LISBON (Reuters) - VfL Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha was visibly at ease wearing Cristiano Ronaldo’s number seven shirt as he made his first start for Portugal during Tuesday’s 2-0 win over Azerbaijan and produced a display that brought back memories of his former youth team glory.
Back in 2003, when Ronaldo was still off the radar to most soccer fans, Vieirinha won the player-of-the-tournament award as he guided Portugal to the Under-17 European title, outshining team mates Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso.
The 27-year-old winger’s international career has fallen short of expectations since.
But in Baku, with Ronaldo suspended and Nani injured, Vieirinha took his chance as Portugal broke a five-game winless streak to re-launch their World Cup qualification campaign.
Although he did not score, Vieirinha was the source of most Portuguese attacks and ended the match with the most shots (six) and crosses (17).
“He gave us a lot of width and contributed to a fine overall performance by the whole group,” Portugal coach Paulo Bento told journalists.
“He came in from the start in a context that demanded a swift response because we were under heavy pressure. He showed a lot of quality in attack and also when he had to defend.”
After his achievements as a youngster, the Guimaraes-born Vieirinha, who is equally comfortable using either his left or right foot, failed to make a name for himself at Porto. He went on loan spells to Portuguese clubs Marco and Leixoes before signing for PAOK in Greece and then Wolfsburg last year.
Vieirinha remained humble after wearing the number seven normally reserved for Ronaldo.
“The number seven shirt always weighs, because that is the shirt of a great player,” he said.
“But what mattered in all this was not my performance but that of the whole team which did very well. I felt we were all very concentrated.” (Editing by Alison Wildey)