FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – On Friday, Revolution center back Jose Goncalves will get the rare opportunity to watch a number of his former teammates at the youth national team level when 3rd-ranked Portugal takes on Mexico at Gillette Stadium.
Goncalves, who played for the Portugal U-21 side with the likes of current Portuguese National Team members Miguel Veloso and Nani, is eager to see how his former teammates do during the 2014 World Cup, which kicks off next week.
“They have a good team,” Goncalves said. “Their qualification was not so easy, but they’ve proven that they have great players.”
Despite the fact that Portugal needed to win a two-leg playoff against Sweden to earn their spot in the World Cup, Goncalves called his home country’s chances “very good.”
There is some concern, however, that Portugal’s prospects in Brazil have taken a significant hit given the recent situation surrounding Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid star has been hampered by left knee and thigh injuries, and was ruled out for Friday’s match at Gillette Stadium.
During a press conference at Gillette on Thursday, Portugal head coach Paulo Bento gave few hints about his star player’s availability going into next week’s friendly against Ireland at MetLife Stadium.
“I’m unable to change the prognosis or what we can expect (from Ronaldo),” Bento said through an interpreter. “When he’s ready to play, that is a decision that is going to be made as it would be with any player. I am not at liberty to discuss at length the situation.”
Instead of traveling with his team to Foxborough, Ronaldo reportedly remained in New Jersey, where the team’s training base is located during its stay in the United States.
Despite Ronaldo’s absence for Friday’s match, as well as the uncertainty surrounding his ability to be ready for Portugal’s first game of group play against 2nd-ranked Germany on June 16, Goncalves believes that the squad’s less-heralded players will be able to pick up the slack.
“Obviously, we have Cristiano Ronaldo,” Goncalves said. “Not only him, but Nani, Pepe and Veloso and there are a bunch of guys who play in other leagues that people don’t really know them here (in the United States), but I am positive that they’re going to have a great tournament.”
Goncalves also believes that the team is strong between the pipes, where goalkeeper Rui Patricio often rose to the occasion during the team's World Cup Qualifying campaign over the last two years.
“We never talk about the keeper,” Goncalves said. “When you have a team that plays some great soccer, the keeper is also great, and I think should give them more credit, because he’s also a very important man on the field.”