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Portugal's new generation

Published: Monday 22 October 2012, 14.00CET
After all three of the country's UEFA Champions League contenders lost key players in the summer, Andy Brassell hails Portuguese football's regenerative powers.
by Andy Brassell
from London
Published: Monday 22 October 2012, 14.00CET

Portugal's new generation

After all three of the country's UEFA Champions League contenders lost key players in the summer, Andy Brassell hails Portuguese football's regenerative powers.

After the closure of a transfer window in which all three lost big names, one sensed that FC Porto, SL Benfica and SC Braga were simply glad to be able to get on with their respective UEFA Champions League campaigns. Dealing with departures is anything but new territory for Portugal's finest, however.

The country's top clubs are the improvisers of European football, reusing, reconstituting and resolving to make do and mend. The encouraging performances from the trio on matchday two – wins for Porto and Braga, and credit in defeat for Benfica against FC Barcelona – perfectly encapsulated that spirit.

As always in Portugal, a new generation of talents is beginning to emerge discreetly and with minimal fanfare. Arguably the outstanding performance from the whole round of games came from Braga's striker Éder. Born in Guinea-Bissau, the 24-year-old centre-forward arrived from UEFA Europa League contenders A. Académica de Coimbra with a modest goals record, and was expected to replace last year's top scorer Lima.

©AFP/Getty Images

James Rodríguez scored Porto's winner against PSG

Éder was a constant menace to Galatasaray AŞ with his intelligent hold-up play and movement, and had a hand in creating both goals in the Arsenalistas' victory. He was rewarded with a call-up for Portugal's recent FIFA World Cup qualifiers, during which he helped to create Hélder Postiga's equaliser against Northern Ireland.

Nemanja Matić was another to step in and make his mark, looking entirely comfortable for Benfica up against Barcelona's celebrated duo Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Helton and captain Lucho González were the only two players aged 30 or over to feature for Portuguese champions Porto against Paris Saint-Germain FC, and it was 21-year-old James Rodríguez who took over the club's role of match winner previously fulfilled by Hulk.

Despite the youth of Porto's goalscorer, PSG's Zlatan Ibrahimović told that his team had been outwitted by the Dragons' experience in their defeat. That, more than anything, summed up the gift for regeneration long ago mastered by Portugal's European contenders. They make the exit of important players forgotten almost overnight.

The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.

Last updated: 07/11/12 18.25CET

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