Portugal 4-0 New Zealand

Despite making five changes from the team that beat Russia on Wednesday, Portugal were far too strong for New Zealand in the final Group A game of the Confederations Cup this afternoon.

Goals by Cristiano Ronaldo (penalty), Bernardo Silva, André Silva and Nani gave the Seleção a thumping 4-0 victory, the only negative being a yellow card picked up by Pepe ruling him out of the semi-final.

Portugal have an extra day's rest than their next opponents - almost certainly Germany or Chile - who they will play on Wednesday evening for a place in the final.

Santos rings the changes

With Portugal needing just a point to cement their place in the semi-finals, Fernando Santos called on the services of Ricardo Quaresma, Danilo Pereira and João Moutinho, sparing Sporting duo William Carvalho and Adrien Silva, as well as André Gomes, of any lingering fatigue before the likely transition into the final stages of the tournament. Eliseu overcame fears of a flu to deputise for Raphaël Guerreiro at left back, whereas a knock picked up late on by Cedric Soares in preparation for the clash paved the way for Nélson Semedo’s first appearance in Russia.

For ‘the Kiwis’, Wednesday night’s ill-tempered defeat to Mexico set them up for elimination, but a much-improved display against ‘El Tri’ increased hopes of a first win in an official FIFA competition for Anthony Hudson’s adopted nation, as the ever-impressive Dane Ingham assumed his position at right-wing-back.

Against the expectations of many, New Zealand kicked on from their impressive first half display against Mexico to make life uncomfortable for Portugal in the opening ten minutes, locking Santos’ men into their own half. Leeds United’s target man Chris Wood offered Ronaldo and co. their clearest warning as early as the 6th minute, hanging off Semedo at the back-post before firing a half-volley into Rui Patrício’s grasp.

Portugal would struggle to crack down their opponents on the deck, with Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva both finding openings behind the back-line with little success, but it’d be in the air that the ‘Seleção das Quinas’ would soon find their calling.

Ronaldo’s aerial threat

Ronaldo was first up in the 23rd minute, taking up his imperious stance from Ricardo Quaresma’s cross before heading the ball low but within Stefan Marinovic’s reach. The Portuguese skipper rose highest once more to the head at goal in a decent spell of dominance for his team, again courtesy of Quaresma’s delivery, but this time it’d be the crossbar to play a role in denying the Real Madrid man of the game’s first goal.

Echoes of Russia’s 1-0 lead over Mexico soon buzzed around the stadium at the midway point of the first half to plunge Portugal into second place, serving as an immediate reminder of the dangers at play.

Aerial play continued to promise to be New Zealand’s undoing, however, as Danilo Pereira came close with a header to earn his side a consecutive corner. From the resulting set-piece, the FC Porto anchor came into the frame once more to win his side a penalty, with the official neglecting the help of the video assisted referee as he pointed assertively to the spot.

Ronaldo stepped up to the 12-yard-mark and made no mistake in the 31st minute, propelling Portugal back to the top of the group following Russia’s momentary lead over Mexico in the opposing fixture.

Slick move downs New Zealand

Quaresma embraced the role of chief creator from the left, lifting the ball nonchalantly for Eliseu to hit the by-line with before cutting back a cross that would be tapped in promptly from close range by Bernardo Silva in the 37th minute.

André Silva was then lucky not to have blemished a strong end to the first half, as the new AC Milan striker took a wild swing at Michael Boxall following a dispute for possession of the ball, with the added benefit of replays again being ignored. Bernardo Silva wouldn’t emerge for the second period after the ankle scare that followed his first-half goal, making way for Benfica man Pizzi instead.

Despite the lead, there was bad news to come for Portugal as a booking for Pepe in 55th minute meant that he’d him miss out on next week’s semi-finals through the accumulation of yellow cards throughout the tournament. Things could’ve worsened for Portugal in the 57th minute when Wood neared his second Confederations Cup goal with a belated slide for the ball from the back-post, but a concerted effort from Patrício and Bruno Alves kept the sheet clean.

At the other end, Ronaldo provided a relentless threat from wide crosses, renewing his dispute with Marinovic who’d go on to gather up the captain’s headed effort yet again after an hour of play. With Portugal’s goal difference at the top of Group A hanging by a thread, André Silva saw his shot from inside the box denied by an inspired Marinovic, meanwhile Mexico threatened to topple Santos’ outfit elsewhere with a 2-1 lead over Russia.

Kosta Barbarouses came off the New Zealand bench to test Patrício with a snap-shot, whereas Nani, on for Ronaldo in the 65th minute, became the latest test the New Zealand goalkeeper without success.

Emphatic finish

André Silva would calm all doubts over top spot in the 79th minute, however, forcing his way into the box before slamming home an emphatic strike across goal on his favoured right foot. A fourth and final Portuguese goal would also be on the cards, as a quick step-over from Nani earned him enough space to fire at goal from the left and amplify the score to 4-0 into stoppage time.

The comprehensive victory means Portugal will now wait for the runners-up in Group B, expected to be between Chile and tournament nemesis Germany, before taking to the field on Wednesday 28th June for the first semi-final of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

By Patrick Ribeiro (Twitter: @P_SRibeiro)

Portugal XI: Rui Patrício - Nélson Semedo, Pepe, Bruno Alves, Eliseu – Bernardo Silva (Pizzi 45’), Danilo Pereira, João Moutinho, Ricardo Quaresma (Gelson Martins 84’) – André Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo (Nani 65’)

Goals:

[1-0] – Ronaldo, 31’

[2-0] – Bernardo Silva, 37’

[3-0] - André Silva, 79’

[4-0] – Nani, 90’

 

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  • I had contemplated that myself(Cedric and Semedo). Some players adapt well the opposite side, others do not. Haven't seen them on the left side to know. At this stage, other than an emergency, I think Eliseu does enough to start. He did look good today.

    By the way Nani has developed a strong left foot, that was a great strike.

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  • He did play well today for the most part but I just don't think he can play against the big boys. And I agree, I haven't seen either one play on the left side, it was just a thought...my logic being Cedric is rock solid and Semedo is one of the hottest prospects in Europe and it just makes more sense to me to play the best backs regardless of position.Grant it, who knows...maybe Semedo would suck at leftback.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    @Ash

    The Santos bashing is entirely absurd. When was the last time Portugal won as convincingly as they did today and the coach still gets called a moron? That's hilarious. Where you even here when we suffered through the Queiroz and Bento eras? You must have not.. to be making comments like that about our coach. If you were, you should know better. Heck, Scolari was a big favorite of mine and I don't even know if he would be capable of propelling the quickest turnaround the Seleccao has experienced between the end of the disastrous 2014 campaign to where we are now. Santos is a genius in that regard. Also, please tell me who should've played over Pepe? Fonte, Neto? Yellow cards don't mean a thing if your team is on the path towards elimination... just ask New Zealand. Now i'm not necessarily saying Portugal's campaign at this year's Confederation's Cup was on the fringes and while 2-0 seems safe at half time, a good coach never takes anything for granted. Bruno Alves by the way, did NOT have a good game. Rui Patricio was the guy bailing us out repeatedly, and Alves kept getting in his way even injuring him at one point. More reason to keep Pepe in there!

    @Andre/UK

    I agree about Eliseu, i never rated him at left back. Let's remember he's a natural winger but after a rough start he contributed nicely combining with Quaresma to assist on Bernardo's goal. It's New Zealand so if he has to start against Chile or Germany I'd be very concerned but he's all we got if Guerreiro's injured. Coentrao retired from the Seleccao a long time ago.

    I thought Danilo played great today. That's the kind of "DM" we need on a team with the attacking potential Portugal has. He bossed the midfield, covered well for our center backs on corners and got forward winning us the penalty. He nearly connected with the header too. Oh did I mention he runs? It gives us another dimension. William, in the prime years of his life cannot run let alone to SAVE his life. He is a pylon and a boulder. but guess what. He can still play at center back sometime. We desperately need the depth so let's give him a chance. Who knows maybe he can replace Pepe in the semi-final?

    @Rosario I want more also. Portugal won the Euros with their teamwork and sturdy style of play. The next step is to bring back the "Jogo Bonito" that had us voted the most entertaining team at world cup 2006. I don't know if Santos is the man to accomplish that but either way our current crop is still in a transitioning phase so we need to be patient. However, I thought we saw glimpses of that with the goals we scored today save the penalty. They were all well taken goals with decent build up. I don't expect us to be tearing the currently 9th ranked FIFA team in the world (Mexico) to shreds though. The quality in the confeds is more or less the same we can expect at any Euro/World Cup. All teams entered full strength apart from Germany. And every tournament there are upsets.. look at what happened to Spain and England last summer. Even the juggernauts need a bit of luck to reach the latter stages. (no i'm not saying England is a juggernaut.. lol) but yeah there's no kidding Portugal can play beautifully with this current generation, mix in some of the u21s (Bruma, and Iuri both were excellent) the sky's the limit.

    As of right now Ricardo Quaresma.. say what you want about him. 33 years old and I know he's not the same man whirling, blowing past defenders.. leaving them for dead like in his old F.C Porto days but the man truly works his ass off. He has a undying love for the game and he left his heart out on the field once again. He has exceptionally accurate crossing ability. Ronaldo could've banged in another couple goals with that kind of service. Quaresma also dinked the ball for Eliseu leading to the goal and if anyone still doubts. Go back and watch Andre Silva's goal. RQ on the way to running down three quarters of the pitch, knocked the ball off a New Zealand player, sending it Silva's way and bolted his way into the penalty area driving out the defence off Andre allowing him to take one man and slot the ball in the far side corner. Quaresma needs to start period. Bernardo looked himself, CR7 improved from last game. As our squad continues to gel, we'll get better.

    My line up:

    Patricio
    Cedric---Fonte---William---Guerreiro
    ---------------Danilo------------------
    -----Adrien Silva---Bernardo------
    Quaresma-----------------------------
    -------Andre Silva----Ronaldo-------

    Subs: Nani, Moutinho, Gelson, Gomes

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  • Guerreiro's out...

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  • Guest - Josh

    With pepe out. I really hope to play Germany in the semis as Chile front 3 are deadly. There is still a chance that Guerrero can come back as its just bruising around his ankle and hope Bernardo is ok. Quaresma and Andre Silva need to start and it looks like fonte has a chance to redeem himself.

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  • Guest - Joey

    A back line of Fonte-Alves-Eliseu against Chile
    I can't imagine that inspires any kind of confidence in anyone

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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    Joey-

    I believe it does inspire confidence, in which that back line will play their hearts out come Wednesday. Win or lose, Alves always plays with pride. What more can we ask for as fans?
    Probably the main reason why Santos hesitates to play the youth is that he doesn't know yet which ones will give their all for their country. Bernardo erased that doubt with these last two matches. Just reading his interview about how much he wants to be here despite his lack of playing time shows a maturity that some of our youth players may not have, or maybe will never have.
    It's always been about the team and the sum being greater than the parts. That's why I wasn't always a Ronaldo fan, especially after he threw his captain band during the friendly against Spain. However, he's done so much since, that he's actually transcended beyond that image.
    Win or lose, we all know they're going to give every bit.

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  • Guest - George

    Ummm... I'm not about to give Eliseu brownie points for playing well against New Zealand. Sorry. That's not the measuring stick. I couldn't care less how he looks against New Zealand, or in a friendly against Cyprus, or, how he looked playing for Malaga 5 freaking years ago. I care about how he plays right now, for Portugal, against quality opposition with pace. And, up to this point, I've called him total crap because, in those circumstances he's played like - you guessed it - total crap. Can he change my opinion of him? Sure. I've changed my opinion on players before - like with Eder and Andre Gomes - so, if he plays well in these last two games with Raphael out, I'll gladly eat my words, raise my hand and say that I was wrong. BUT, it has to happen first. And it looks like the time of reckoning is now upon us against Chile.

    At the moment it looks like our back line against Chile is going to be Eliseu-Alves-Fonte-Semedo. Cedric's described as only having a knock, but, if he's not in there as well - God help us. Throw a slower-paced William and Andre Gomes in there and we're gonna be in even bigger trouble. Or, at least, I think so. That's why they play the games I guess.

    I'm kinda pleased this is the way it's worked out to be honest. Now we can see if those of us who've voiced our concerns for weeks/months had a point, or, if the other side of the argument (the there's nothing to worry about, stop moaning and complaining all the time, never second-guess Santos argument) is right. For the record - I actually hope we're wrong. I hope Eliseu/Alves can deal with the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal among others. But, if they can't, I hope Santos makes the proper adjustments to improve the team moving forward. And, just to clarify - I believe Bruno Alves deserves a place in the team. I think he performs well against slower opposition (like Russia and New Zealand), and performs well in general if you surround him with quicker players (like when Raphael and Danilo helped him out when Pepe and William were suspended in our Euro semifinal against Wales). Having said that, again, I believe Santos needs to incorporate youth in the CB position as soon as possible, even if it's only as a speedy bench option. Eliseu on the other hand - I believe there are much better options out there and, as it stands, doesn't deserve a spot on the team. In a week's time I'll either admit I was wrong or be vindicated. We'll see.

    Lastly, just wanted to say a word on Bernardo... I'm shocked at just how good he's looked in starting these last two games. He's had no opportunities whatsoever, up until now, to build chemistry with Ronaldo and Andre Silva, yet, a certain amount of understanding appears to be there already. That's very encouraging and exciting! Maybe, just maybe, people can finally understand WHY some of us were so frustrated that Bernardo wasn't getting any starts under Santos. Look how much more balanced and fluid our midfield looks with him in there. It's not like we were griping about some fringe player, we were talking about Bernardo Silva - our first true #10 in about a decade. Even Tom and Nathan were tweeting their confusion and frustration at his exclusion for Pete's sake. If our opinion made us ridiculous and lesser fans in a few people's eyes then I guess they view the guys who run this website as ridiculous as well then.

    I give Fernando Santos credit for changing the lineup and finally giving Bernardo his chance. I was worried he was falling into a pattern of stubbornness like his predecessors but I'm relieved to see that I was wrong on that point. I think everyone who shared that concern is. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Santos is probably the best Portugal manager ever. A few of his choices frustrate me but he tends to correct mistakes over time. As a fan, that's really all I want from my manager - the ability to adapt and admit when they're wrong. So long as he does that - my momentary airings of grievances aside - I will ultimately be happy with him and with the team.

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  • Yeah, but who else can spin around on a moped like he can?

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    I have to say I agree with Val and some other recent posters in their points about how pessimistic and fickle many Portuguese football fans tend to be. The glass is always half empty for some it seems. This is what separates the Germans, for example, from us. The Germans only ever think about winning and concentrate on their own qualities, regardless of who's playing for them, which is why even with their second string squad they've still marched into the semi finals.

    Now people are shaking in their boots about how Chile are going to murder us and our terrible slow defence? The same Chile who couldn't beat Australia yesterday and were trailing until the 70th minute? The same Chile who needed until the 80th minute to score against Cameroon? No I'm sure Australia and Cameroon are a lot stronger than Portugal right? Lol!

    Now don't get me wrong, Chile are a very strong team, one of the 3 strongest in South America right now, and they are a tough opponent for us. I actually think in Arturo Vidal they have the most complete CM in the world right now and in Alexis one of the top forwards in the world. But apart from those two great players, we have more quality than them across all the positions, not to mention having the best player in the tournament. Chile's defence is not the best, anyone who saw their shambolic defending for Australia's goal yesterday can see that. Let's see how their defence can deal with our attack too. Sure Chile will be tough in the semi final no doubt, but they've got just as much to worry about as we do. Some people need to look on the bright side a little more!

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Fernando Santos
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