European U21 Championship 2015: Portugal Team Guide

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 14, 2015

European U21 Championship 2015: Portugal Team Guide

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    The 2015 European U21 Championship kicks off on June 17 in Prague, giving us football fans a welcome reprieve from tedious summer transfer links and a lack of competitive domestic football.

    This exciting tournament is where some of tomorrow's stars announce themselves, and the squads selected for it ooze class and quality. In 2013, Thiago Alcantara, Isco, Asier Illarramendi and more all shone as Spain decimated all before them, but who will catch the eye this year?

    B/R is previewing each of the eight nations competing, and we're continuing the series with Portugal.

    Links to the series:

    All statistics, fixture details and results via UEFA.com unless otherwise noted.

Road to the Finals

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    Portugal were a dominant force during qualifying and boast the best record heading into the finals. They played eight, won eight, scored 22 goals and conceded just 6.

    They finished up nine points clear of second-placed Israel, who they beat 3-0 (home) and 4-3 (away). 

    Results

    Portugal 5-1 Norway

    Portugal 3-0 Israel

    Azerbaijan 0-2 Portugal

    Israel 3-4 Portugal

    Portugal 2-0 Macedonia

    Macedonia 0-1 Portugal

    Norway 1-2 Portugal

    Portugal 3-1 Azerbaijan

    An extremely strong Portugal side met a matching counterpart in the Netherlands for the play-offs. The Portuguese won 2-0 in Alkmaar thanks to Sergio Oliveira and Carlos Mane goals, then edged a 5-4 thriller on home turf a few days later.

Squad

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    The official European Under-21 Championship Twitter account passed along Portugal's 23-man selection, confirming it on their behalf.

    Here is the squad in full:

    Goalkeepers: Jose Sa (Maritimo), Daniel Fernandes (Osnabruck) and Bruno Varela (Benfica).

    Defenders: Tiago Ilori (Liverpool), Paulo Oliveira (Sporting), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Joao Cancelo (Valencia), Tobias Figueiredo (Sporting) and Federico Venancio (Vitoria).

    Midfielders: Ricardo Esgaio (Sporting), William Carvalho (Sporting), Rafa Silva (Braga), Sergio Oliveira (Porto), Bernardo Silva (Monaco), Ruben Neves (Porto), Ivan Cavaleiro (Sporting), Toze (Porto) and Joao Mario (Sporting).

    Forwards: Goncalo Paciencia (Porto), Iuri Medeiros, Carlos Mane (Sporting), Ricardo Horta (Malaga) and Ricardo Pereira (Porto).

Manager Profile: Rui Jorge

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    Rui Jorge, a 45-cap veteran and retired Portuguese footballer, is an inexperienced coach whose managerial footprint remains rather shallow.

    He's been the Portugal U21 manager since 2010, but this is his first European Championship, having failed to guide his team to qualification for the 2011 and 2013 editions.

    Jorge has proven the nation of Portugal do not need to rely on a mediocre striker, instead switching away from the traditional 4-3-3 and moving toward a striker-less 4-4-2 diamond. It plays upon the strength of his midfield selection and negates the fact Goncalo Paciencia is the only actual No. 9 in his 23-man team.

    Bernardo Silva plays from the tip, Joao Mario from the middle, and and a combination of Carlos Mane and Ricardo Pereira is expected up top.

Star Player: Bernardo Silva

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    Rui Jorge has recycled through plenty of midfield options during qualifying, but the major constant is Bernardo Silva. The Monaco man is a key component and looks to be one of the first names on the teamsheet.

    There's good reason for that: Silva, be it for club or country, always flashes immense skill and high footballing IQ. He's as slick as oil moving between the lines and is capable of finding spaces, even on the most crowded of pitches.

    He's also rather senior compared to his team-mates, given his exposure to UEFA Champions League and Ligue 1 football. We expect Silva to start as a floating central midfielder, representing the hub of all things creative and good for Portugal.

One to Watch: Raphael Guerreiro

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    Portuguese fans shouldn't be too concerned about Fabio Coentrao's lack of domestic football and consequential decline, as Raphael Guerreiro is ready to step up when and wherever necessary.

    The left-back has improved immeasurably over the past 12 months or so, transforming himself into a potent threat and deadly weapon from left-back.

    Like Coentrao, he can operate further forward or even in midfield, with domestic club Lorient moving him around and playing with his position in order to get the best out of him.

    He tears forward, crosses with accuracy and has a developing long shot. He's one to watch for the same reason Lucas Digne was at this level: Quick left-backs given freedom to play can take your breath away offensively.

European Under-21 Championship Record

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    Portugal have never been crowned champions of the European Under-21 Championship, coming closest with a second-placed finish in 1994. That year, Italy beat them 1-0 with a Golden Goal.

    Their most recent foray past the group stage was in 2007, when a team containing Joao Moutinho, Antunes, Joao Pereira, Miguel Veloso, Nani and Silvestre Varela finished fourth.

    Team Record at the European Under-21 Championship

    Wins: 0

    Runners-up: 1

    Semi-finals: 2

    Quarter-finals: 1

    Group-stage finish: 2

    Failed to qualify: 12

Group Fixtures

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    Match 1: England vs. Portugal

    Venue: City Stadium, Uherske Hradiste

    Date: June 18, 2015

    Time: 7:45 p.m. BST 

    Match 2: Italy vs. Portugal

    Venue: Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion, Uherske Hradiste

    Date: June 21, 2015

    Time: 7:45 p.m. BST

    Match 3: Portugal vs. Sweden

    Venue: City Stadium, Uherske Hradiste

    Date: June 24, 2015

    Time: 7:45 p.m.