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Almost unprecedented: Sporting Lisbon facing exodus, free agent frenzy

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There is an almost unbelievable state of play at one of the world’s most successful clubs right now.

That club is Sporting CP, the group that has been home to Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, and William Carvalho.

That last name is part of our story today.

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When last we checked in with the Lisbon club, its players had been attacked mid-training session by a mob of supposed fans following the club’s failure to land its near-annual berth in the UEFA Champions League. This came a month after the club’s entire first team was suspended after a row with its president.

Sporting had spent four seasons in the UCL, rebounding from its lone season outside Portugal’s Top Four since 1976.

Now many on its laundry list of high-priced talents could be leaving the club for free, potentially setting one of the most storied clubs in Portugal back to its very roots.

Bas Dost, William Carvalho, Gelson Martins, and Bruno Fernandes reportedly requested to break their contracts on Monday, joining goalkeeper Rui Patricio and Daniel Podence.

Dost scored 27 league goals this season, and joined Fernandes and Martins as Top 15 performers according to WhoScored. Carvalho, the big 26-year-old midfielder, was 21st.

Sporting has done a remarkable job identifying talent from without and growing talent from within, only once spending more than $14 million on a player (Dost) while selling 11 individuals for that much or more (Adrien Silva, Ruben Semedo, Joao Mario, Islam Slimani, Marcos Rojo, Bruma, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Hugo Viana, Aldo Duscher).

Only a cursory search through our pages finds several of Sporting’s want-aways in the gossip section for almost thrice that figure. Carvalho (and/or Sporting) has resisted interest of as much as $50 million, often connected with Jose Mourinho. Dost has been linked with Newcastle, and Patricio said to be making a move to PL new boys Wolves.

To lose these players for free, largely because of an attack from “supporters” is bonkers. And in your gut, you have to think the players stand a very good chance of being allowed to leave for safety reasons, making for an unexpected sort of free agent frenzy.

How long would it take for a club to rebound from that, and how far could Sporting sink on the table? Fortunately, it would have some time to rebuild for its Europa League run, but wow.

Portugal wins third-place at Confederations Cup (video)

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Pepe’s stoppage time equalizer and Adrien Silva’s extra time penalty kick helped Portugal to a third-place finish in the Confederations Cup as Mexico self-destructed against the EURO 2016 champs in Russia on Sunday.

A Luis Neto own goal and missed Portugal PK had Mexico up 1-0 until the late stages, but Portugal’s deserved win came after the teams played level through 90 minutes for a second time in two weeks.

Nelson Semedo was shown red in the 106th minute, but Raul Jimenez was shown his second yellow six minutes left in the match. Mexico should have been awarded a penalty near the end of stoppage time, but Pepe’s clever foul went uncalled and Juan Carlos Osorio was sent from the stadium after barking into the fourth official’s ear and bumping him.

Portugal will finish third in its first Confederations Cup, while Mexico finishes fourth for the second time.

[ MORE: 2017 Confederations Cup news ]

Rafa Marquez chopped down Andre Silva in the 18, and Video Assistant Referee made sure the Mexican defender gave away a penalty kick.

Marquez was given yellow for the takedown, as he kicked Silva’s knee. The new AC Milan attacker took the pen with Cristiano Ronaldo away from the team, but Guillermo Ochoa dove low and right to slap the ball wide of the frame (VIDEO).

Portugal then headed the ensuing corner over the frame, and the match remained scoreless in the 18th minute.

Chances at either end went wanting as Pizzi’s far post shot took a slight uncalled deflection that dragged wide for a goal kick, and Marquez nearly bundled a crossed free kick past Rui Patricio.

The Portuguese keeper made a point-blank stop on Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez in the 31st minute, drawing “Mex-i-co” chants from the Spartak Stadium crowd.

Portugal was on the front foot in the second half, with Joao Moutinho blazing an effort over the bar and Gelson Martins shooting a clever chipped pass from Silva outside the near post.

[ FOLLOW: PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Yet Mexico went ahead through Chicharito’s cross banging off Luis Neto and into the Portugal goal in the 54th minute.

Pizzi missed wide with a bid for an equalizer just before the hour mark. Ochoa then made a terrific one-handed stop on a Martins header. Captain Nani then headed the ensuing corner wide of the far post.

Pepe then knotted things up in stoppage time, leaping for a martial arts-style finish of substitute Ricardo Quaresma’s cross to make it 1-1.

Jimenez saw a shot deflected out for a corner early in the first period of extra time, and the ensuing corner led to Patricio’s stellar save at the back post.

After what could’ve been red cards to both sides in the Portugal end, Martins won the decisive penalty kick when his cheeky juggle around Miguel Layun clipped the former Watford man’s raised arm.

Mexico nearly found a rescue of its own following the pair of red cards, but Patricio dove to save from Hector Herrera’s bullet. Then Pepe was allowed a push of Hector Moreno as the latter missed a close-range header deep into the second period of extra time. Mexico could have easily been given a penalty, but was not.

Patricio, Eder help Ronaldo-less Portugal to EURO 2016 crown

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Eder scored a goal in the 109th minute to lift Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal to its first ever major tournament title, a 1-0 win over host France as EURO 2016 concluded on Sunday.

The substitute’s fourth international goal in 29 caps was enough for Portugal thanks to the outstanding goalkeeping of Rui Patricio, who was credited with seven saves.

Ronaldo’s injury came in the opening 10 minutes when Dimitri Payet surprised Ronaldo with a tackle. The captain went down and clutched his knee, briefly leaving the field twice before finally exiting in the 25th.

Moments later, Antoine Griezmann forced Rui Patricio into a fabulous save. The ensuing corner was headed at the keeper by Olivier Giroud.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to Ronaldo injury ]

Portugal had problems containing a fit and motivated Moussa Sissoko, though the final ball continued to elude Les Bleus. Also instrumental in that failure to break through were center backs Pepe and Jose Fonte.

It’s easy to forget that so much of France’s tactics would’ve been focused on Ronaldo, and Didier Deschamps’ crew looked perplexed at times.

Kingsley Coman came on for an ineffective Payet with a half-hour to play and changed the game, his 66th minute cross nearly headed home by Griezmann.

Giroud slipped down the left of the box to force Patricio into another solid save, and the 75th minute saw France looking more likely to find the opener.

Hugo Lloris was called into action for the first time in a great deal of time and looked shaky in dealing with an 80th minute chip from Nani but scooped up an ensuing overhead kick to keep it 0-0.

Sissoko teed up a blast in the 84th, but Patricio dove to make a two-handed parry. And Andre-Pierre Gignac worked Pepe before hitting a stoppage time ball off the far post. Was fortune on Portugal’s side?

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Extra time found, well, a continued dearth of excitement. It took almost the entire first period for a moment of import, as Eder was robbed by Lloris.

Referee Mark Clattenberg misread handball on Eder as one on Laurent Koscielny, and Raphael Guerrero almost scored on the resulting free kick. The crossbar won the battle, though.

Eder found the goal though moments later, shrugging off a pull to carry to the middle of the pitch and lash a shot past a diving Lloris. It wasn’t the finest moment for the Spurs keeper.

An injury to Guerrero left Portugal down to 10 men in the final moments of the match, but it was not to be for France.

Portugal releases final 23-man roster for World Cup

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Not too many surprises from Portugal manager Paulo Bento as Cristiano Ronaldo headlines their final 23-man roster for the 2014 World Cup.

The biggest surprise is the exclusion of Porto midfielder Ricardo Quaresma, with Rafa Silva there instead.

Also missing somewhat surprisingly is Benfica striker Ivan Cavaleiro, although the squad was already attack-heavy, and Bento had to slim down somewhere at the front.

Otherwise, all the usual suspects are there. Former Chelsea player Raul Meireles and his crazy hair will be patrolling the midfield, Real Madrid’s Pepe and his crazy hair will man the back line, and Manchester United’s Nani pretty average hair will be seen on the wing.

The goalkeeping situation will be an interesting one to watch.  All three keepers on the roster have seen time recently, with Beto starting their most recent match, a thrashing of Cameroon in a March friendly.  Rui Patricio – likely the frontrunner – played their last competitive match, against Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers, but that was back in November, and the Sporting man didn’t even make the squad against Cameroon.

Portugal’s first Group G match will be against Germany on June 16, and will take on the United States on June 22 in the Amazonian city of Manaus.

GK: Eduardo (SC Braga), Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patricio (Sporting)

DEF: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit St. Petersburg), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Andre Almeida (Benfica).

MID: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), William Carvalho (Sporting), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Rafa Silva (SC Braga).

FW: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Eder (SC Braga), Nani (Manchester United), Varela (FC Porto), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg).

Cristiano Ronaldo: a deliberate booking?

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For much of the match against Israel on Friday night, it seemed Portugal were still in the running to qualify directly for Brazil. Ricardo Costa scored in the 26th minute, and had Portugal managed to run out the clock and get all three points, they would have remained just one point behind Russia. With their final match against last-placed Luxembourg, and Russia facing fourth-place Azerbaijan, Portugal would have still had hope of avoiding the playoffs.

Instead, an error by goalkeeper Rui Patricio allowed Eden Ben Basat to slot in a goal in the 85th minute. At that point, A Selecção had a feeling a loss was out of reach. By injury time, Portugal knew wouldn’t be able to overcome Russia’s seven point advantage on goal difference. The playoffs were a certainty, thus rendering the final match against Luxembourg obsolete.

That makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s booking seem rather suspicious. Or perhaps fortuitous? The Real Madrid forward was shown a yellow card in injury time for protesting, meaning he’ll miss Tuesday’s match — and be available for next month’s playoffs. Pepe, too, picked up a card and will miss the Luxembourg game.

When questioned about whether the booking was deliberate, Ronaldo refused to confirm whether or not it was intentional. The forward said, “”I can’t talk about that [booking]. Fifa is always very attentive to those situations.”