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Fernando Santos announces latest Portugal squad

Fernando Santos announces latest Portugal squad

Fernando Santos sprung a couple of surprises as he revealed Portugal's latest squad to face Serbia and Ukraine in the first batch of Euro 2020 qualifiers. 

Predictions were made up and down the country as to who would make the squad - but it would be very surprising if anyone got all 25 right. 

So let's take a look at who did - and didn't - make it.

Wolves well represented

Despite Porto progressing to the quarter final of Europe's most prestigious club competition, it is Premier League outfit Wolves that boast the largest contingent of Portuguese players in the side alongside Benfica.

With Rui Patricio, Ruben Neves, João Moutinho and Diogo Jota all getting a call-up, Wolves have a quartet of representatives. Benfica have the same number, with Ruben Dias, Pizzi, Rafa Silva and João Felix representing the Lisbon club. Porto, meanwhile, have just two (Pepe and Danilo Pereira).

It doesn't come as much of a surprise though. Those that have been following Wolves this season will know that it is more than deserved for all of them. Rui Patricio and Ruben Neves were always certainties to be in the squad, both of them very much crucial to Fernando Santos' plans and likely to play a significant part in both matches, but João Moutinho and Diogo Jota were both a little less assured of a place, even if they merited inclusion.

Moutinho has been at his usual best this campaign, his influence on the game admired by Wolves fans across the country who are still baffled at the measly 5 million pounds paid for him in the summer. His passing, his composure, his ability to do the dirty work in the middle of the park to help out defensively. He's shown every side of his game this season, much to the adulation of spectators at Molineux.

But his place in the squad was still in question. Having been left out of the last three Portugal squads alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, whether Fernando Santos would bring back the 32-year old 113-time international European champion or if he'd continue to elect for younger options was still uncertain.

Thankfully, he's done the former and Moutinho finds himself back where he belongs.

Diogo Jota, meanwhile, also makes the team, earning a spot ahead of the likes of Gelson Martins, Rafael Leão, Rony Lopes and Ricardo Quaresma, who can all count themselves highly unfortunate to miss out. 

Nevertheless, there's no doubt Diogo Jota, who has been scoring for fun and performing to a very high standard week in week out for the 7th best team in England, fully deserves his first ever senior international callup.

You would think their inclusion could also motivate the likes of Ivan Cavaleiro, Helder Costa and Ruben Vinagre to step up their game, with a place in the Portugal squad very attainable. 

Dyego Sousa ahead of Rafael Leão

And Diogo Jota isn't the only player getting his first callup. Olympiakos shot-stopper Jose Sá is also involved in the action for the very first time, replacing Tondela keeper Claudio Ramos, while there was a huge shock as Fernando Santos chose Brazilian-born striker Dyego Sousa to challenge Andre Silva for game time.

Many had dismissed the chance of the 29-year old getting the opportunity to represent Portugal, Fernando Santos seemingly more keen on giving players who have represented Portugal at youth level a chance instead.

In fact, when writing an article on who may get a call-up to Fernando Santos' team, Dyego Sousa wasn't even contemplated, that's how unlikely this call-up seemed. 

But at the same time, Santos has made a point of rewarding form and has shown his willingness to drop big names if they aren't performing. And he's certainly defied expectations again by including the Braga striker in the team. But in reality, you can't be too critical of the decision.

From a footballing perspective, Dyego Sousa has been a top performer in the Portuguese League this season, and has played a huge part in helping Braga maintain a third-place position domestically, above one of the members of the traditional 'Big Three' in Sporting CP.

In fact, Sousa, with his 14 goals and 5 league assists already this season, is the second top scorer in all of the Primeira Liga this campaign, only one goal behind leader Haris Seferovic, and above the likes of Moussa Marega, Tiquinho Soares and Bas Dost.

It's no wonder, therefore, that he's attracting interest from the likes of Benfica, and that Fernando Santos was keen to utilise him. 

However, his inclusion means that Rafael Leão, who has been terrific for Lille this campaign, is left out, the 19-year old evidently not doing enough to convince Fernando Santos just yet.

You just wonder though, if calling a player that is a decade younger and arguably the future of the national team, would have been a more sensible option in the long term, with many Seleção supporters very excited to see Leão show what he can do for the senior national team.

Just the three centrebacks

Another surprise came when Fernando Santos announced just three natural centrebacks made the team (Ruben Dias, Pepe and Jose Fonte). All worthy of inclusion, but some were sceptical of the decision, particularly as it meant that 14 of the 25 players are either a forward or midfielder. There's no way all of those players will be utilised.

It also meant that the inform Ferro, who scored a delightful goal in the Europa League to help Benfica progress past Dinamo Zagreb, was left out. He was certainly someone Seleção fans, or Benfica fans at least, wanted to see get his first senior callup. 

However, it's not much of a problem. In all likelihood, the fourth choice centreback was never going to be used anyway. And even if two of Portugal's centrebacks somehow got injured, Danilo Pereira is more than capable of filling in there for a game or two.

Gonçalo Guedes

Rather surprisingly, Gonçalo Guedes was also included. That's not to say he's a poor player by any means, but his lack of game time this season makes his presence highly unexpected.

Like Dyego Sousa, we had already dismissed Guedes' chances of getting a call-up, as a groin injury meant that he missed 7 recent matches this season, and as such has not played the entirety of a league match since the 1st December 2018.

Nevertheless, Guedes has actually scored 2 goals in his last 3 outings, and snatched a crucial last-minute winner in the Europa League that saw Valencia advance at the expense of Krasnodar. His other goal came in a 3-2 victory over Girona.

Before that though, he'd been pretty ineffectual this season, and so his inclusion could also be questioned.



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