A Different Kind Of Classico

After a recent 1-0 away victory to Lisbon rivals Sporting CP, Benfica’s B squad hosted “The Portugal Classico” at the Caixa Futebol Campus or “The Seixal” in Lisbon this past Sunday against FC Porto. Benfica B went into this Classico in 5th place with 35 points as FC Porto have climbed up to 8th place with 32 points. Besides bragging rights (B Team’s cannot be promoted or relegated) the importance of this match is that both of Portugal’s top teams are showcasing their future stars of tomorrow. Although Benfica B’s stadium holds approximately 2720 people at capacity (not the 65,000 at the Luz), many Benfica fans were able to watch the game live on Benfica TV (Thank You Fubo.tv)

The Match

Benfica B were victorious in the Classico 3-2 over their rivals from the north. The game was intense from beginning to end. This match was not short of goals, posts, saves, and cards early on FC Porto was shown a red card to Rafa in the 12″ allowing Gonçalo Guedes to capitalize on a PK giving Benfica the early lead. By half FC Porto had tied the game and was determined to defeat Benfica. In the second half FC Porto took the lead in the 52″ but shortly after it was João Teixeira whose free kick lead to a finish by CB Fabio Cardoso making it 2-2. Cardoso would be the hero of the day as he netted his brace making it his third goal in two games, Benfica were up 3-2 in the 87″ and at this point the crowd at The Seixal were going insane. Benfica’s Renato Sanches who came on for Victor Andrade in the 68″ was shown a red card in the 90 +2″ Both teams would end the match with 10 players on the pitch but it was Benfica who held onto their 3-2 victory.

Watching from a far it felt almost as if the B Team were playing in front of sold out crowd at The Luz. Somewhere out there Eusébio was watching over these kids with a smile on his face. Benfica’s coach Jorge Jesus was present at the game making notes to himself and possibly chewing gum. Portugal’s Under 21 coach was present as well scouting talent from both sides.

(Match Highlights)

ABola

Changes

Earlier this week there were a few changes from the B Team that would effect Benfica’s main squad. Captain Rúben Pinto was loaned out to Paços de Ferreira. (List of all Benfica B loans) Pinto has made 18 appearances for the B team this year scored twice and has 6 assists. As we all remember Pinto was part of a list of great talents that emerged at The Seixal. Nélson Oliveira (who was on that list) has been loaned out to Swansea City in which has allowed Jorge Jesus to call up former Arsenal Youth Product, Rui Fonte who was referred to as “The Best Portuguese Striker” by Benfica B coach Hélder Cristóvão. Fonte has 14 goals and 1 assist in 16 Benfica B team appearances this season. Another top goal scorer on the B Team is Helder Costa who has been loaned out until the end of the season to Gil Vicente a team in which Benfica supposedly has good relations with.

With Benfica TV becoming more accessible to fans from all over the world, it allows more opportunites for Benfica supporters to watch the B Team and the Juniors. This B team has been an exciting project since its reincarantion in 2006. The Juniors made history last year as being finalists in the first ever UEFA Youth League. Although, Benfica’s main side may be out of UEFA competition, perhaps the Youth team can once again make an appearance in the finals for a second consecutive season. In less then one year most of that Youth League team has graduated to not only the B Team but in the case of Gonçalo Guedes at 18 years of age he will not only see minutes of Benfica’s main squad but is being looked at such reputable clubs as Bayern Munich and Arsenal. Benfica’s B coach Hélder Cristóvão and Juniors coach João Tralhão have very important roles at Benfica and that is not to win titles but to continue to cement the foundation of this club. The “Mistica” of Benfica is eveident in these development teams.

Tomorrow’s Benfica

The Benfica of the next few years may or may not be greater then the Benfica of today. However, coach Jorge Jesus has always admitted to be fair when it comes to picking his team. He is not biased or unbiased to Portuguese players but simply picks the best players that he has available to him. Although some of his selections in the past can be questionable, it is without question that he cannot ignore all of the future prospects that are developing at Benfica.

Here are a list of Benfica’s B Team players whom I feel are strong enough to not necessarily start but be integrated into Jorge Jesus’ main Benfica roster

Name: Bruno Varela
Age: 20 Years Old
Position: Goalkeeper
Been At The Club Since: 2011

With Paulo Lopes shortly retiring and Julio Cesar soon to follow, Benfica will need to replace their goalies. Bruno Varela is one of the main success stories of the B Team. Although he is only 20 years old, he has plenty of experience as he is now in his third consecutive season as Benfica B’s goalkeeper and is currently a favorite choice in Portugal’s U21 team.

Name: João Teixeira
Age: 20 Years Old
Position: Midfield
Been At The Club Since: 2012

Teixeira was one of the most talked about surprises during Benfica’s 2014/2015 pre-season. He was featured in the Lisbon Cup, was featured in the friendlies against Marseille, Arsenal, and Valencia and contributed a goal against FC Sion. Teixeira can very easily play as an 8 or even a 6 type of midfielder. He would be a great addition as he is fierce in the midfield and has a great free kick as we saw on the weekend contributing to Fabio Cardoso’s goal.

Name: Victor Nilsson-Lindelöf
Age: 20 Years Old
Position: Centre Back
Been At The Club Since: 2012

Although not Portuguese Lindelöf will contribute to the list of Swedes to participate in Benfica’s main roster. Although he is 1,87m in height, the 20 year old is mobile is just as quick at capturing balls in the air as he is in clearing the defensive line. He also scores the occasional goal Watch out Jardel and Steven Vitoria, Lindelöf may be an option sooner rather then later.

Name: Fábio Cardoso
Age: 20 Years Old
Position: Centre Back
Been At The Club Since: 2012

Benfica has not had a quality Portuguese centre back in quite sometime. Although the likes of Miguel Vitor, Roderick Miranda, and Fábio Faria have come and gone, Cardoso although still very green possesses great qualities in becoming a future leader at Benfica. Cardoso is the B Team’s version of Luisão. He wears his heart on his sleeve and through social media encourages support from fans and fellow team mates. Just prior to Sunday’s Classico he posted this message on his Twitter page:

“Amanhã Benfica B vs Porto B, venham apoiar, mais um grande jogo, prometemos entrega total
como sempre. Comeonboys! Juntos somos mais fortes! ” – @fcardoso04

Name: Pawel Dawidowicz
Age: 19 Years Old
Position: Midfield
Been At The Club Since: 2014

For his 19th birthday Pawel got the best birthday that any maturing footballer can ask for, a two year contract to one of the biggest clubs in the world Benfica. The 6 foot 2 midfielder was brought over from Polish side Lechia Gdańsk as a possible proper replacement for Nemanja Matić. He has played ten games for the Benfica B team and although he has yet to debute for Benfica’s main squad, some possible minutes under Jorge Jesus may help develop his performance.

There are dozens more who also deserve to be mentioned in the spotlight. In the recent issue of Benfica’s Mistica magasine, there is an article on Diogo Gonçalves who is a 17 year old striker who plays not only on the Juniores Under 19 team but is a part of the UEFA Youth League squad. 19 year old full back Pedro Rebocho, 20 year old attacking midfielder Amorim, 18 year old forward Romário Baldé, it is a never ending list of young, raw talent.

Seeing such players as Bernardo Silva on loan to AS Monaco, and Ivan Cavaleiro on loan to Deportivo De La Coruna demonstrates that Benfica’s youth system works. These are players will be a vital part of not only the future of Benfica but of Portugal. President LFV in his interviews continues to emphasize a “Made In Benfica” main squad in which we may not necessarily have 11 players developed at The Seixal, but having 4 or 5 players continuing to Benfica’s success not only gives the Benfica Nation a sense of pride but it is something for us to look forward to in the future.

The Reality

The reality is for the Big 3 in Portugal to survive they will continue to buy foreign players at a relatively low price and then sell for a greater profit. 20 year old Anderson Talisca has been recently known as Benfica’s meal ticket because he was bought for approximately €4 million and will hopefully be sold for €15-20 million. Do that a few times a year to reduce debt or increase profit and teams like Benfica will be able to invest in new youth development facilities and technologies.

Currently most of Portugal’s youth teams are comprised of Benfica players. With most of The Selecção in their late twenties or well into their thirties, Portugal’s World Cup Squad of
2018 and 2022 needs to replenished and will feature younger players. Currently the most talked
about players representing Portugal are from Benfica (perhaps a few from the other Big 3)
Portugal needs Benfica and their talented youth “Made In Benfica.”

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Author: Neil Fernandes

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