand and Fauverge (2) got the French goals, while João Moreira sneaked a consolation in the dying minutes.
Portugal's national team did not have Wednesday the facilities that Estonia granted the U-21s on the previous night, and it was only a close-range Cristiano Ronaldo header from a nicely weighted Figo cross on the left that separated the teams (0-1). But the result did put Portugal firmly in the driving seat in Qualifying Group 3, and it will now be a miracle if they didn't qualify for the World Cup in Germany. They would join there (so far): Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea.
In other Group 3 games, Slovakia won 4-0 in Luxembourg, while Latvia beat Liechtenstein 1-0 at home.
Group positions are:
1. Portugal 20 points (8 games played)
2. Slovakia 17 (8)
3. Russia 14 (7)
4. Latvia 13 (8)
5. Estonia 11 (9)
6. Liechtenstein 4 (8)
7. Luxembourg 0 (8)
Meanwhile, Portugal's U-20s reached the Final of the Toulon Tournament, beating Mexico 1-0 with a goal from Organista. France qualified at the expense of England (on penalties).
Portugal's U-21s thrashed a permissive Estonia 5-0 Tuesday to clinch qualification for the European Championship play-offs at that level. Edgar Marcelino put Portugal 2-0 up (11 and 55 minutes), Felipe Oliveira added another on 58, and in the last five minutes, Hugo Almeida and Paulo Sérgio completed the rout.
FPF president Gilberto Madaíl said Tuesday that he would like Portugal's final game in the World Cup Group 3 qualifying round, versus Latvia, to be played at FC Porto's Estádio do Dragão , although he admitted that he hadn't yet spoken to Porto's president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa. It is looking increasingly like the game will be a mere celebration of Portugal's foretold qualification.
The Portuguese squads arrived in Tallin Monday evening ahead of their U-21 European Championship and A Team World Cup qualifiers against Estonia on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Portugal's U-20s reached the semi-finals of the Tournée de Toulon Monday with a 2-0 win over Tunisia, Organista and Targino the scorers. Portugal meet Mexico in the semis.
Portugal beat Slovakia 2-0 at a packed Luz stadium Saturday to go clear top of World Cup Qualifying Group 3, three points ahead now of Slovakia and Russia.
Apart from a shaky ten minutes early in the game, Portugal dominated, with Figo back and putting in a composed display on his record-breaking 111th appearance. Also on song were Cristiano Ronaldo, a constant headache for Slovakia's right of defence, Deco, as astute as ever in the middle, and right back Alex, making his first appearance.
The goals came in the first half, both rehearsed. Deco took a corner on the left on 20 minutes, Pauleta was at the near post to glance it on and Meira was at the back post to touch it in. Then five minutes from half-time, Cristiano Ronaldo curled a free kick inside the near post. In the second half, Portugal took their foot off the gas but were rarely worried by a disappointing Slovakia side.
"It's with performances like these that we can get to the World Cup," said coach Felipe Scolari after the game.
In Portugal's group, Russia climbed to equal second by beating Latvia 2-0, while Estonia beat Liechtenstein by the same score.
Portugal's U-21s beat Slovakia 2-1 Friday in their European Championship qualifier in Rio Maior. Portugal were two-up within ten minutes through Filipe Oliveira of Chelsea and Sporting's Hugo Viana, captain on the night. They let Slovakia back into it and Holosko reduced the difference ten minutes from time, but it was too late to change the result.
Benfica's Simão Sabrosa has withdrawn from the Selecção with a muscular problem and will be unavailable for the World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and Estonia.
Portugal's game against Slovakia Saturday will be preceded by a minute's silence in honour of former Portugal international José António, 47, who died Thursday while playing football with friends. The central defender made his mark on the Portuguese game playing for Belenenses.
Benfica's Nuno Gomes and Miguel have both been released from international duty for the upcoming World Cup qulifiers. The Selecção's medical department has denied that there are any physical reasons why the players should not be apt, which points to either a technical option by coach Felipe Scolari or some kind of disciplinary problem. What is causing a little bit of controversy is the manner in which the players heard the news: by SMS. The FPF say they did send a fax to Benfica informing the players, but it seems that they got the SMSs first.
The squad is now down to 21 after Ricardo Carvalho, Luís Boa Morte and Nuno Valente all pulled out through injury.
Preparation began Friday for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with Slovakia and Estonia ... but only four players were present on the first day: Cristiano Ronaldo, Alex, Fernando Meira and Tiago.
Luís Figo has returned to the squad for the Selecção's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia (home, 4 June) and Estonia (away, 8 June). Felipe Scolari called up 26 players:
Chelsea: Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago;
FC Porto: Costinha, Hélder Postiga, Maniche, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Costa, Ricardo Quaresma;
Real Madrid: Luís Figo;
Vitória de Guimarães: Alex;
Fulham: Luis Boa Morte;
Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo;
Paris Saint-Germain: Pauleta;
Deportivo la Coruña: Jorge Andrade;
Benfica: Nuno Gomes, Miguel, Petit, Quim, Simão Sabrosa, Manuel Fernandes;
VFB Stuttgart: Fernando Meira;
Dynamo Moscovo: Frechaut, Jorge Ribeiro;
Valência: Marco Caneira.
Luís Figo has agreed to return to the Selecção for the upcoming crucial World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia (4 June, home) and Estonia (7 June, away). Figo withdrew from the national team after Euro 2004 saying he needed a break.
Portugal will play Egypt in a friendly on 17 August and the venue will be ... Ponta Delgada in the Azores.
National coach Luís Felipe Scolari will meet Luís Figo in the next ten days to discuss the possibility of the Real Madrid player returning to national team duty ahead of the vital upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Tickets for the Portugal v Slovakia World Cup qualifier on 4 June will go on sale on the Internet via the FPF site, as from Friday 6 May . Prices vary between five and 25 euros.
Sports daily A Bola admitted Friday that reports that Luís Figo was set to return to the national team (see below) were in fact an April Fool's joke.
Luís Figo is set to return to the Selecção, sports daily A Bola reports. National team coach Felipe Scolari has said that he would welcome a return to the team by Portugal's most successful player of recent times, but Figo has, since Euro 2004, said that he wanted to concentrate on his club career with Real Madrid . Now, however, it seems that the Spanish giants are ready to offload their faithful servant, prompting Figo to think again about his international future.
Former colleague of Figo in the Selecção, Paulo Sousa, called him 'a genius' in an interview with the official UEFA site.
Portugal remained top of their World Cup 2006 qualifying group Wednesday with a 1-1 draw in Bratislava. Slovakia proved a tough hut to crack, especially after they went 1-0 up after only six minutes when Paulo Ferreira fouled Mintal in the box and Karhan scored from the spot, Ricardo getting to the ball but succeeding only in turning it into the corner of the net. Portugal had most of the possession for the rest of the game, Slovakia threatening only on the break, when Ricardo saved Portugal's hide more than once. Then on 57 minutes, Scolari brought on Postiga for the hard-working but ineffectual Pauleta, and the change proved the turning point. Five minutes later, Postiga flicked in from a Deco corner, touched on by Ricardo Carvalho, and from then on Portugal were galvanised into something a little more objective. They only didn't take the three points because of a superb save late in the game by Contofalsky from Cristiano Ronaldo.
The teams lined up:
Slovakia: Contofalsky, Zabavnik, Martin Petras, Varga, Michalik (Marian Had, 37 m), Hanek (Karol Kisel, 81 m), Karhan, Hlinka, Nemeth, Marek Mintal, Martin Jakubko (Lubomir Reiter, 65 m).
Portugal: Ricardo, Paulo Ferreira (Miguel, 64 m), Ricardo Carvalho, Jorge Andrade, Nuno Valente, Costinha, Maniche, Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Simão (Hugo Viana, 92 m), Pauleta (Hélder Postiga, 57 m).
Russia could only draw 1-1 in Estonia and are now three points behind Portugal and Slovakia in Group 3.
Portugal's U-21s beat Slovakia 1-0 Tuesday in Bratislava in a European Championship qualifier. Boavista's giant striker Hugo Almeida got the winner on 56 minutes, taking advantage of some slack defending. Diogo Valnete and Filipe Teixeira came close later on but the score remained.
Chelsea coach José Mourinho has indicated again that he would one day like to coach the national team. Speaking from Tel Aviv, where he is involved in charity work, he said: "After what I've done, I hope to one day be the National Team coach. That's my great wish, that may or may not come true ... I think that within two or four years, I could be in charge of football in my country, the national team." He did, however, rule out the possibility of managing the England team: "When Eriksson decides to get out or the English FA decides to change coaches, I think the position should go to an English coach."
Portugal beat Canada 4-1 in Barcelos Saturday in a friendly to prepare for the vital World Cup qualifier against Slovakia Wednesday. Portugal were 2-0 up within a quarter of an hour, through Manuel Fernandes, the young Benfica midfielder making his first start for the national team, and Pauleta. Hélder Postiga extended the lead in the 80th minute, but Portugal relaxed a little and McKenna got a consolation for Canada on 84 before Nuno Gomes made it 4-1 in added time.
The teams lined up:
Portugal: Quim, Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Andrade, Fernando Meira, Nuno Valente, Manuel Fernandes, Maniche, Deco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Simão, Pauleta.
Subs: Ricardo Costa, Nuno Gomes, Postiga, Miguel, Hugo Viana, Boa Morte
Canada: Reda, McKenna, Guzman, Stalteri, Imhof, Brennan, Klukowsky, Hutchinson, De Rosario, Occean, Hirschfeld
Subs: Radzinski, Bernier, Peters, Posniak
Coach Felipe Scolari was pleased with the team's effort but still saw room for improvement: "This was the right spirit. Naturally, one or two things didn't go as we wished, or the players wished, but they played with the same spirit that they play for the clubs. I was satisfied in this respect, although from the point of view of the game, there are still some situations that are not right."
Portugal's next opponents in qualifying Group 3, Slovakia, beat Estonia 2-1 away to draw level with Portugal at the top of the group. Russia are third after a 2-1 win at Liechtenstein .
Luís Filipe Scolari named his squad Wednesday for the upcoming internationals against Canada (friendly, 26/03) and Slovakia (World Cup 2006 Qualifier, 30/03):
Chelsea: Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho;
FC Porto: Costinha, Hélder Postiga, Maniche, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Costa;
Fulham: Luis Boa Morte;
Manchester United: Cristiano Ronaldo;
Paris Saint-Germain: Pauleta;
Deportivo La Coruña: Jorge Andrade;
Benfica: Nuno Gomes, Miguel, Petit, Quim, Simão Sabrosa;
Sporting: Hugo Viana, and Ricardo;
Stuttgart: Fernando Meira
At the same time, Agostinho Oliveira named his U-21 squad for the European Championship qualifier against Slovakia on 29/03:
Académica / OAF: José Castro;
Boavista: Diogo Valente, Hugo Almeida;
Casa Pia: Varela;
Chelsea: Filipe Oliveira, Nuno Morais;
Penafiel: Bruno Amaro, Edgar Marcelino;
FC Porto: Bruno Vale, Pedro Ribeiro, Raul Meireles, Ricardo Quaresma;
GD Tourizense: Vítor Rodrigues;
Belenenses: Lourenço, Paulo Sérgio;
Benfica: João Pereira, Manuel Fernandes
Vitória de Setúbal: Paulo Ribeiro
The auction of Portugal's shirts from the last game against Ireland raised 14,000 euros for the Indonesian orphan Martunis. The highest price was paid for goalkeeper Ricardo's shirt: 2,000 euros. The shirts of Deco, Cristiano, Nuno Gomes, Manuel Fernandes (making his début) and Simão all fetched over 1,000 euros. Goalkeeper Quim's went for the lowest sum: 356. The person who bought Ricardo´s shirt will receive it from Ricardo before the international friendly against Canada in Barcelos on 26 March. The others will receive theirs after the World Cup qualifier against Slovakia on 30 March.
Portugal went down 0-1 to the Republic of Ireland in Dublin Wednesday. A goal on 20 minutes from O'Brien, after some sloppy defending had left the ball loose in the six-yard box, was enough to separate the sides on the score-sheet: But Ireland, with Damien Duff standing out, proved the better organised of the two sides, although Portugal had various chances, notably through Andrade in the first half, in a position similar to O'Brien's but blasting over. Portugal's main threat came from a lively Cristiano Ronaldo, but he often chose the wrong final ball or hung onto it too long with teammates free in good positions.
FC Porto defender Ricardo Costa and Benfica midfielder Manuel Fernandes came on as subs in the second half to make their full international débuts.
The teams lined up:
Republic of Ireland: Given, Finnan, O'Brien, Cunningham (Dunne, 59 m), O'Shea, Holland, Kilbane (Kavanagh, 45 m), Andy Reid, Damien Duff (Miller, 68 m), Morrison, Robbie Keane (McGeady, 82 m).
Portugal: Ricardo, Paulo Ferreira (Ricardo Costa, 45 m), Caneira, Jorge Andrade, Rogério Matias, Tiago (Fernando Meira, 45 m), Petit; Cristiano Ronaldo (Manuel Fernandes, 68 m), Deco (Hugo Viana, 45 m), Simão (Luís Boa Morte, 59 m); Pauleta (Nuno Gomes, 45 m).
Portugal play Slovakia on 30 March in a World Cup qualifier and will need to be much charper and more organised to avoid disappointment.
The shirts used by Portugal on the night as part of the 'Stand Up Speak Up' inititaive against racism (see below), exclusive to this game, will be signed by each player and auctioned on the Portuguese Football Federation site (Leilão de Camisolas da Nossa Selecção!) on Thursday afternoon, 10 February. Proceeds will go towards helping the young Indonesian orphan, Martunis, found wandering alone in a Portugal shirt almost three weeks after the tsunami disaster in South-East Asia.
Boavista's Hugo Almeida scored on 16 and 31 minutes, both times assisted by Quaresma, to give Portugal's U-21s a 2-0 victory over their Irish counterparts in Rio Maior Tuesday.
Portugal's team to face Ireland in Dublin Wednesday will be:
Ricardo, Paulo Ferreira, Caneira, Jorge Andrade, Rogério Matias; Petit, Tiago, Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco, Simão, Pauleta.
Coach Felipe Scolari, aware of Ireland's physical game, said: "We have to play with virility."
Portugal will play in a one-off change-strip of black and white. (see A Bola's front page below). The change is part of an anti-racism initiative from kit designers Nike and a number of prominent footballers, among them Thierre Henry of Arsenal.
FC Porto's Costinha has been released from international duty ahead of the friendly against Ireland in Dublin Wednesday. The midfielder has a muscle strain in his right leg and will be replaced in the squad by his Porto teammate Ricardo Costa, a defender.
Meanwhile, Sporting's full back Miguel Garcia hs been released from the U-21 squad for the friendy against Ireland in Rio Maior Tuesday. The player has the flu.
Felipe Scolari has named his squad for the friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin Wednesday. There is only one player from FC Porto in the sqaud - Costinha - and Benfica are the most represented with five, including for the first time 19-year-old midfielder Manuel Fernandes. Returning are Fernando Meira of Stuttgart, Rogério Matias of Vitória de Guimarães and Marco Caneira of Valência.
Goalkeepers: Ricardo (Sporting), Quim (Benfica);
Defenders: Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea), Fernando Meira (Stuttgart), Jorge Andrade (Deportivo Coruña), Marco Caneira (Valência), Rogério Matias (Vitória de Guimarães);
Midfielders: Petit and Manuel Fernandes (Benfica), Costinha (FC Porto), Tiago (Chelsea), Hugo Viana (Sporting), Deco (Barcelona);
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United); Luís Boa Morte (Fulham), Nuno Gomes and Simão Sabrosa (Benfica), Pauleta (PSG).
Agostinho Oliveira has selected his U-21 squad to play the Republic of Ireland at 17.00 local time Tuesday in Rio Maior. It includes Boavista's Hugo Almeida, who was to be left out because of club commitments but is now in because he was suspended from SuperLiga matches for one game.
Académica: José Castro;
Belenenses: Amorim, Lourenço, Paulo Sérgio;
Benfica: João Pereira;
Boavista: Hugo Almeida;
Casa Pia: Miguel Ângelo e Varela;
Chelsea: Filipe Oliveira, Nuno Morais;
Estrela Amadora: Davide;
FC Porto: Bruno Vale, Pedro Ribeiro, Raul Meireles, Ricardo Quaresma;
Penafiel: Edgar Marcelino;
Tourizense: Vítor Rodrigues;
Sporting: Mário Felgueiras, Miguel Garcia.
Portugal's U-21s will play their Republic of Ireland counterparts in a friendly in Rio Maior on 8 February. The game will serve to to try out players and systems that coach Agostinho Oliveira may be able to use in the upcoming match against Slovakia for qualification to the European Championship for that level.
Portugal B drew 1-1 with Slovenia Thursday in the Vale do Tejo Tournament, sub Fábio Felício equalising on 53 minutes the goal scored by Slovenia on 21. Both sides agreed they would not fight out the result on penalties, and so share third place. Penalties were needed, however, in the game for first place between Bulgaria and Slovakia; the former came out winners 4-3 after it had finished 1-1 at full-time..
Portugal B lost to Bulgaria in the opening game of the Vale do Tejo Tournament Tuesday, meaning that they cannot now go through to the Final against Slovakia. The game finished 0-0 and went to penalties, which Bulgaria won 5-4.
Slovakia beat Slovenia earlier in the day. The game finished 1-1 but Slovakia won through on penalties.
The Portugal 'B' squad has been selected by coach Agostinho Oliveira to compete in the Vale do Tejo tournament from 18-20 January. The other teams in the tournament are Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
The squad: Ovarense: Valdir; Boavista: Carlos, Diogo Valente, Hugo Almeida;
Casa Pia: Varela; Penafiel: Edgar Marcelino; FC Porto: Bruno Vale, César Peixoto; Raul Meireles; Marítimo: Luís Filipe, Tonel; Belenenses: Lourenço, Paulo Sérgio; Rio Ave: Miguelito; Sp. Braga: Abel; Benfica: Bruno Aguiar, Manuel Fernandes; Sporting: Carlos Martins, Custódio; União de Leiria: Fábio Felício, João Paulo; Vitória: Manuel José
The Portuguese Football Federation announced Friday that they are preparing a friendly at Benfica's Luz stadium.for some time in the first fortnight of January, between the Portuguese National team and players from the region struck by the tsunami over Christmas. FPF president Gilberto Madaíl said: "We want to fill the Luz and raise 500,000 euros."
Agostinho Oliveira has called up 26 players for the Portugal B team to play in the Vale do Tejo ('Tagus Valley') Tournament from 18-20 January. They are:
Académica: Vasco Faísca; Belenenses: José Pedro, Neca, Pélé; Benfica: Bruno Aguiar; Boavista: Carlos, Carlos Fernandes, Lucas; Estoril: João Paulo, Jorge Baptista, Rui Duarte; Estrela da Amadora: Henrique; FC Porto: César Peixoto, Hugo Leal; Marítimo: Luís Filipe, Tonel; Ovarense: Sérgio Leite; Rio Ave: Jacques, Miguelito; Sporting Braga: Abel, João Alves; União de Leiria: Alhandra, Fábio Felício, João Paulo; Vitória de Setúbal: Manuel José, Ricardo Chaves.
The other countries involved in the tournament are Bulgaria, Slovenia and Turkey.
It has been revealed in the Spanish press that Portuguese coach Felipe Scolari was on the short list to take over the reins at Real Madrid, meanwhile grasped by Scolari's compatriot and also former Brazil coach Wanderlei Luxemburgo.