Queiroz targeting fresh start for Portugal

LISBON - Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz has named three debutants in his squad to play Finland on Wednesday hoping to breathe new life into his struggling team ahead of a key World Cup qualifier against Sweden in March.

The friendly in Faro will be Queiroz's seventh game after taking charge last summer, but his team have failed to find form, with a weak start to the qualifying campaign compounded by a 6-2 crushing by Brazil in November.

Portugal are third in Group One of Europe's 2010 World Cup qualifiers, trailing Denmark and Hungary.

Queiroz said the March 28 game against Sweden, who have the same number of points as Portugal, "is the most important this season".

The debut call-ups for Siena defender Goncalo Brandao, Malaga winger Eliseu and Braga striker Orlando Sa "are part of a plan to improve the team's balance," Queiroz added.

"I believe they will bring fresh air to the national team, new options, new solutions for the future."

Queiroz's harsh words for his team after the Brazil defeat suggested he would conduct wholesale changes, but the only key omission not due to injury is that of Chelsea defender Jose Bosingwa.

The team that Cristiano Ronaldo leads out on Wednesday is likely, however, to see changes in every department. Keeper Quim has been omitted after losing his place at Benfica and will be replaced by Braga's Eduardo or Bochum's Daniel Fernandes.

In defence, Brandao will compete for a place with Paulo Ferreira on the left, in a line-up missing Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho through injury, while a three-man midfield is likely to feature playmaker Deco and Atletico Madrid's Maniche.

Simao Sabrosa's injury may have opened the door for Eliseu and Malaga team mate Duda, but they will have to compete with Nani for one of the wings, while the other belongs to Ronaldo.

Bremen's Hugo Almeida or Zenit's Danny are likely to lead the front line, with newcomer Sa hoping to come off the bench.

Finland arrive from a 5-1 defeat in a friendly against Japan last week, but coach Stuart Baxter fielded an experimental and young side in that game and has recalled experienced internationals such as Liverpool's Sami Hyypia.