Nelson Oliveira may only be 20 years old and have one cap to his name, but he is the name on everyone’s lips.
He was the player called to speak to the press at the first training camp after the squad got together, and for as long centre forwards Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida fail to convince the fans, Oliveira will be the player they want to see.
Now that Portugal desperately need goals in their final group game of Euro 2012 Portuguese fans are calling for Oliveira to be given a place in the staring line-up.
With Helder Postiga producing very few shots on goal and superstar Cristiano Ronaldo failing to muster up any creativity coach Paulo Bento may need to call on his wildcard to bring some youthful exuberance into the squad and inspire some new moves. As he is pretty much an unknown quantity outside of Portugal Oliveira can spring a surprise or two for the opposition defenders.
Oliveira is one of the bright young prospects to emerge from Portuguese football and is very highly regarded by both club and country. He has impressed at the youth level guiding Portugal to a runners’ up finish at the U-20 World Cup finals held in Colombia, where he also picked up the Silver ball award for being adjudged the second best player in the tournament. He certainly has the looks and the potential of developing into a fine player in the future. Having already broken into the Benfica first team, although he has never started a match, he will be hoping to make a mark forPortugalas well. He will gain vital experience at the Euros which can only aid in the development of this potentially world class striker.
Oliveira’s solitary cap came against Poland on 29 February, six days before marking his UEFA Champions League debut with a goal in his side’s 2-0 victory against FC Zenit St Petersburg.
Before the tournament began it was thought that Oliveira had virtually no chance of being handed the starting berth at the Euros with illustrious names ahead of him in the pecking order for the position of the striker but if Portugal are to progress into the next round of the competition then they may need to call on their youngster.
Making it to the Euro squad represents a huge achievement in itself for Oliveira and if he can contribute with goal or two if he is called upon it can act as a catalyst towards a successful career for the young man.
Portugal are no stranger to goalscoring troubles.
In the group stage of the 2010 World Cup, Portugal recorded 0-0 draws against Ivory Coast and Brazil, but still advanced.
At Euro 2004, it also lost its opening match, but ended up in the final where it once again failed to score and went down 1-0 to Greece.
Player Name: Nélson Oliveira
Club Team: S.L. Benfica
Strengths: Very good at holding up the ball and bringing others into play. Comfortable on the ball, has a good touch, and at 6’1″, one would assume he’d be an aerial threat. At 20, he’s got so much room for improvement. Has been labelled as potentially ‘the Portuguese Cantona’.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t look the fastest across the ground. He could probably also do with a bit of bulking up.
Suitability: Could easily operate up front on his own in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-5-1 formation. He also does a lot of dropping off so he could interchange postions with whoever he is playing upfront alongside. Would be an excellent fourth choice striker.
Estimated Cost: £6-8million.
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