Sil­vas rise to the oc­ca­sion for Por­tu­gal at Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup.

An­dre and Bernardo boast im­pres­sive busi­ness cards as they com­ple­ment Ron­aldo, writes Ian Hawkey

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - sports@then­ational.ae

When Por­tu­gal cel­e­brated vic­tory in the fi­nal of Euro 2016, in the Stade de France, along with the roars of de­light there could be heard the dis­tinct whelp of un­der­dogs.

When Por­tu­gal cel­e­brated vic­tory in the fi­nal of Euro 2016, in the Stade de France, along with the roars of de­light there could be heard the dis­tinct whelp of un­der­dogs.

They had just beaten the hosts. They had played most of the 120 min­utes of their 1-0 ex­tra-time vic­tory with­out their star player. The win­ning goal had been struck by the un­sung Eder, a sub­sti­tute com­ing off a sea­son he had be­gun as a non-scor­ing cen­tre-for­ward at Swansea City and ended on loan at Lille.

With Cris­tiano Ron­aldo giv­ing ur­gent or­ders from the tech­ni­cal area, his knee hurt from an eighth-minute clash, Por­tu­gal’s mon­grels growled.

A front six, made up of play­ers em­ployed by Lis­bon’s sec­ond-best club, Turk­ish teams or French also-rans, tri­umphed over France. This was a France who had thor­ough­bred foot­ballers from Ju­ven­tus, Bay­ern Mu­nich, Paris Saint-Ger­main, Atletico Madrid and Manch­ester United. Fast for­ward some 51 weeks and the Por­tu­gal who take on the hold­ers of the Copa Amer­ica, Chile, in the first Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup semi-fi­nal in Kazan to­day, have a very dif­fer­ent sort of tai­lor­ing about them.

Their front six will prob­a­bly in­clude a trio of play­ers who com­peted in the last four of the lat­est Uefa Cham­pi­ons League, boast men with freshly minted medals from the Span­ish Liga or French Ligue 1.

Rather than com­ing from Lille and Fener­bahce, Por­tu­gal’s at­tack­ers will carry lus­trous busi­ness cards from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manch­ester City and AC Mi­lan. Some heavy price-tags hang off them.

The fee City agreed last month with Monaco for the pur­chase of the diminu­tive Bernardo Silva may rise to close to €70 mil­lion (Dh289.3m) if he reaches some of the tar­gets City be­lieve he can in their colours.

An­dre Silva, mean­while, has just cost Mi­lan a shade un­der €40m, a sum the for­mer Porto striker can as­sume means they have him pen­cilled in as firstchoice cen­tre-for­ward for the com­ing Serie A cam­paign.

Nei­ther of these Sil­vas was in France last sum­mer, and hind­sight encourages the idea that the stodgy Por­tu­gal who won the tour­na­ment with only one vic­tory within 90 min­utes in their en­tire Euro 2016 might have had a bit more panache had they been there.

But both were only 20 at the time, Bernardo Silva had fit­ness is­sues and An­dre Silva had spent more of the 2015/16 sea­son with Porto’s B squad than with the first team. His past nine months have been a rev­e­la­tion.

He scored goals for Porto at a rate of one ev­ery 150 min­utes in league and Cham­pi­ons League and if Mi­lan, am­bi­tious to re­cover their sta­tus with new Chi­nese back­ers, had any doubt about his con­fi­dence then his goal in the 4-0 win over New Zealand at this Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup will have re­as­sured them.

It was a vir­tu­oso sprint, over 30 yards, and a thump­ing, an­gled fin­ish. It was his eighth goal for his coun­try, in his 11th in­ter­na­tional.

That is the sort of po­tency that makes Por­tu­gal’s man­ager, Fer­nando San­tos, feel less de­pen­dent on Ron­aldo’s fin­ish­ing.

“An­dre is a very spe­cial striker with ex­cel­lent move­ment in­side and out­side the penalty area,” San­tos said.

With Ber­nando Silva’s creative in­tel­li­gence from at­tack­ing mid­field, plus ev­i­dence, in the shape of Gel­son Martins, of Sport­ing, that the coun­try’s tra­di­tion for fine wingers con­tin­ues, San­tos has much to be happy about with next sum­mer’s World Cup in mind. He will keep his fin­gers crossed, though, that the young Por­tuguese play­ers climb­ing up the lad­der of club foot­ball will ease into their new jobs, in their new leagues.

The tran­si­tion is not al­ways easy. In the weeks af­ter the Euro 2016 suc­cess, sev­eral of Por­tu­gal’s ris­ing stars made big moves.

Joao Mario joined In­ter Mi­lan from Sport­ing af­ter his im­pres­sive Euro 2016.

In­ter had a tor­tured sea­son and the dy­namic mid­fielder has missed the Rus­sia ex­pe­di­tion for his coun­try with in­jury.

An­dre Gomes is at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, and to the re­lief of Fer­nando San­tos, has played with re­as­sur­ing elan af­ter a sea­son in which he suf­fered a great deal of crit­i­cism from sup­port­ers of Barcelona, who the 23 year old joined last sum­mer from Va­len­cia.

Then there is Re­nato Sanches, the teenage sen­sa­tion of last sum­mer.

The mid­fielder joined Bay­ern Mu­nich from Ben­fica. Hav­ing lan­guished on the bench in Bavaria for much of the last year, he did not make the Por­tu­gal squad for Rus­sia.

He has lately been back with the Un­der 21s, watch­ing from afar as his se­nior coun­try­men fare pretty well with­out him.

That is the sort of po­tency that makes Por­tu­gal’s man­ager, Fer­nando San­tos, feel less de­pen­dent on Ron­aldo’s fin­ish­ing

Gual­ter Fa­tia / Getty Im­ages

Bernardo Silva, left, and An­dre Silva, right, are part of a Por­tu­gal front six, spear­headed by Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, and are look­ing dan­ger­ous.

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