Gelson Martins scored a stunning late winner as the Seleção beat New Zealand 2-1 to make it to the quarter-finals of the U20 World Cup in Hamilton today.
Portugal dominated the first hour and took the lead in the first half thanks to a smart Raphael Guzzo strike. But the match changed when Holthusen scrambled an equaliser for the hosts on 65 minutes, as New Zealand began to look dangerous.
With extra time looming Gelson Martins dribbled his way to the edge of the box and unleashed a perfect trivela shot with the outside of his right foot which nestled in the corner of the net to give Portugal victory. The Seleção will fight for a place in the semi-finals against Brazil on Sunday.
Portugal came into the match big favourites having won all three of their group games, scoring 10 goals and conceding just 1 in the process, while New Zealand had scraped into the knockout rounds thanks to a single victory against Myanmar - their first ever win at an U20 World Cup.
Seleção coach Hélio Sousa resisted the temptation to select the in-form Nuno Santos, instead going with his Benfica team-mate Gonçalo Guedes, while Ivo Rodrigues could also consider himself unlucky not to make the starting XI after impressing in the group phase.
Things did not get off the best of starts for the Portugal as centre-back Domingos Duarte picked up a yellow card inside 20 seconds for a foul on Rufer. But as expected, the European side soon took control of proceedings, albeit without creating much in the way of clear-cut chances.
Rony Lopes was inches away from scoring with a cross-shot on 22 minutes, but it was only a brief respite for New Zealand. Left-back Rafa found Guzzo in the box, and the Brazilian-born midfielder showed perfect technique to cut inside his marker and dispatch a low shot into the net, giving goalkeeper Tzanev no chance.
The pattern of the match didn't change up to the break, with Portugal dominating possession but lacking the cutting edge they had shown in previous games. André Silva was not far away from adding to his four goals at the tournament when he pounced on a mistake from Tzanev, but with the goalkeeper out of position the FC Porto striker could not find the target from a tight angle.
Portugal enjoyed their best period of the match in the first 15 minutes of the second half, with Rony Lopes at last showing some form with some lightning dribbles driving towards the New Zealand box. Guzzo, Guedes and Lopes all threatened during this period, and André Silva will be disappointed he could not keep his header down when he looked certain to score in the 62nd minute.
As has been the case so often with the Seleção at all levels, they were punished for their profligacy. New Zealand had been harmless throughout, but a series of ricochets in the Portugal box saw the ball fall to substitute Holthusen, who slammed it into the net from close range.
Hosts start to believe
The goal sparked the hosts, who urged on by the home crowd began to string some passes together and ask questions of the Portuguese defence for the first time in the match, as Hélio Sousa's men showed worrying signs of fatigue.
Another chance fell to Holthusen, but he fired wide, before another fine run and firm shot by Lopes brought a good save out of Tzanev. The introduction of Ivo Rodrigues and especially Estrela seemed to calm Portugal's nerves as the Seleção reassumed a degree of control, but with the clock ticking down extra time looked on the cards.
That was when Gelson Martins, whose pace and trickery had caused the hosts problems all match, took matters into his own hands. Picking up the ball 30 yards out, he skipped past two defenders before producing a wonderful right-foot shot that the master of the trivlela himself Ricardo Quaresma would have been proud off. Tzanev could only watch as the ball sailed into the corner of the net to trigger effusive celebrations among the Portugal players and coaching staff.
Portugal held on without alarm to book a quarter-final date against Brazil on 14 June, the Brazilians needing penalties to get past Uruguay after a goalless draw.
by Tom Kundert
New Zealand: Tzanev; Brown, Tuiloma (Andre de Jong, 90'), Brotherton, Wynne, Dyer, Hudson-Wihongi, Billingsley (Stevens, 76’), Patterson, Blake, Rufer (Hollthusen, 63’)
Portugal: André Moreira, Mauro Riquicho, João Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa, Podstawski, Guzzo (Estrela, 78’), Rony Lopes, Gelson Martins (Bikel, 90’), André Silva, Gonçalo Guedes (Ivo Rodrigues, 67’)