Picking the Portugal Side for the 1st Game of Euro 2016 Qualification

Paul Wilkes@@paulwilkesfootyFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2014

Picking the Portugal Side for the 1st Game of Euro 2016 Qualification

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    The disappointment of Portugal's World Cup campaign is still very strong, but shifting focus to the Euro 2016 qualification should promote some positivity.

    They host Albania in their opening match who shouldn't be too difficult, though they clearly need a fresh outlook and approach.

    The team needs change to remove negativity and to be less rigid tactically.

    Although at the same time Portugal need to maintain some of the experienced squad members; it's about deciding which of the players would be a better influence on the youngsters.

    This is the Portuguese team which would make a good start to their France 2014 qualification in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Goalkeeper: Beto

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    Sevilla's shot-stopper was the oldest of Portugal's goalkeepers to travel to Brazil yet has the least amount of caps.

    After injury and an indecisive performance by Rui Patricio in the first match against Germany, Beto was given the jersey.

    His form for his club in the last two years warrants an extended run in the side and the chance to install some much-needed discipline into the defence.

    By the time the European Championship comes around he will be 34, but for his position it's not really an issue.

Defence: Joao Pereira, Pepe, Jose Fonte, Fabio Coentrao

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    The indecisiveness of the back four was one of Portugal's biggest problems in Brazil, but it's hard to find viable alternatives in the next two months.

    As individuals they are very strong, and when the collective fell apart in the opening 30 minutes against the Germans it set the tone for the tournament.

    Fabio Coentrao looks set to stay at Real Madrid despite nearly moving last season, and providing he can overcome his injury concerns he should start.

    Club teammate Pepe was outstanding in the second half of the campaign, and although he always has the ability to implode he seemed to have reined the impulse in slightly until the Thomas Mueller affair.

    Joao Pereira suffered from Valencia's poor season, but the recent influx of cash into the club will either see him raise his game back to the required standard amongst better players or force him out of the club.

    The one change to the regular line-up should be Southampton's Jose Fonte who showed he can defend in a high defensive line and against some of the world's best strikers in the Premier League.

Midfield: William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho

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    The best midfielder in Portugal last season was the one outstanding player for his country when finally given his opportunity.

    William should be the pivot with which this team is built around for the future, whether as part of a midfield two or three.

    Alongside Joao Moutinho, the midfield would possess the right blend of agility, tenacity, strength and imagination.

    William is a rock in front of the defence, and both are superb in their distribution to the forward players.

Attackers: Bruma, Rafa, Ricardo Quaresma

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    The lack of creativity in Portugal's team through the World Cup was startling, and the need for more drive in attacking areas is evident.

    To go this extreme would be completely unlike Paulo Bento, but it would invite optimism, which has clearly been lost in the last month.

    Ricardo Quaresma divides opinion, but his improvement recently should earn him a chance given how poorly his peers have performed.

    It would also be interesting to see a number 10 in the form of Braga's Rafa trying to arrive late into the box and help out the struggling strikers.

    Then, there's Bruma. He's only 19 and not yet ready for the biggest stage, but against minnows like Albania, his raw talent could thrive.

    It would show the supporters that manager Bento is thinking of the future and is aiming to evolve the team.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

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    "I never thought of Ronaldo as the spearhead. It was not on my mind to put Ronaldo as the only centre-forward since the beginning of the tournament," Bento told TV1, via Sportsmole. "I think it's not the best for his goal tally and for the team. We talked about it, of course. He did not seem to feel comfortable in that position but it was not necessary for him to tell me that."

    Bento's intuition told him that Ronaldo didn't want to play there, but his intuition felt it was a good idea to field Helder Postiga, Hugo Almeida and Eder.

    To some extent it was understandable the Real Madrid forward was not at his peak fitness and may have struggled to cover the space on his own for 90 minutes.

    With the country lacking a genuine top-class striker then this would be as good a point as any to place him in the role.

    Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson all used him there at one time or another.

    Perhaps the key is to find out which games would suit him in that position as it would stop the overreliance of giving Ronaldo the ball in the build-up play.