The Portuguese Under-21 team has accomplished what has not been accomplished by the team in over a decade: make it out of the group stage at a U-21 European Championship. Portugal has done just that, and with relative ease. Despite being up against England, Italy, and Sweden (the team who defeated France to reach the tournament), Portugal’s convincing performances have seen them through as winners of Group B. Let’s take a look back at how the group stage unfolded for Portugal, and what can be expected in tomorrow’s semi-final clash with Germany. Continue reading
On Wednesday evening, Sporting travel to Stamford Bridge to take on the already-qualified Chelsea in a crunch match that will decide whether they go through to the Round of 16 of the Champions League or not. They go into the game needing just one point to qualify as the group runners-up, having beaten Schalke (4-2) and Maribor (3-1) at home in their last two Champions League games. Continue reading
Portugal 2-2 United States
A last-minute goal from Silvestre Varela gave Portugal a 2-2 draw against a bright United States side in both teams’ second World Cup match. An early goal from Nani set Portugal on their way, but two second half goals from Jermaine Jones and Clint Dempsey gave the United States a deserved lead. But in the last play of the game, a Ronaldo cross found the head of Varela, who headed home with aplomb. The manner in which Varela scored is reminiscent of his last gasp goal at Euro 2012, when he came off the bench to score the goal that gave Portugal the win over Denmark. Though they managed a draw, the United States outplayed the Portuguese, and one could argue deserved to win the match.
Portugal are in Group G with Germany, United States, and Ghana; a group aptly labeled the “group of death.” In Portugal’s first game, the team fell hard 4-0 to Germany. From events stemming from the first match, Portugal were without starters Pepe, Rui Patricio, Fabio Coentrao, and Hugo Almeida, who were all unavailable for the match due to suspension or injury. This meant that Portugal’s starting lineup was something of a patchwork one, with Andre Almeida and Ricardo Costa replacing Fabio Coentrao and Pepe in defense respectively. Rui Patricio was replaced by Beto, while Helder Postiga resumed his starting role up top in place of the injured Hugo Almeida. Though their fitness was in question before the start of the match, Ronaldo and Bruno Alves both started for Portugal.
The game started very brightly for Portugal, with the team taking the lead after just five minutes. Miguel Veloso fired in an early cross, which was unsuccessfully cleared by Geoff Cameron for the United States. His botched clearance fell to the feet of Nani, who fired home for Portugal. It was Nani’s 15th goal for Portugal and his first in a major tournament for Portugal. And it was Nani who was the brightest Portuguese player for the first half of an hour. Portugal dominated possession, with the United States content on chasing the ball and counter-attacking incisively when Portugal turned over the ball. The game ebbed and flowed, with the United States gaining force as the first half was drawing to a close. Portugal was happy to counter, and came very close just before the half, only to be stopped by a pivotal save from USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. Nani picked up the ball on the right hand side and fired in a shot from outside the box. His effort struck the right upright post and fell to the feet of Eder (who had been brought on earlier for the injured Helder Postiga). The Braga man’s shot was expertly saved by the diving American goalkeeper. It was perhaps the save of the tournament and was definitely a huge let-off for Portugal. The team was up 1-0 at the half, but many questions surrounded their play, as the United States had begun to find their rhythm.
The United States, perhaps aware of what needed to be done, came out much more aggressively in the second half. And if it weren’t for a last-ditch tackle from Ricardo Costa ten minutes after the restart, the United States would have tied the game. The Valencia man was in the right place at the right time to expertly block Michael Bradley’s shot. Though Portugal got off that time, the message was clear. The United States were pressing more and more, and as a result looked the better team. Portugal looked poor and were struggling to cope with the increased pressure. And just ten minutes later, both teams got what they deserved. A rocket of a shot from United States midfielder Jermaine Jones thundered into the back of the net to level the scores for the two teams. The goal was a deserved one from the United States, whose play had warranted a goal. Portugal attempted a response, but the team was sluggish going forward and sloppy in defense. And then karma hit again. Around the 80th minute mark, the United States struck once more. The Americans ripped the Portuguese defense apart, and were rewarded by a Clint Dempsey goal. With the score at 2-1 advantage United States and Portugal looking unable to fire a response, many thought the game was over. Americans were shown dancing and celebrating their team’s (assumed) victory over one of Europe’s finest teams. But few remembered that this is the World Cup and anything is possible. And few could have predicted what happened next.
Around the hour mark, Silvestre Varela was substituted in for Raul Meireles. Before that point, Portugal had been playing in their favored 4-3-3 formation. Ronaldo, as usual, was given the freedom to roam from his starting position on the left wing. Though he could roam, he was largely stuck to the position of left-winger, and consistently popped up in attack on the left side of the field. Once Varela was substituted in, the team essentially moved to a 4-4-1-1, with Ronaldo given the freedom to roam as a sort-of attacking midfielder. This move was designed to give Ronaldo more freedom and to hopefully give Portugal the push to score a goal and spare the game. And it worked. Literally in the last seconds of the match, as the United States fans were celebrating their assumed victory, Ronaldo picked up the ball on the right wing. After beating his man, he fired in a perfect cross, which met the head of Varela and thundered into the back of the net to tie up the game at 2-2. USA fans were silent, and this time it was Portugal fans’ turn to celebrate. Though their team had been largely disappointing for the entire match, the Selccao managed to salvage a draw and keep their hopes of qualification to the next round alive.
Beto, Joao Pereira, Bruno Alves, Ricardo Costa, Andre Almeida(William Carvalho), Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles(Varela), Joao Moutinho, Ronaldo, Nani, Helder Postiga(Eder)
So what does this mean for Portugal’s chances? First, let’s take a look at the Group G table as it currently stands:
Portugal has a very poor goal difference because of their heavy 4-0 drubbing from Germany in their first match. To have any hope of qualification to the next round, Portugal first has to defeat Ghana and Germany has to defeat the United States. If Germany and the United States draw, they both advance and Portugal is eliminated. Let’s look at some results that would put Portugal through to the next round:
Portugal 2-0 Ghana, United States 0-4 Germany
Portugal 3-0 Ghana, United States 0-3 Germany
Portugal 3-1 Ghana, United States 1-5 Germany.
Portugal 8-0 Ghana, United States 1-0 Germany (very unlikely)
Essentially, Portugal needs a miracle.
Portugal 0-4 Germany
2014 FIFA World Cup
The Portuguese National Team had to suffer through very likely the worst start to a World Cup possible on Monday when they succumbed to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Germans. Portugal have much work to do to salvage anything out of this World Cup, and with a number of players out of contention for the next games, the Seleccao is facing the toughest task in recent memory.
The game started off brightly for both teams, with the contest largely even. This changed on the stroke of 10 minutes. Joao Pereira was wrestling Mario Gotze for the ball in the box, and a foul was called against Joao Pereira. The foul was justified, and Thomas Muller dispatched the spot kick, giving Germany an early 1-0 lead. The goal did not seem to take the wind out of Portugal’s sails, as the team continued to press, with Nani firing a shot narrowly over the German goal. But, alas, Germany proved too much for Portugal going forward. The Germans doubled their lead around the half-hour mark, with Mats Hummels heading in from a corner. And then, just minutes later an act of lunacy. Pepe held the ball in defense with Thomas Muller lurking. The German attempted to nick the ball from the Portuguese defender, only to go to ground from a presumed arm to the face. Apparently angry that Muller went to ground so easily, Pepe confronted the forward, who was sitting on the ground. Though there was slight contact, replays show that Pepe hit his head into Muller’s. It was an easy decision for the referee. Pepe was given a straight red, and Portugal were down to 10 men. And predictably from that point forward, it was one-way traffic in favor of the Germans. And it was Muller who struck again, smartly getting in front of Bruno Alves’ clearance to fire home and further pile on Portugal’s misery.
Bad things that happened in the first half:
- Hugo Almeida off injured
- Pepe red card
- Three goals scored against Portugal
Maybe the second half was better. Wrong.
Paulo Bento took a more conservative approach in the second half. At half-time, the boss took off Miguel Veloso and added Ricardo Costa to fill the void that Pepe left. Though this reduced Portugal’s attack, it greatly repaired Portugal’s defense, which had been exploited heavily by Germany in the first half to great effect. One can only expect but so much from a team playing with 10 men against one of the favorites to win the tournament. The Portuguese did try to get forward, and it was Nani who was at the heart of many of Portugal’s plays in the second half, but the team could not manage to score. It was Germany who managed to score once more. A mistake from Andre Almeida, who had been substituted in for the injured Fabio Coentrao and a fumble from Rui Patricio gifted Muller another goal. The game ended an embarrassing 4-0 against Portugal, and as has been the case lately, there are more questions than answers.
Bad things that happened in the second half:
- Fabio Coentrao injured
- 1 goal scored against Portugal
Rui Patricio, Joao Pereira, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao(Andre Almeida), Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso(Ricardo Costa), Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ronaldo, Hugo Almeida(Eder)
So, where does this leave Portugal? Essentially, Portugal MUST win their remaining two group stage matches against the USA and Ghana. The USA beat Ghana, so they will likely be eager to beat Portugal to automatically qualify before having to face Germany. Ghana will be licking their wounds, and will likely be gunning for a win against the Portuguese after their loss against the USA.
For the next game against the USA on Sunday, Portugal will be without Pepe (suspended), Fabio Coentrao, Hugo Almeida, and Rui Patricio (injured). The team that will likely face the USA should look something like this:
Eduardo, Joao Pereira, Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Andre Almeida, William Carvalho/Miguel Veloso, Raul Meireles, Joao Moutinho, Nani, Ronaldo, Helder Postiga