The fine form shown by Wolves forward Pedro Neto and Braga striker Paulinho have earned both players debut call-ups to the full Portugal squad for the decisive Nations League encounters against France and Croatia, and the friendly match against Andorra.
An illustration of just how strong the options available to coach Fernando Santos are right now is shown by the fact Eintracht Frankfurt striker André Silva misses out, despite his strong goal-scoring form in Germany and excellent record for the Seleção.
Braga striker Paulinho hit 25 goals last season and was heavily rumoured to be on the cusp of a move to Sporting in the summer, but he ended up remaining in the north. As well as his acumen in front of goal, the 27-year-old is known for his intelligent link-up play.
Pedro Neto has earned rave reviews for his performances for Wolves, quickly becoming one of the most potent attacking weapons for Nuno Espírito Santo’s team in the English Premier League, especially since the departure of Diogo Jota.
And on Jota, Santos was asked whether the magnificent form of the free-scoring forward at Liverpool had surprised him. “Jota has surprised me ever since I first noticed him at Paços de Ferreira. He has qualities that are extremely valuable for this Portugal team,” was the coach’s reply.
Portugal host France on 14 November at the Estádio da Luz in Lisbon, before finishing the group stage of the competition away at Croatia three days later. The Seleção, current holders of the Nations League trophy, are joint top of Group A3 as it stands.
“We cannot consider ourselves favourites against France [after the 0-0 draw in Paris] because when two teams of this stature come up against each other there are no favourites,” said Santos, adding that “a score-draw will be harmful for our chances of qualifying.”
Before the Nations League matches, the Seleção will host Andorra on 11 November, also in the Portuguese capital, although Santos was blunt in his reply when asked about the utility of the match. “We are playing this match because it was imposed on us - if it hadn’t been we would not have chosen to play anybody on this date.”
Full Portugal squad
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rui Patrício (Wolves), Rui Silva (Granada)
Defenders: João Cancelo (Manchester City), Nélson Semedo (Wolves), Domingos Duarte (Granada), José Fonte (Lille), Rúben Semedo (Olympiacos), Rúben Dias (Manchester City), Mário Rui (Napoli), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders: William Carvalho (Betis), Danilo Pereira (PSG), Rúben Neves (Wolves), João Moutinho (Wolves), Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Renato Sanches (Lille), Sérgio Oliveira (FC Porto)
Forwards: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Trincão (Barcelona), Pedro Neto (Wolves), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus), João Félix (Atlético Madrid), Paulinho (Braga)
by Tom Kundert