Fernando Santos has announced the Portugal squad for the final two Group B World Cup qualifying matches next week.

This list includes notable recalls, such Euro 2016 hero Eder, fellow forward Gonçalo Guedes, midfielder Renato Sanches, left-back Antunes and goalkeeper Anthony Lopes.

Portugal play Andorra away on Saturday 7 October, before welcoming Switzerland to Lisbon three days later in what will almost certainly be a shoot-out to decide who qualifies for the 2018 World Cup directly and who will require a playoff to try and get to Russia.

Santos is refusing to take his eye off the ball in relation to the first match. “We have to be totally focused on Andorra,” he said. “If we’re not, there will be no final [against Switzerland],”

The inclusion of Gonçalo Guedes is reward for his fabulous form at Valencia, with Santos saying, “he has completely different characteristics to other players, and can play on the wing or as a second forward.” In relation to Renato Sanches, the Portugal coach explained that “we travel all over Europe observing our players and Renato has given very positive signs,” while Eder “has shown he is apt and in good physical shape.”

Santos also denied any conflict with Sporting coach Jorge Jesus regarding the exclusion of left-back Fábio Coentrão, who got injured and had to leave the pitch early in the 1-0 victory in Hungary in Portugal’s last match. “I’d never exclude a player for such reasons. I’m at ease talking to all the club coaches. Assessing the capacity of players to play 180 minutes, we believe this was our best option.”

 

Portugal squad

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goztepe) Rui Patrício (Sporting)

Defenders: Antunes (Getafe), Bruno Alves (Glasgow Rangers), Cédric Soares (Southampton), Eilseu (Benfica), José Fonte (West Ham), Luís Neto (Fenerbahçe), Nélson Semedo (Barcelona), Pepe (Besiktas)

Midfielders: André Gomes (Barcelona), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting), Danilo Pereira (FC Porto), João Mário (Inter), João Moutinho (Monaco), Renato Sanches (Swansea), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: André Silva (Milan), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Éder (Lokomotiv Moscow), Gelson Martins (Sporting), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

By Tom Kundert

 

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  • Guest - Ivo

    Whoever has been scouting Renato Sanches and identified “positive signs” must be blind. I watched Sanches’ games since joining Swansea and he has been a massive disappointment. And massive is not an understatement. He regularly gives the ball away and recall seeing one horrifying statistic that should he had something like the most turnovers in the premier league over a certain period. And those arent even turnovers resulting from him being put under a lot ifnpressure most of the time. His decision-making has just been poor and he has looked visibly frustrated with himself repeatedly. He doesn’t deserve a call-up.

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  • Guest - Ivo

    While I havent seen R.Semedo, Ie or Neto play this season, I can’t help but think that the game against Andorra would be a perfect opportunity for Santos to play Ie or some other younger CB. Yes we can’t take them lightly since three points are a must, but surely playing alongside Pepe against very weak opposition would no be much of a risk. We needed to start playing our younger CBs about two years ago. Fonte has been poor this season as well as West Ham have been condensing a ridiculous number of goals. And whatever happened to Paulo Oliveira? He looked solid a few seasons ago at Sporting but has since moved on to Eibar. No idea how his season is going either.

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  • Guest - Brian/USA/RI

    I know others have said it here, but Renato Sanches has looked really poor. Not just bad play, but poor body language and seemingly uninterested. I know he's young and he has talent and time on his side, but there have been countless others with the same that never put it together. He needs to learn to be a pro or dare I say could be Manuel Fernandes Part II.

    Also, I would really like to see Bruno Fernandes gets some real minutes, at least in the Andorra game. An outside the box goal scoring midfielder can come in handy against the teams that defend deep. Usually this turns into Portugal relying on 983,304,809,438 crosses into the box, and having another dimension is never a bad thing.

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  • Guest - joe

    Every person commenting here has the same thing to say more or less and if we can see it, I am sure they can see it as well, I just think they are to worried about if something goes wrong versus it going right. Taking chances on players with potential to shine won us the euro2016 as much as veteran players did and that recipe should be with us always.

    I have wactched every game renato sanches has played including his preseason...it is not quality or ambition...it is totally and 100%, lack of playing over a years period and as a result, lack of fitness, confidence and sharpness. At the level he plays you dont just start misplacing passes and getting caught out for no reason when it didnt exist in your game before...these are basic things...be reasonable and analytical about it. Also, and this gets to my point, he was the only player against tottenham (a top top team), to do anything unique,class and on the level of top players versus just punting the ball because tottenham pressed...even the english press noted that...and he has improved each game both in play and statistically. I will bet anyone on here that come May, all the naysayers will be talking differently...I am positive from what I have seen that once he gets his fitness back and has some belief in not only his potential but just doing the right thing in the simple moments of a game as he did before...he will be a great player at the age of 20 in the EPL which also should be noted...give the kid a few games to adjust...even world class players take time in the EPL. I said when he went to bayern, it would be huge mistake at his age given their midfield and I was right, he would have been better off at a team rebuilding and that plays less of a build up game versus fast counterattacking. Look at guedes, went to psg, nothing, at valencia thats rebuilding with a coach that playes counter attack quick football and he shines because of his strengths...r.sanches was so impressive because he could drive a team forward at pace and do things other players couldnt....he would have thrived under someone like Klopp or even mourinho who given their injuries would have played him alot last year. At 20 years old, I wouldnt care about going to a stacked team versus to a team that will let me grow and suits my game and I know I will play enough for those things to happen.

    I just hope im right.

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  • Guest - joe
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    For those who haven’t seen them, check out these highlights of Guedes vs Malaga. This guy is ready to blow up. If he can stay healthy and play every game with Valencia there is no telling how high he can reach. He seems to be the perfect mesh of Gelson and Quaresma, both pacey with trickery and creativity we haven’t seen from a winger/forward since the enigmatic one (RQ). I hope one day Guedes and Andre Silva develop the same chemistry as CR and RQ. Valencia beat two very good clubs (Sociadad and Malaga back to back recently) and coincidently Guedes featured prominently in both.

    I know he is officially listed as a forward but we have seen him operate more as a support striker or winger who loves to cut inside. Love him behind Zaza at Valencia.

    http://www.okgoals.com/match-highlights-1505857459---41


    Joe,

    Excellent points and I had this conversation with a fellow Portugoaler as well (Chris/Canada). Renato should have gone to a mid to low tier team or just stayed put. The aforementioned Goncalo Guedes was another one. What on Earth was he doing at PSG? How is he going to play on a team with a front three like PSG? Really happy he has gone to Valencia which has made a habit of playing Portuguese players recently. Renato is built to thrive in the EPL but it will take time. I have full confidence the kid will get back to and exceed his time with Benfica. I agree again with your assessment. Saying he played poorly for Swansea is dishonest. He is just not match fit yet. Plus Swansea BLOWS, they are awful so come on, pick on any of their scrubs instead – they have a ton of them. Renato played on the best club in Portugal at the time and now he moves to a low end club in the EPL and he has sat at Bayern for over a year. Give the kid a break.

    If all Portuguese players had the brain of Guerreiro who chose Lorient because he knew he would play every game and grow instead of signing with Dortmund or Bayern way back then and rotting on the bench. Chasing money often destroys careers when players should really think about their own happiness first. Although I don’t think Renato had a say when Benfica sold him off, still he really needs better people around him to say “HELL NO!”.

    Despite the rhetoric from the hard core fans the talent across many European leagues is top notch. There is nothing wrong with staying in Portugal or going to mid table teams to develop. Running off to Barcelona (Andre Gomes) or PSG (Guedes) almost never works unless you are a phenom or an off the charts athlete (Semedo) lets also be honest, Semedo has no competition for his position at Barca. He is playing very well not taking anything away from the kid.

    What I am saying is you can do well and develop in Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Portugal, France. You don’t have to go to England or Spain any longer unless you want the Balon D’or. Not in my opinion. Not anymore. Watch Europa league, some of these teams are fantastic and they are only getting better. Neymar going to France is important on many fronts. The world of football is changing, but like FIFA the old donkeys refuse to adapt.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Ah, international games. A time for red jerseys and all the arm chair managers to make their appearances. Okay, I'm just having some fun with you all. But let's all just breathe and take things easy. I don't agree 100% with Santos' selections, but let's look at the facts; we are 7-1, with a 7 game win streak in qualifying.

    Yes, we should be expected to win in many of these games, but even the two games against Hungary we were worried about and we won without any real risk or threat to us. Santos knows what he is doing, and I think he made his selections based on a grittier team. We could not beat the Swiss the first time around with a technically gifted squad (Moutinho, B. Silva, Nani all started, and no Ronaldo), so I believe Santos is looking to include the guys that will focus on possession and pressure, Sanchesm Mario and Gomes).

    I have always liked Eder, and while I recognize he is never going to be a Raul or van Nistelrooy, I recognize that he has his role. He is great at attacking with his back to the defence and bringing teammates into the attack. He is also an aerial threat. Let's all just take it easy. We have made it to the playoff at the very least and set up a situation where the outcome is very much in our own hands.

    We have to beat the Swiss at home, and we have a vastly superior goal difference. In fact, at 2nd place in our group, we have more points from the same games played than most teams in 1st place in the other groups. We also have the 3rd or 4th highest goal difference in all UEFA groups.

    Is there a chance we miss the World Cup? Mathematically, yes, if we don't do what is necessary in the next 2 games. However, our chances are also good to go forward and Portugal never likes doing things easy. Let's rally behind the troops, give our support and not forget we are the European Champions. Forca.

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  • Guest - torpiano

    I actually think the inclusion of Eder is a smart move. Forget the Andorra game - we'll win that easily. The Switzerland game is the big one. If it's a draw with 15-20 mins left bringing on Eder will offer something a bit different and who knows he could be our hero....again.

    I really don't get the Renato Sanches inclusion though. Totally baffled by that one.

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  • Guest - George

    I'm actually reasonably pleased with the selections by Santos this time around. Although there are a few question marks as always, I can see what he's going for here - big game experience and team versatility. The players who can bring both (like Eder and Renato) were called into the team. Even Luis Neto - who, under normal circumstances, shouldn't be anywhere near the team without gametime - is a smart decision to me. God forbid one of Alves/Fonte get injured in training and Pepe gets injured early on in the Swiss game. In that hypothetical, would you really feel comfortable with Edgar Ie jumping into the frey? I know I wouldn't. Not yet anyway. As good as he is, the Swiss game is a final. And we need players who have been there, done that in this situation. Like many of you, ive been screaming for a Edgar Ie or Ruben Semedo or Paulo Oliveira or Frederico Venancio or Roderick Miranda to be included in Santos' plans for MONTHS! BUT... the situation being what it is.... I'm okay with it not happening this month. There is too much at stake. If we pick up these last two victories and see a similar team sheet next month for, I presume, a scheduled friendly, ESPECIALLY on defense.... then my reaction will be decidedly different.

    Going back to the Renato discussion: He hasn't looked good, but, he hasn't looked horrible either. He has indeed improved in every game, which is all you can really ask of a player his age. "Playing" in Germany for Bayern was never going to work out for him. Liverpool would've been a much better landing spot for him. Although... look what happened to Joao Carlos Teixeira and Tiago Illori.

    I don't understand why more clubs who pick up young phenoms don't just loan them back to their parent clubs for another year or two. Benfica could definitely use him right now that's for sure. But, simply put - players need to PLAY.

    I've always rated Joao Carlos Teixeira, Gonçalo Guedes, and Bruno Fernandes and am thrilled they've hit the ground running this season. Kinda wish the former would've been called up instead of Andre Gomes, but again, I understand why Gomes is there.

    It's gotten more and more frustrating for me watching young players have their careers stalled at the hands of idiot managers. It's like these clubs get distracted by a shiny object, snatch it as fast as they can, and then realize they have no idea what to use it for. Surely scouts become infatuated with players for certain REASONS right? These days I'm not so sure.

    Renato will improve big time playing for Swansea so long as he... you know... plays. His strengths are perfectly suited for the EPL. I'm going to go ahead and predict that you'll see him make a big impact come the holiday season. While everyone else struggles with the compact schedule - Renato's stamina will kick in and he will stand out.

    Gonçalo will continue to improve as well at Valencia because the counterattack suits his style. I struggle seeing where he fits in to PSG with the new MCN triumvirate in the years to come, unless he drops back to midfield as DiMaria did at Real Madrid. But he's at PSG too so iunno.

    Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is clubs need to be smarter with how they recruit and handle young players. How Barcelona looked at Andre Gomes at Valencia and saw a player who would fit seamlessly into a tiki-taka style is beyond me for example. They were dumb to pursue him and he was dumb to go there. Yes Barcelona's a "dream" club and yes there's still time for him to succeed, but he essentially took two years off his career for nothing. I can't help but wonder what he'd look like if he went to Real Madrid or Manchester United instead. At Real I could easily see him rotating with Luka Modric for example. Similar styles. And although rotating is a step down from starting every game, it's still miles ahead of warming the bench as he's doing now.

    When I look at players like Tiago Ilori and Sergio Oliveira - I feel for them. Young players need to play and play consistently to improve, and neither one of them have gotten that chance. It's only now that Teixeira is starting to get that chance, and, given his struggles adapting at Villarreal, I'm worried that Ruben Semedo will be spending the year on the bench just as Renato did last year.

    Players like the Wolves crew have gotten it right: Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota, Helder Costa, Miranda, even Ivan Cavaleiro (when he's healthy) have looked good playing in the Championship. I wish Santos would give these guys more of a look moving forward. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that he should considering he recently recalled Nelson Oliveira and he plays in the Championship as well.

    I know I've rambled a bit but it's been a while since I've been on here, lol. These games are BIG boys. If we can win both - and I firmly believe we can - not only are we in Russia, but we cement our status as a Pot 1 team come December! Knowing our luck we'll still draw the Group of Death, but whatever... It's less likely, lol.

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  • Guest - Ivo

    I find it hard to believe that you actually watched Sanches' first few games with Swansea if you can say that it's "dishonest to say he played poor for Swansea." Against Newcastle, for example, he lost the ball 14 times during a 28 minute period in the first half alone. Yes, Swansea are not very good. But Newcastle aren't exactly Barcelona and if you did actually watch his first few games it wasn't just bad, rusty play you would have witnessed, it was downright hurting the team and they looked better without him. I know because I sat through the drudgery of those games hoping he would show signs of his old self.

    I totally agree, he still has that potential and he shouldn't be thrown under the bus after a difficult year with Bayern and an early adjustment period with Swansea. He may end up improving as the season goes on to a point where he'll actually deserve a NT call up again, but after a year of limited playing time and ineffective performances and the atrocious start to the season with Swansea, it makes no sense to call him up. We have no shortage of options in midfield.

    If you want to give Renato a break, you do just that, you don't call him up and you let him use that as motivation to improve. I had to respond because some of these Renato comments are just blind to the reality of how he's been playing.

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  • Guest - Carlos

    Ronaldo picked up a yellow card against Hungary on the last match. If he gets another against Andorra, he would be suspended for the final game against Switzerland (unless I am mistaken). I think it is too much of a risk to play him. We have enough talented players to beat Andorra without him. I would have him available on the bench in case we run into problems.

    from Ponce Inlet, FL, USA
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