Why William Carvalho Must Be Handed a Start for Portugal Against Ghana

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2014

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 22:  William Carvalho of Portugal takes on Graham Zusi and Kyle Beckerman of the United States during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between the United States and Portugal at Arena Amazonia on June 22, 2014 in Manaus, Brazil.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Paulo Bento's team selection in Portugal's opening two World Cup matches has been hampered by more injuries and suspensions than any other country.

In both games, Portugal have lost their striker inside 30 minutes and then needed to remove their left-back in the second half.

Even the most organised and stringent of coaches would struggle given the circumstances.

That's not to say that Bento is beyond reproach. His formation, tactics and personnel choices have all been poor during the tournament.

There's also an argument to suggest that Portugal's preparation has been poor for them to suffer from so many hamstring problems in such a short space of time.

One decision Bento has definitely gotten incorrect is the failure to start William Carvalho in either of Portugal's matches.

Bento's trust in his experienced players is a little misguided. The team chosen to face Germany was almost identical to the one that lost to the same side two years prior at the European Championships, via BBC Sport.

He made just one change with 30-year-old Hugo Almeida replacing 31-year-old Helder Postiga, via Eurosport.

His opposite number, Joachim Low, decided upon four alterations, and with Thomas Mueller as the false nine in a 4-3-3, he had changed his system.

This was a Germany team that had also gone on to reach the semi-finals, but still, like all good managers, Low feels the need to evolve his side.

In Euro 2012, Portugal beat a poor Netherlands team, let a two-goal lead slip against Denmark and defeated Czech Republic narrowly before they were knocked out by eventual winners Spain on penalties, via UEFA.com.

There were reasons to be optimistic, but they were far from flawless in their achievement.

With that in mind, there's even more of a case to improve the line-up, and one way of doing this is the introduction of Carvalho.

Bento may feel that some of the younger players in Portugal are not up to the required standard, but if he thinks that of Carvalho, then the Portuguese FA is in even more trouble given the coach has signed a contract until 2016, via BBC Sport.

He did give the Sporting holding midfielder an opportunity in the final 45 minutes against the USA, and Carvalho didn't disappoint.

It was evident straightaway that this was a youngster mature beyond his years.

The confidence oozed from his 6'1.5" frame, as he looked the most comfortable player in possession on the pitch.

He misplaced just one pass from the 38 he made, and his overall awareness of those around him ensured he moved the ball around with pace, via FourFourTwo's Stats Zone.

Without the ball, he was equally commanding, as he attempted more challenges than any other player.

As the deepest midfielder, all his tackles came in the opposition's half. There's a clear contrast with how he proactively presses his opponents in comparison to Miguel Veloso when playing the role, via FourFourTwo's Stats Zone.

There was one particular incident when he could clearly be seen pointing at the two 30-and-older centre-backs, Ricardo Costa and Bruno Alves, to tell them where to move.

It showed his belief in his own ability that he could come into such an important occasion and exert himself on those with more experience.

After a season on loan in Belgium at Cercle Brugge, he returned to make 29 starts in the Primeira Liga last term and score four goals, via WhoScored.com.

His impressive displays during the campaign have attracted attention from Manchester United and Real Madrid, via Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.

Portugal have a very slim chance of progressing out of the group, but Carvalho should be on the team sheet regardless of the predicament.