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article imageBento includes Ronaldo in Portugal squad, but omits Quaresma

By Tyrrell Meertins     May 19, 2014 in Sports
Cristiano Ronaldo shook his head during pre-match warm-ups, and immediately walked down the tunnel a dejected figure ahead of Real Madrid’s final league match of the season against Espanyol.
It wasn’t the first time Ronaldo has been forced to miss a match this season, and the Portuguese forward’s battle with knee and thigh injuries has seen him complete two full matches in Madrid’s final 10 games.
With Saturday’s Champions League final, and the World Cup approaching next month, Carlo Ancelotti and Paulo Bento are concerned over the Portuguese international’s fitness.
The latter announced Portugal’s 23-man World Cup squad this afternoon. Bento called up six players that will make their debut for Portugal in a major tournament including the likes of Vieirinha, Eder, and highly rated youngster William Carvalho.
The main talking point surrounding Bento’s 23-man squad was the exclusion of Porto winger Ricardo Quaresma. Once regarded as the future of Portuguese football, Quaresma’s attitude and poor work ethic dragged the winger into obscurity. But optimism arose following his return to Porto at the start of the year. With Vierinha’s seven-month absence, Nani being out of favour at Manchester United –– meaning he should be fresh –– and Silvestre Varela’s mediocre form this season, it was now or never for the 30-year-old winger.
Nonetheless, despite Quaresma’s integral role in Porto’s Europa League run, the Portuguese winger is set to miss another World Cup. When asked about his decision to exclude Quaresma, Bento provided a logical answer.
"All decisions to leave players out of the squad are tough. The reasons for this decision were technical and tactical," Bento said. "The players were chosen for what they could contribute from an attacking and a defensive point of view."
Under Bento, Portugal have adopted a reactive style of football focused on defensive solidity and quick transitions. The style suits Bento’s side as they struggle to break down opposition when they dominate possession, and it enables their pacy wingers to flourish on the counter.
Equally, their midfielders and wide players have to be committed and tactically disciplined –– two traits Quaresma doesn’t possess. Frankly, apart from the occasional quick flashes of genius, the Portuguese winger is incapable of thriving in a cohesive system against world football’s finest players.
Many tend to overlook the importance of team harmony, togetherness, and the manager’s trust when assembling a squad to compete in major tournaments, but they are key factors that lead to success. Bento relies on experience, while sticking with the players he believes will effectively carry out his instructions. Likewise, the chances of off-the-field disruptions, petulance, and ego issues can’t be risked.
There’s a slim chance Bento will alter his preferred starting eleven, but the surprise inclusion of Braga midfielder Rafa insists that we may see a hint of tactical flexibility from the Portuguese manger, if required.
“Rúben Amorim can play in any position across the midfield, as well as right-back, while Rafa can play inside, or as a No. 10 enabling us to invert the midfield triangle," Bento said.
Still, many will be hoping Bento will stray away from the expected lineup and include 22-year-old Carvalho ahead of Miguel Veloso, and Eder over experienced strikers Hugo Almeida and Helder Postiga. Carvalho has enjoyed a fantastic season with Sporting Lisbon, which has linked him with various top-clubs around the world. Although Carvalho’s defensive positioning is superior to Veloso’s, the latter’s ability to change the route of attack with his long-range passing is equally beneficial.
Finally, Eder’s return from injury has seen him score three goals in Braga’s final six games of the season. While Postiga and Almeida haven’t been renowned for their goal-scoring on the international stage –– they offer different elements to Portugal's attack –– over the past few years, supporters hope Eder can be their saviour upfront.
Portugal will be competing in their eighth consecutive major tournament, and with talisman Ronaldo possibly enjoying his final World Cup as the nation’s main man, this could be the 29-year-old’s last opportunity to achieve international success.
While winning the tournament remains a tall order –– no European side has won a World Cup on South American soil –– anything short of a deep run into the quarter-finals will be considered a failure.
Portugal’s odds of winning the World Cup are currently 33/1.
More about Ronaldo, Cristiano ronaldo, Paulo Bento, World Cup, Brazil
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