portugal v albania - september 2014


post-match reaction

match report


pre-match interviews/ press conferences


Post-match reaction to Portugal 0-1 Albania, Euro 2016 qualifying, 07 September 2014


Paulo Bento, coach

– What really happened today? What were Portugal lacking? What happened to make the Seleção lose this game?

- The bad result is undeniable, but I believe that in the first 20 minutes we were good. After that we lost our solidity, we should have continued to circulate the ball and avoided a longer, more direct game. We couldn’t. We started to make mistakes and ended up conceding a goal when we were a man down – we should have defended that situation differently. But throughout the 90 minutes it was all one way, and it was effectiveness that settled it. A team that scores with the only shot they had, and the other that had enough chances not only to draw but to win.

- How do you analyse the white handkerchiefs in the stands, and why did you leave (Sporting winger) Bruma out?

- We left him out because of the week’s work. You have to make decisions, and it wasn’t because we left Bruma out that we couldn’t turn the game around with the changes we made. The handkerchiefs … we know that people have the right to be dissatisfied and to show their opinion; we have to respect that.

- Are you finding excuses? Was it mentality or quality that was lacking?

- I don’t come up with excuses, I give explanations. I do my work, I analyse the game in a clear and honest way. Excuses are something I don’t come up with, and I tell you that we didn’t deserve this result. There wasn’t any lack of mentality or attitude from the players. It’s obvious that at times our play lacked quality, but above all effectiveness.

- After this result and a game in which the team needed to redeem itself after what happened in the World Cup, do you still feel capable of taking the Seleção to the European finals?

- The aim wasn’t to redeem ourselves. Whatever we do, what happened in the World Cup can’t be extinguished, just as what happened in the European Championship can’t. In relation to your second question, I’d never make that public. If I’m going to have conditions or not, that’s not something I’d say in a press conference.

- But do you feel like your job’s at risk?

I don’t know if it is or isn’t, but I’ll never say it here. We have to take the handkerchiefs as being normal; it’s what happens in football – the people are upset. What I have to do, I’m not going to say in public. The objective for Copenhagen [against Denmark, 14 October] hasn’t changed just because of this game. We’d always be going there to win, but it’s obvious that the situation has got complicated.


William Carvalho, midfielder

- It’s obvious that we can’t be happy – it was a result we didn’t want. We knew that we had to win this game, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. We were off with our finishing and they had one chance and scored. But that’s football and now we have to put this game behind us and look towards the next … It wasn’t a lack of quality. These are practically the same players we went to the World Cup with, the same we beat Sweden with to qualify for the World Cup. So I don’t think it’s a lack of quality. We were unlucky and our finishing was off … It’s always difficult to play against a team that puts ten men behind the ball … We didn’t play to our level, we didn’t show our quality. Now it’s more complicated after losing our first game … To rectify it we have to train, and when we get on the pitch we have to give our all for things to go the best way possible … the reaction from the crowd isn’t what we wanted, but we have to respect it. The fans are dissatisfied with our performance, and on top of that we lost. Are they right? No. We gave our all, but they always want a victory, just as we do. It’s normal that they’re dissatisfied with the result.


João Moutinho, midfielder

- No games are easy any more, whether it’s against Albania or any other team. But there can’t be any more excuses. For here on in, we have to try to do better. After this home game, we have to win all of the others – we can’t lose any of them … We had chances, we ran, we gave everything for a different result. They had a single chance and they scored … Our players have quality, the coach has quality – we tried to do our best but unfortunately we couldn’t … We didn’t even think about drawing and we ended up losing … We have to lift our heads up.


Pepe, defender

- We have to be strong, lift our heads up and carry on … People saw that we fought, we did everything to win. All they did for practically 70 or 80 minutes was defend and then they had the good fortune to score from a lucky move … It’s difficult to turn over the World Cup page because all the media are always taking about it. We’re aware that we weren’t good, but we’re capable of improving.


Ricardo Costa, defender

- We believe in the coach’s methods. And he believes in the players that have accompanied him. We’re together in this fight … We didn’t manage to score, despite the many shots we had. Albania had two chances and scored from one of them … a quality goal.


Antunes (unused sub)

- It didn’t go well. We’re all crestfallen. We’re going to respond appropriately and win the three points in the next game. We believe in the coach … No, the defeat doesn’t bring back bad memories of Brazil for us. We’re focused on Euro 2016.


Albania coach Gianni De Biasi

- It was an historic and beautiful result, for sure, despite the fact that we made a lot of mistakes, but the first game is always hard. It was very lucky that Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t playing – he’s the best in the world, along with Messi.


Portugal 0-1 Albania - Euro 2016 qualifying, 07 September 2014 - Match Report

And so it begins again … the heavy slog to qualification, possibly involving in the end (yet again) a calculator. Portugal have lost their opening Euro 2016 qualifying game at home (!) to Albania (!), 60 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

They lost 1-0 to a superb goal by Balaj on 52 minutes, a demonstration in one clinical move of everything Portugal were lacking on the night. Albania’s best player Roshi – getting in everyone’s face from minute one but not forgetting to cause sporadic danger to keep the Portuguese defence on their toes – crossed from the right, Balaj eased back to lose his markers and hit a crisp, no-nonsense hooked shot on the turn past the helpless Rui Patrício. Albania possibly had two, maybe three chances in the whole game and scored from one of them. Portugal, on the other hand …

Well, they had control of the game virtually throughout. Coach Paulo Bento said as much: “The game didn’t go well in terms of the result. In the first part we had chances and we had the game completely under control.” But what Portugal did – or rather didn’t do – with that control is where the rub was.

Build-up was painfully slow, there was little spark in the final third, and when the chances did come, no one had their scoring boots on. In fact the best chances fell to centre-back Ricardo Costa, getting into good positions but being unable – that’s not his job, after all – to make the chances count. Nani also had a very good opportunity in the first half, João Moutinho – perhaps Portugal’s best player – feeding him on the right. But Nani’s sharpness and confidence are not what they were, and he dragged his cross-shot wide of the left hand post.

Unfortunately, the two risks that ultra-conservative Paulo Bento took in selection – playing William Carvalho and André Gomes from the start – didn’t work. Far from dynamising the midfield, their lack of cohesion with the players around them slowed things down, leaving it to Moutinho and Fábio Coentrão on the left to try to inject some urgency into Portugal’s play.

Albania, under Italian coach Giovanni de Biasi, came with their tactics well defined and practised. They were aggressive from the off, sometimes taking that aggressiveness too far – they received six yellow cards, three in the first half for rough challenges. But they pressed untiringly, giving Portugal little time to settle. And they never did.

Paulo Bento made predictable substitutions: Cavaleiro for Vieirinha at half-time when it was clear that Éder was fighting a losing battle up front on his own, winger Ricardo Horta for William Carvalho when it was clear that better service was needed for the front runners, and Miguel Veloso for Ricardo Costa late in the day when it was clear that it was a question of all or nothing. Of the three subs, Ricardo Horta was the brightest, bringing some sparkle to the left-hand side where the gaping hole that was the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo was screaming out to be filled. Horta it was who came closest to scoring for Portugal, hitting the woodwork on 70 minutes with a neat shot from just outside the box. It was the only time that the excellent Berisha in the Albania goal was really troubled; he hung onto everything else that was sent his way.

By the end, Portuguese heads had gone and the hearts took over, throwing balls forward to little effect. Albania played to their strengths, which doesn’t involve much talent but lots of spirit and organisation, clearing their lines and holding the ball further up the pitch when they could, and resorting to gamesmanship – Berisha got a yellow in the 70th minute for time-wasting, which he’d been doing since the fifth. Portugal had the spirit – you can’t fault them for that – but had neither the organisation nor the tactical flair to make a dent in Albania’s armour.

By the end, the Aveiro crowd were waving white handkerchiefs, booing and whistling. After a dismal World Cup campaign, this was the last thing they wanted to see on home soil: being outclassed by Albania. “These are situations that are natural in football when the results don’t go your way. We have to respect the fans’ opinions and continue on our way, knowing that this first game did not go well for us,” said Paulo Bento after the match.

One game into the qualifying campaign and his tenure looks shaky; opinion on social media is almost exclusively scathing. Portugal’s next Euro 2016 qualifier is on 14 October in Denmark, who beat Armenia 2-1 earlier in the evening. On the evidence of Sunday’s performance, Portugal will need to change a whole lot – possibly including the coach – before then.

Estádio Municipal de Aveiro (attendance 23,205)

Portugal: Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Ricardo Costa (Miguel Veloso 72), Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, André Gomes, William Carvalho (Ricardo Horta 55), João Moutinho, Nani, Éder, Vieirinha (Ivan Cavaleiro HT)

Portugal subs (not used): Eduardo, Anthony Lopes, André Almeida, Pedro Tiba, Luís Neto, Raul Meireles, Rúben Vezo, Antunes, Adrien Silva.

Albania: Berisha, Hysaj, Cana, Mavraj, Agolli, Xhaka, Kukeli (Kaçe 65), Abrashi, Lenjani (Lila 74), Roshi, Balaj (Cikalleshi 81)

Albania subs (not used): Shehi, Çurri, Shala, Kapllani, Vila, Gashi, Salihi, Vajushi


Portugal v Albania, Euro 2016 qualifying, 07 September 2014 - Preview

Portugal have been ever-present at the European Championship finals since 1996 and kick off their campaign to make it six in a row Sunday evening against Albania in Aveiro, in the centre of the country. Albania would seem, on paper, to be an accessible opponent – there are more difficult jobs ahead for Portugal against Denmark and Serbia, with Armenia appearing to be the soft touch in Group I. Portugal have played Albania five times, won four and drawn one (F12, A4). But the last two games, in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, were tricky affairs: Albania forced a 0-0 draw against an uninspired Portugal side in Braga, and made them work hard for a 2-1 win in Tirana. All those involved with the Seleção in the run-up to this game have warned of the danger of a constantly improving Albanian team. The warnings may be genuine or simply setting up arguments in case of a premature disaster: the old “there are no easy games these days” defence.

Portugal’s cause will be made more difficult by the absence of ace in the hole Cristiano Ronaldo through injury (read ‘rest’). But it will be an opportunity for Paulo Bento to experiment a little and come up with a game plan that doesn’t involve funneling all forward play through ‘The Best Player In The World’.

As the only out-and-out striker in the squad for this game, Sporting Braga’s Éder will lead the line – and will be hoping to improve on his grand total of no goals at all in 11 appearances for the national team. At some point, if the goals are appearing hard to come by, he may be joined by Deportivo’s Ivan Cavaleiro as a second striker. On the right, Nani seems a shoe-in; he’s been off his game for several seasons now, but his experience will be valuable and he may be named captain for the day. On the left, Paulo Bento may go for the combative and dependable Vieirinha of Wolfsburg; Galatasaray’s Bruma was cut from the squad to bring it down from 24 to the statutory 23.

In midfield, Mónaco’s João Moutinho will start but this is an area of the field where Paulo Bento could justifiably make wholesale changes, such was their feeble showing in Brazil. A refreshing sight would be to see Sporting’s excellent Willliam Carvalho starting, although he’s been off the boil at the start of his club’s season. William’s Sporting team-mate Adrien would also be a welcome addition – for his aggressiveness and dynamism. Many Portuguese hearts, as well as footballportugal’s, will sink if they see Dynamo Kiev’s Miguel Veloso and Fenerbahçe’s Raul Meireles lining up at kick off ... but Paulo Bento does have a reputation for being a little conservative in his options.

There will be one forced change in defence, Zenit’s Bruno Alves out through injury. Ricardo Costa, now plying his trade with Al-Sailiya in Qatar, appears to be the favourite to partner Real Madrid’s Pepe, but footballportugal would like to see Zenit’s Luís Neto given the nod. The full-backs seem automatic choices: Real Madrid’s Fábio Coentrão, recovered from injury, on the left, and diminutive João Pereira of Valência on the right. Rui Patricio looks set to be between the sticks, despite a less than famous performance against Germany in Brazil.

All those who found themselves in front of a microphone in the lead-in to the Albania game were asked about the possible residual trauma of the World Cup experience. All said that Brazil was behind them, that we have to look to the future, etc. One thing’s for certain: it can’t possibly be any worse. Please.



(Interviews with Seleção figures ahead of the first Euro 2016 qualifier versus Albania, 07 September 2014)


Coach of the Seleção, Paulo Bento (A Bola/ Público)

- [Asked about the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo from the Albania game] “No team would be stronger without the best player in the world …
… We have two strikers: Éder and Ivan Cavaleiro. They’re players with different characteristics, that’s a fact. We have problems in terms of quantity [of strikers available], but the same thing has happened with the same position at other times. …
… [in response to FPF president Fernando Gomes’ comment that the Seleção were not “competent” at the World Cup] I’ve been more competent, that’s for sure – when we qualified for Euro 2012 and got to the semi-finals, and when we got to the 2014 World Cup. But I was less competent [in Brazil]. We didn’t show enough competence in Brazil because we didn’t achieve the minimum objective that we had in mind …
… There’s only one Seleção – not one that was in Brazil and a different one that’s going to approach qualification for Euro 2016. New people have arrived and we’re going to try to fit them in with our way of playing. We want to start the qualifying phase in the best way …
… A team that’s a candidate to qualify for the finals of Euro 2016, regardless of what happened at the World Cup, would still be a favourite. That doesn’t change anything. We have to focus on our game plan, on the difficulties our opponents can cause us. With more or less pressure, the essential thing is to play well because then we’ll be nearer winning. We want to go to Euro 2016 and we want to go there in first place in the group …
… Albania are a very organised team defensively, and they counter-attack quickly, with fast and aggressive players …
… I’m expecting a competitive, organised, intense team, one which has defined well what it has to do in every moment of the game. It’s a team that’s evolved in recent years and improved its organisation … but that doesn’t invalidate our strategy and ambition, which is to win. We have to take control of the game from the start because we know that the objectives are for this game and for qualification. We want to be better and we have the obligation to be better. …
… Our favouritism is based on our past, where we’ve systematically been in the major competitions. But in recent competitions, we’ve been in groups that have had teams that are not used to being in finals – but we haven’t managed to qualify directly. We want to put our theoretical favouritism into practice …
… We’ve prepared during the week and we have some players who have arrived for the first time, and others who haven’t been with us very often. We’ve still got one training session to go, and after that we’ll decide which eleven will start – but it’s natural that there will be some changes. 


Sporting winger Nani (A Bola)

- “The World Cup is in the past. It wounded us badly but it didn’t kill us. We’re strong, dedicated, convinced that we have the possibility to redeem ourselves for the bad things that happened at the World Cup. This is an opportunity – in this next game [against Albania] we hope to do it with an excellent victory for our people, who always believed in us. And we hope that they never stop believing in the Portuguese players, just because there are some bad moments. This is another year and we’re going to do much better ….
… I think that we’ve got over what happened in Brazil. A new season has started. Some players are in new clubs, like me [from Manchester United to Sporting, on loan]. They’re new experiences, there’s renewed spirit. Everyone’s confident and has worked well in their clubs. Besides, the European Championship is a new competition. If we want to win, everyone is anxious to give our people and country some joy. …
… I see a calm group, with no nervousness in training. We have all the conditions to play an excellent game. But it’s not easy to stay in the Seleção. Over the years we always have to demonstrate that we’re top class players. We’ve always had those … 
… I don’t know if I’ll be captain [in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo]. But being captain or not isn’t the most important thing. Or even who’s going to replace Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch. What’s important is having a team that’s able to respond to the adverse moments we have and the less good results. We want to win – it isn’t important who stands out in the game – it’s the team that matters. We want to give some joy to our country. It’s by playing as a team and all working together that we’ll achieve those objectives …
… As for my responsibility [again in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo], I’ve always been very responsible for the Seleção, everyone knows that. I’ve always done my best. And it’s not because of Cristiano’s absence that I’m going to change my behaviour; it’s going to be the same. I hope everyone has the same sense of responsibility. Because it only works if we play as a team, and we all need to be united if we want to get our first points.”


Mónaco midfielder João Moutinho (A Bola)

- “Any game, any team, any national team needs a Cristiano. He’s an excellent player, but we have to look at those who are here and create a cohesive and united group to get the results we’re looking for. We have the players that can make a difference and help us to win, which is the most important thing …
… It’s up to the mister to decide if there has to be or not a renewal. Average age doesn’t matter – what matters is the quality of those who are here and to give 100% to defend the Seleção and get the victory. We want to create a strong group for qualification for Euro-2016. We have to be united in the search for the victory and qualification …
… The World Cup is in the past. The Portuguese were disappointed, disillusioned, just like us, who wanted to do better. Now we want to return to making the Portuguese happy so that they come back to the stadiums. We feel good when the Portuguese are happy …
… Albania aren’t a soft touch. They’re going to give 100% to take away a good result, which could be a draw. But we have to be stronger to get the win.


Sporting midfielder William Carvalho (A Bola)

- “We all know that we underachieved at the World Cup, but we have to look at it as something in the past, so that we can rectify the errors now …
… I don’t feel that we have to prove our quality, but I do feel that we have to give a better response, we all know that. …
… I haven’t noticed that Paulo Bento has changed his methods – I see the same Paulo Bento as always …
… I haven’t been affected by speculation over my future. And it’s not the time for speculation – I’m with the Seleção, body and soul …
… I’ve had the same ambition since I arrived in the Seleção and I’m prepared to play one or 90 minutes, it all depends on the mister …
… I don’t know whether [Sporting teammate] Adrien’s call-up is deserved or not – it’s not for me to say. But I know he’s done great work at Sporting. It’s true that we’re used to playing together, but it’s Paulo Bento that’ll choose who plays …
… I don’t see that the newcomers to the squad are nervous, but a little anxiety for the first call-up is normal – it happened to me too. But then we calm down. They’re quality players and you can be sure that they’ll respond well if called upon.”


Valência midfielder André Gomes (A Bola)

- “Albania are a team that defend very well and counter-attack fast and well. We’re favourites but we’re also humble enough to understand that we have to work hard on the pitch. We’re at a stage where all teams are going to try to cause us problems. Portugal’s a team that all other teams are going to fight hard against …
… Whether I play or not is a question for Paulo Bento, but I work for that and whoever plays will give 100% – to give the Portuguese some joy after what happened at the World Cup …
… At the moment I think I’m lucky to have changed clubs [from Benfica to Valência] and to have this chance to be in the Seleção. It’s true that sometimes we have to go along this route – leaving the country – but the important thing is that we continue to work to improve, in whichever club.”


Sporting Braga midfielder Pedro Tiba (A Bola)

- How have these first days with the Seleção been? Special?

- They’ve been good days. I’ve been well received by everyone, and I’ve fitted in easily. The help from my teammates has been fundamental. I already knew some of them: Ricardo Horta, Rúben Vezo, Adrien, Éder. I feel like I’m living a dream. It’s the first time I’ve been called up, and it’s an honour to be representing the Seleção. It’s up to me to work and give my all and my best. I’m going to work to be true to myself.

- There are a lot of options for the midfield. Are you prepared to start?

- I hope I get a chance. If I didn’t feel prepared, I wouldn’t even be here. I feel very prepared! If I play, I’ll measure up.

- Your background is different from most of the players here: you’ve played in the lower divisions. Does that put pressure on you or not?

- Yes, my background is a little different from most of the players here. But the pressure’s the same for everyone. If I‘m called upon, I feel good and prepared. I fully believe that I’ll measure up.

- Did you arrive at the Seleção sooner than you imagined?

- Things happened very quickly. Things were pretty hard at the start of my career, but I managed to get here. This is a unique opportunity. I never even played for the youth teams at national level. That’s why I’m going to take maximum advantage of this moment and give it everything on the pitch.

- Was it necessary to go to a club like Sporting Braga to get called up?

- That’s not for me to say. Rather, it’s up to me to work and do my best. I’ve been given this chance – the people in charge thought the time was right, and here I am!

- You spent a lot of seasons in the lower divisions. Do you feel like an ambassador – an example or an inspiration – for players in the lower tiers?

- I wouldn’t say “ambassador”, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that they work very well and there’s a lot of quality in the other divisions. It’s difficult to work there – you don’t have the same conditions as in the Primeira Liga or with the Seleção. But I do believe that I can be an example for young players, for them to believe that it’s possible.

- And how do you see the game against Albania.

- We’re all focused and prepared to pay an excellent game …and win! That’s what we’re working for, to get the qualifying phase off on the right foot.

- Are you approaching this stage in your career with your feet firmly on the ground?

- Yes. It’s my first call-up and a unique opportunity. I don’t want to waste it – at every moment, in each training session, in each pep talk. I’m going to concentrate on giving my best so as not to waste it.





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