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Tuesday, 05 February 2013 14:47

The sensational Paços de Ferreira

How have the modest northerners taken Portugal by storm?

pacos-celebrations.jpgOne of the stories of 2012/13 in Portugal has undoubtedly been the superb season of modest northern club Paços de Ferreira. Nigel Mannering runs the rule over the performance of Paulo Fonseca’s men.
Portuguese football has been a rather predicable affair over the years. The league has been dominated by the big three teams Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto. In the last four years Braga have made a credible challenge to the big three, and finished 2nd in the 2009/10 season. Braga also reached the Europa League final 2010/11 where they were beaten by Porto. This season though, it’s another team who have caught the eye.
Paços de Ferreira are currently enjoying one of their best ever seasons in the top flight. Sixteen games into the Liga ZON Sagres season and Os Castores (The Beavers) find themselves in fourth place and just a point behind 3rd place Braga.
Managed by Paulo Fonseca, Paços de Ferreira began the season with back to back 1-1 draws against newly promoted Moreirense and then away at Estoril. A 2-0 win at home to a very talented Braga team followed thanks to goals from Javier Cohene and Hurtado. Another draw followed the Braga result, this time a thrilling 3-3 draw on the Island of Madeira against Nacional. Paços de Ferreira found themselves 3-1 down with just three minutes to play but miraculously earned a point though Vitor and Cícero’s late strikes.

Making their mark  

This was enough to catch the attention of the Portuguese football community. Paços de Ferreira had proved themselves to be tough to beat and had not only a team that played with style but also with heart.
Fonseca.jpegPaulo Foncesa, who was born in Mozambique, has been in his current role since May 2012. He enjoyed a varied career as a player in Portugal, turning out for Barreirense, Leça, Belenenses, Marítimo, Vitória Guimarães and Estrela Amadora. But it is as a coach that he has excelled, especially in this, his debut season in the top flight. It comes as little surprise that he last week commented: “I prefer being a coach to a player.”
It is clearly a League Fonseca knows well and he has gone about building a side in a smart way. He has inherited some good players like Ricardo, who turned down the chance to play for Cape Verde Islands at the African Cup of Nations to help Paços maintain their solid league position. Fonseca also has been able to count on one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Liga in Cassio who has been with the side since 2008. The Brazilian has been outstanding this season.

Impressive midfield

Classy midfield schemer Vítor has also put in a string of brilliant displays, which triggered rumours of a January switch to Benfica, alongside the rock solid defensive midfielder André Leão. Further up the pitch 22 year-old Josué has shown such incisiveness, creativity and an eye for goal that one suspects FC Porto may live to regret letting go of the player who came through the youth ranks at the Estádio do Dragão.
Cícero.jpgAnother inherited player was forward Cícero, who has enjoyed a rather interesting career. The Guinea-Bissau international began his career at Braga and moved to Dynamo Moscow for big money in 2005. Since then he has flattered to deceive, playing just a handful of games at Vitória Guimarães and Rio Ave. Cícero did have a good season in the second division with Oliveirense, netting 8 goals in 2009/10, but this year has seen his revival and the forward may finally be coming of age. Now 26, Cícero is finally looking at home and, although he has only scored four times this season, his all-round contribution to the team has been positive.
The coach has used the transfer market well with the arrival of Peruvian Paulo Hurtado proving to be inspired. At 22, Hurtado, an exciting winger, has picked up three caps for Peru and has probably been Os Castores’ best player this season, scoring 5 times in 15 Liga games. Fonseca also added Tiago Valente who he had managed in his former role as coach for second division Aves.
The 3-3 draw with Nacional was followed by the team’s first defeat of the season at home to Benfica. Despite an early Cícero strike, Benfica came back to win 2-1 and having had such a good start to the season everyone in Portugal expected Paços to fall away. A hard earned 0-0 draw at Setubal and a solid 2-0 away win to Beira-Mar kept the momentum going and a home draw to Olhanense and another win away at Gil Vicente showed that Paços were the real deal.

Victory at Sporting

pacos-v-sporting.jpgThe best result so far this season for Os Castores came in the 13th round of league matches when they travelled to crisis club Sporting. Although riddled with financial problems and struggling in the league, Sporting still had, on paper at least, one of the strongest teams in Portugal. Os Castores beavered away and right on half time Hurtado scored what proved to be the winning goal to maintain what had been a fantastic league campaign so far for Fonseca and his team.
After the victory at the Alvalade, left-back Vitorino Antunes, another stand-out performer for the Paços this season, spoke to PortuGOAL.
It would prove to be one of Antunes’ final games for Paços. He had probably been the team’s best defender, and in the January transfer window he joined La Liga side Malaga on loan with a view to a permanent move, to replace Nacho Monreal who joined Arsenal in the Premier League.
Whether or not Paços can go the distance is debatable. The club sit just one point behind Braga who have 29 points after 16 games. Third place would be enough to qualify for the Champions League qualifying stage, which for a club like Paços would be the greatest achievement in its history. It should not be forgotten that the club’s entire budget for the season was a mere €3.5 million. It is more likely that the club will qualify for the Europa League, which in itself is a huge achievement.
Paços de Ferreira have a six-point lead over 5th place side Rio Ave and, if they show the sort of form we have seen in the first half of the season, then Champions League qualification may be more than just a pipedream.
by Nigel Mannering
Nigel runs the The Football Magazine site, and you can find him on twitter @NigelMannering

Comments (5)
Check the date!!
5 Wednesday, 06 February 2013 16:54
The article was done before last nights game!!!!! Please check the date on the article!!!!!!!
Keep the faith people!
4 Wednesday, 06 February 2013 16:06
** Nigel, Pacos is 1 point up not behind Braga.

Pacos has done the impossible on a 3.5 million dollar budget. They keep winning games despite the constant "can they keep it up" all season, well we are closer to the end than the beginning so I believe they deserve some faith. They CAN keep it up and wil finish 3rd or 4th it appears.

Why are they ahead of Braga?
1. Goals allowed (12). Only Porto have allowed less goals, kudos to the Pacos defense core and the team system under Fonseca. Braga has allowed a silly 24 goals....

2. Team Attitude. I watch Braga and it frustrates me to no end their ridiculous long range shooting by guys single or double marked, it shows a selfishness that comes from winning and believing they are above the team. Eder and Alan are outstanding yet do NOT get the ball enough due to selfish team-mates (Ruben's). Pacos on the other hand throw the ball around and strike on high percentages only, this to me is a sign of a mature/close knit squad and a belief in their mates and their coach.

3. Cassio > Beto. Watching Beto bumble his way through games, allowing frango after frango and you then watch Cassio make every save look easy and pull out some showstoppers. He is not the best goalie in the team (imo) however he is steady and does his job, the team is supremely confident that Cassio can bail them out, its a perfect scenario for the goalie.

I love watching them and hope to continue to follow them throughout this season.

The TRUE test for Pacos will come in the off season, when they qualify for either Champs or Europa this would be a huge revenue stream for this tiny club (double perhaps??) how they manage the money, the players and MOST importantly the new expectations next season will determine if we are seeing the next "Braga" or the next Boavista....

Forca Pacos, you have at least 1 loud and proud fan in Canada! heh
Hope P Ferreira can keep it up
3 Wednesday, 06 February 2013 09:47
The Liga is healthier when the smaller teams can give the Porto/Benfica duopoly a run for their money
An example to follow
2 Tuesday, 05 February 2013 20:28
Surely it would behove the powers that be at Sporting Lisbon to analyse how a team like Pacos Ferriera can be so successful on such a meagre budget. On paper they should not be able to compete with the Lisbon Giants, but this season they not only handed them a humbling home defeat, they are nine points ahead in the league. Godinho Lopes should face reality and accept he cannot compete with the budgets of Porto and Benfica and therefore should live within their means. 300 million Euros would be a massive debt for any major club in Europe - but Sporting quite simply do not have the revenue streams to manage the debt while trying to buy quality players that can compete for the Liga Sagres. If Pacos Ferriera can find a balance that works on a pittance - then Sporting can surely do the same but on a larger scale. Pacos, Rio Ave and Braga are the real success stories of recent seasons, the green and white side of Lisbon need to wise up and realise that spending money they don't have to buy success is a financially ruinous strategy.
Nice to see
1 Tuesday, 05 February 2013 17:07
P Ferreira is a nice story. It will be interesting to see if they're able to maintain their run of form.
I went back and noticed that Antunes has already provided P Ferreira a nice amount of money. Back in '08, as a 20 year old, was sold by P Ferreira to Roma for 1,200,000 euros.
After several loan deals and Antunes never getting his footing, he found himself once again at P Ferreira on a free. Incredibly, P Ferreira could find themselves once again making a tidy profit from the same player.

I agree that it's a nice story, but I would prefer for them to land in Europa instead of the CL. I don't think that a club of its size would be able to advance to the Group Stages, which is very much needed for Portugal.

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