Portugal 2-3 Sweden

Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and helped create another as Portugal let a 2-0 half-time lead slip and fell to defeat against Sweden in an international friendly at the Estádio dos Barreiros.

In stark contrast to the game against the Hungarians on Saturday evening, Portugal were incoherent and were deservedly beaten by an inexperienced Swedish side, with coach Fernando Santos making no attempt to hide his anger at the end of the ninety minutes.

The early exchanges began in a very friendly-like manner. Portugal possessed the ball comfortably and with confidence, but lacked any real attacking threat - instead opting to knock the ball around, highlighting the disjointedness amongst the unfamiliar eleven. 

Despite the Scandinavians’ lack of possession in the opening 15 minutes, it was they who looked the more threatening side as they found gaps in the Seleção’s alarmingly open defence. Portugal’s first effort on goal fell to Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches, who seized upon a loose ball and unleashed a ferocious effort from all of 30 yards out which fizzed past the upright.

Sweden, though, continued to look the more dangerous of the two outfits, with Claesson in particular causing the Portuguese defence no end of issues. 

Ronaldo strikes

However, against the run of play the European Champions scored the opener at the Estádio dos Barreiros 18 minutes in. The ball found its way out wide on the right-hand side to Sporting prodigy Gelson Martins, who proceeded the terrorise the Swedish defence and produce an exquisite cross with the outside of his right boot which Ronaldo, expertly ghosting in between his markers, neatly guided past the helpless Johnsson. 

Minutes later Sweden found themselves in behind the Portuguese defence again. A clever through ball released Krafth down the right-hand side and his cross was met by Nyman, but the Eintracht Braunschweig forward was unable to direct his effort on target and the chance went begging.

The Seleção then began to dominate possession and move the ball around with confidence, and their efforts gradually wore down a resolute Swedish defence. In the 34th minute, the ball found its way to the feet of Sporting’s “wonderkid” Martins once more, who combined neatly with Ronaldo in the area before the former’s cross-shot was deflected into the net by a combination of the outstretched Granqvist and Sweden’s goalkeeper.

Portugal went into the break leading 2-0, but could consider themselves lucky to do so and the score could have been very different if it wasn’t for Sweden’s lack of composure in front of goal.

Second-half turnaround

The second half saw a flurry of substitutions from both outfits which inevitably disrupted the tempo and flow of the game. However, much like the first half, it was the Swedes who appeared to be the more menacing of the two sides. In the 57th minute, the away side got the goal they deserved through the impressive Viktor Claesson. The Swedes counter attacked tenaciously on the right-hand side, allowing Thelin to cut inside and unleash a vicious shot which was parried by Marafona, only to find the feet of Nyman who delicately played in Claesson, who in turn neatly lifted the ball over the advancing Marafona. 

As more substitutions were made by Fernando Santos, it was clear the game was becoming the definition of a disjointed experimental team from Portugal. Stringing a few passes together was proving to be quite a task for the Seleção, and the visitors took advantage of this once again in the 76th minute. An inswinging corner from the right found Claesson who produced an excellent improvised finish to beat Marafona at his near post. Despite the quality of the finish from the Krasnodar midfielder, the defending from Portugal was mediocre at best. 

As the clock ticked down Portugal began to pile on the pressure, mainly from Ricardo Quaresma who baffled the Swedish defenders with a series of exquisite pieces of trickery and crosses. However, Portugal failed to create any clear-cut chances and were punished again in the dying embers of the encounter. A flowing move saw Sweden get in behind the defence, where a fierce low ball across the six-yard area hit the unwitting Cancelo, before trickling over the line leaving the previously festive home crowd stunned. 

The Seleção’s clear lack of depth at centre-back and left-back was laid bare this evening, and will undoubtedly be something Santos will want to address before announcing his squad for the Confederations Cup this summer in Russia.

Gelson and Sanches impress

Having said that, there were a number of positives to take from the game. Gelson Martins again shined on the big stage, furthering his tally of assists to 3 in 4 caps for his country. Renato Sanches appeared to be brimming with confidence despite his concerning lack of regular first team football, dictating the game by switching the ball from flank to flank frequently and using his impressive physique to maintain possession well. Ronaldo was Ronaldo. 

Certainly, nobody likes to lose, as Fernardo Santos stated in the post-match interviews. “I’m annoyed. Losing is never good. We weren’t competent and the second half was not responsible,” said the visibly irritated coach.

Indeed, it’s clear there’s a lot of work to do in regards to improving the defence aside from the starters, but tonight’s performance should not be representative of where the Seleção are at, and Santos’s astonishingly strong record in competitive play suggest he will be able to fix the issues in time for the World Cup next summer. 

By Marino Peixoto

 

Portugal: Marafona, João Cancelo, Bruno Alves, Neto, Eliseu (Nélson Semedo, 46′), Danilo (William Carvalho, 46′), João Moutinho (Pizzi, 46′), Renato Sanches, Gelson Martins (André Gomes, 79′), Bernardo Silva (Éder, 46′), Cristiano Ronaldo (Quaresma, 57′)

Sweden: Karl-Johan Johansson, Emil Krafth (Lustig, 70′), Filip Helander (Hiljemark, 90′), Andreas Granqvist (Pontus Jansson, 46′), Niklas Hult, Viktor Claesson, Sebastian Larsson, Jakob Johansson, Sam Larsson (Durmaz, 67′), Kiese Thelin, Christopher Nyman (Marcus Berg, 87′)

Goals:

[1-0] Cristiano Ronaldo, 18′

[2-0] Johansson (o.g.), 34’

[2-1] Claesson, 57′

[2-2] Claesson, 76′

[2-3] João Cancelo (o.g.), 93′

 

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    Starting Bruno Alves and Eliseu together in the back 4 you could see this coming. As I've said Bruno Alves has no business seeing the field. Santos couldn't possibly be considering him a reliable back up option be it for the remaining qualifiers or confeds cup. He is finished and I was horrified when CR passed him the captain's armband. Hopefully Santos has learned a lesson here but I miss the days when players would just retire graciously. As for Neto, he has been around the selecçao for a few years now but I can't recall anyone saying he needs to play more.. I wonder why. The worst part was neither of them looked like they even cared about sweeping out danger. Sweden out hustled Portugal in their own 18 yard box. If Cancelo paid any attention to where the ball was coming from, there's no way he inadvertently kicks the ball in our own net. Just carelessness all around from the defenders though Marafona made a couple decent saves.

    The positives were Gelson Martins, Renato Sanches, and Quaresma. Martins is a very skilled professional. Nani has a target on his back for sure and despite how in or out of form Renato is, for me the kid brings a whole new dynamic to this team with his energy and toughness that none of our other mids can replicate. He gets our entire team to play with this exquisite passion and maximum hunger to win the ball. Everyone elevates their game when Renato is on the field. It is a joy to watch. He is a workhorse and that gives him the reason to be a guaranteed starter in my book. For all the expectations placed on Bernardo, performance was mediocre at best. I'm not sure what position he was playing looked to be up top beside C.Ronaldo but he should be an attacking mid. He and Andre Gomes share a similar style IMO and the comparisons with Deco were flowing around not too long ago. It will be a real shame if he never gets a look at his natural position.
    Quaresma as it's been said delivers the best crosses on our team, it can't be beat but at this point of his career coming off the bench is probably where we'll see the best from him.

    Best team based on thsee last two games:

    Patricio
    Cedric---Fonte---Pepe---Guerreiro
    --------Sanches---Bernardo/Gomes------
    -----Quaresma------------Gelson Martins----
    -------------Andre Silva---CR7-------------

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  • Guest - Ash

    I wish the Swedes had scored a few more to show Santos he needs to make big changes. Seemed like the entire second half's plan was to pass to Quaresma and hope he can get a cross in. I know it's a friendly and the entire team was disjointed but there's stuff to take away from this game.
    Bruno Alves and Eliseu should have retired years ago. They have to realize that at their age they are a hinderance to the team. It pains me every time I see their names on the call ups. Just terrible.
    Luis Neto and Pizzi had an opportunity to show why they deserve to be on the team and they didn't take it. They were both extremely average. Nélson wasn't great either.
    We should all be forever grateful to Eder but it's time to move on from him.
    João Cancelo proved what I've been thinking for a while. He's ok against weak opponents like Faroe Islands and Andorra but against any half decent team he'll get exposed. He's a liability defensively. He's very overrated and Valencia will rob Barcelona blind with him just like they did with André Gomes.
    I'm worried about Bernardo. I want him to succeed badly and hope he doesn't turn into another Danny for the national team.
    Some good to take away. Gelson Martins was amazing. I'd love to see a front three of Ronaldo----Silva-----Gelson
    Quaresma had another good game.

    Some LB options: Ricardo Pereira, Mário Rui, Rafa Soares
    CB: Daniel Carriço, Paulo Oliveira for now and Rúben Semedo in the future

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  • Guest - Christian

    The defence today was horrible. The worst I have seen in awhile. I know it's a friendly but I saw a lot of the old seleção today. This friendly really made one thing clear. We really are screwed if Pepe and fonte are injured. I think we have to give up on Alves, maybe use Danilo as an emergency cb. Nelson was brutal and not sure if João C is not used to being on the left or he's that bad at defending. Neto was useless, I think it's time to call up one of the sporting young cbs. overall Renato played good, but he did make a lot of defensive erros. That's probably due to his age. I'm hoping this is just a one off thing. Santos experimented and that's what friendlies are for but I don't know if the loss was due to bad team chemistry or complacency and attitude. I hope it's not the latter.

    That being said, I don't want to go all arsenal fan tv here.

    There were positives. Gelson was amazing, Ronaldo was Ronaldo, Quaresma was great and Renato was picking passes like Scholes. The game that counts we won and won comfortably. This games was the exact opposite though. Our confidence was high and I hope this doesn't affect it. We have a long way before the wc. I hope we don't get complacent.

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  • Guest - George

    I've said it many times and I'll say it again - Eliseu PLEASE GET LOST. He is terrible! It's amazing how much worse our defence looks when he's at LB. Remember our game with Hungary at the Euros..? He doesn't have pace, intelligence, or fight, and he gets caught upfield often. He barely even bothers to block out crosses or passes into the box! He's useless out there! Hopefully Santos realizes this now.

    Cancelo isn't the backup option for LB either. Just because he's willing to play there doesn't mean he can. It was like night and day watching him on the right versus the left. Once he shifted to the left and Semedo came into the game, both looked shaky as all hell and appeared to completely forget about their defensive responsibilities. It was almost as if they thought they were wingers and not fullbacks. They took far too many chances and with a 2-0 lead they didn't need to.

    I'll also echo what Gino said - it should be obvious by now that Bruno Alves is past it. I knew he was past it in Brazil when the Americans were making him look like Bambi on ice. Neto had a terrible game as well but I won't be so hard on him because I've seen him play good games for the Selecao before under Paulo Bento. And, if I remember correctly, they were in tandem with Bruno Alves. So, I think tonight has more to do with Bruno than Luis.

    Surely there are better options out there than Eliseu and Bruno Alves. At LB, Mario Rui is a great shout. He only recently came back from injury for Roma so I'm hoping that's the reason why he's been overlooked this far. He can be our left-sided Cedric - incredible fight and defensive IQ, good enough offensively, and experienced while still young (he's only 25 like Cedric). Other options include Ricardo Pereira (who also just returned from injury for Nice), Vitorino Antunes (who was decent when coming on for Raphael in the fall; not sure why he was dropped in the first place), or Rafa Soares (another youngster I've always been a fan of). Hopefully Fabio Coentrao can find some health so he can be an option as well.

    At CB, I'd just like to see Paulo Oliveira get a chance. Not sure what he's done to get in Jorge Jesus's doghouse (every time I've watched him he's been stellar), but I think he'd excel with the likes of Raphael, Cedric, and Pepe/Fonte beside him. Ruben Semedo is the other obvious option though I'd like to see him stick with the U21s until after the summer. If you want to think outside the box Fredrico Venacio or Josue from Guimaraes might be worth looking at. Or Daniel Carrico if he can ever find some regular game time.

    I've been very long winded here, and I have a few positive things to say as well, but I'll just end it here. Ultimately, I just want Santos to include a few others in the fold and patch up what I see as our only weakness - defensive depth. If he does that, I'll think we'll be a bonafide World power for the next decade.

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  • Guest - Brandon

    It is obvious that the players on the field today weren't on their game. I think this will be the last time we see Bruno Alves in a Portuguese shirt. I was very disappointed with all of the Benfica and Porto (Danillo) players tonight. They obviously have to conserve their energy for the big game on Saturday, so I guess in a way they are excused. The players might as well have not come back on the field after the 1st half. The stopped trying to create chances and they fell flat on their faces. This can serve as a reminder for what can happen to us if we let our guard down. We can be the best team in the world one day, and be 3rd rate team the next... Hopefully this is the worst game we see in a LONG time, and Santos can take something good out of this learning experience.

    from Connecticut, USA
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  • Guest - Nelson

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great article and some very valid points have been made in the comments. I will say one thing though that hasn't really been said...

    I have the utmost faith in Mr. Santos. This loss will not be wasted; it will be used to inform his decisions for the games that count. I would not be saying this about Bento lol.

    I do feel bad for CR7 as he surely wanted to win in front of his home crowd, however these are they games where you take risks with your line up and try to learn a thing or two about your depth and how all the pieces fit together.

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  • Guest - Nelson
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Agree Nelson.

    Coach Santos has been fantastic is many regards but his greatest strength (much to the delight of the Portugoal faithful) is his ability to immediately correct players not playing to their potential.

    I am happy this happened during a friendly and not the match vs Hungary. Santos will fix things, he always does.

    Great post as always Nelson.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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