Joao Moutinho has big plans at what is an exciting stage in his career. After contributing to Porto’s third consecutive league title, the midfielder has taken on a new challenge by signing for Monaco.
At this moment in time, however, he has nothing on his mind but Portugal’s crucial FIFA World Cup™ qualifying match at home to Russia on Friday, a game vital to their hopes of reaching Brazil 2014.
A Seleção das Quinas find themselves in a slightly uncomfortable position in Group F of the European Zone. Lying third in the section, trailing Israel on goal difference and a point adrift of leaders Russia, who have played two games fewer, Paulo Bento’s side have their work cut out just to make sure of second place and a play-off spot. Missing out on Brazil 2014 is not an outcome Moutinho is prepared to contemplate, however.
“Second place is in our hands, which is not the case with first place,” the midfielder told FIFA.com. “We need to work hard to get into second and then wait and see what happens with the team ahead of us. The aim is to make sure of the play-offs, but if we can end up top of the group, then so much the better. It just can’t picture a team like Portugal not making it to the World Cup.”
Portugal’s first task is to win this Friday’s meeting in Lisbon with Russia, the only side to have beaten them in the group so far, 1-0 in Moscow last October.
Looking ahead to the make-or-break encounter, Moutinho said: “It’s going to be a very tough match. We’re not thinking about anything else but winning and that’s what we’ll be working towards right from the very first minute. We’ll be doing all we can to make the strongest possible start. We want three points and we want to reach the World Cup.”
Warming to his theme, he added: “There’s something for us to learn in every game and the defeat in Russia was no exception. They’re an excellent side and they’re going to cause us a lot of problems, just like they did in the first game. We know, though, that we played well, performed to the very best of our ability and deserved something more from that game. Our hope now is that we can go and get the win.”
After serving his apprenticeship at Sporting CP and moving on to Porto for a very successful three-year stay, during which he won three league titles and the UEFA Europa League, Moutinho has taken on a fresh challenge.
The international midfield man has just put pen to paper on a five-year contract with French club Monaco, who have just returned to Ligue 1 and made some very significant signings in recent days, among them fellow ex-Portistas James Rodriguez, Ricardo Carvalho and Falcao.
“It’s a very attractive proposition,” he said. “It’s a new two- to three-year project, and I hope to be a French championship winner in this first year and to fight for other trophies too.”
Though Moutinho will not be playing in Europe’s club competitions next season, for the first time in several years, it is a prospect that does not seem to concern him: “I won’t be playing in the Champions League next year, that’s true. But I do hope to be at the World Cup and to be a world champion. Obviously that’s something we’re all dreaming about.”
Having missed out on selection for South Africa 2010, Moutinho is now an indispensable part of the Portugal midfield, and the strength and versatility he brought to the Sporting and Porto cause will surely stand Monaco and, in the more immediate future, his country in good stead.