It’s crunch time in the Confederations Cup as Portugal face Chile in the first semi-final at the Kazan Arena. Portugal have steadily improved throughout the tournament and appear in good shape, Chile advancing to the knockout rounds after a laborious 1-1 draw against a spirited Australian side in Moscow.

Arguably the two best teams in the competition, much is at stake as the winners will be favoured to lift the trophy in Saint Petersburg on Sunday. PortuGOAL in association with The Beautiful Game provide an audio and written preview of the match.

Matthew Marshall and Tom Kundert had a chat looking forward to the game. Listen to the podcast here.

 

How they got here – Portugal

Portugal created the better chances against Mexico in their opening match, but were largely on the back foot due to an unwillingness to put any pressure on El Tri in their own half and Mexico’s high press. Héctor Moreno’s stoppage time equaliser hurt, but 2-2 was a fair result as questions were asked about Santos’ team selection and tactics.

The Portuguese manager responded by making four changes to the line-up against Russia, the three Silva’s all starting and Bruno Alves replacing Jose Fonte. The fluid 4-4-2 allowed Bernardo Silva to replicate his Monaco form from the right wing, Portugal working hard late on to secure the 1-0 victory despite Russia failing to get a single shot on target.

The Seleção took time to get going against New Zealand, but two quick goals before half time ended the contest. Santos made five changes, Ricardo Quaresma and João Moutinho restored with Danilo Pereira, Nélson Semedo and Eliseu getting their first starts in the tournament. It was a mismatch on paper and so it proved in a comfortable 4-0 victory.

 

How they got here – Chile

Chile dominated Cameroon and were unlucky not to score in the first half, La Roja eventually getting the job done as Alexis Sanchez came off the bench to set up Arturo Vidal in the 81st minute, Eduardo Vargas sealing the deal late on.

Chile got off to a great start against Germany, pouncing on a defensive mistake as Vidal set up to Sanchez who scored his 38th international goal that made him the top-scoring Chilean of all time. Vargas smacked the bar before Germany equalised before half time. Both teams appeared to take few risks and settle for a draw which virtually ensured safe passage to the semi-finals.

Australia were expected to be swept aside by Chile but the Socceroos were not about to roll over, playing aggressive football and taking the lead before half time. With their tournament in jeopardy and Australia unable to take their chances, substitute Martín Rodríguez equalised in the 67th minute as the match ended 1-1.

 

Fatigue factor

The Confederations Cup has often been criticised as an unnecessary strain on players who require sufficient rest after a long and arduous season. Germany have twice declined to participate and sent an experimental side to Russia, but Portugal and Chile clearly approached this tournament with the intention of lifting the trophy.

With games occurring every 3-4 days, Portugal have been able to rotate their squad with the fixtures and opposition being kind in that respect. Santos has given every outfield player a run except Neto, with Ronaldo substituted in the 67th minute against New Zealand. One vital factor is that Portugal have an extra day to rest.

Chile’s high-energy style of play won’t make matters any easier for the South Americans. Defenders Gonzalo Jara, Mauricio Isla and midfield maestro Arturo Vidal have played every minute thus far, while Alexis Sanchez was forced to work hard against Australia.

 

Team news

Pepe is suspended for the semi-final with José Fonte likely to be recalled. Cédric Soares was back in training on Monday after sitting out the New Zealand game, but Raphaël Guerreiro (left-ankle bruising) and Eliseu (illness) didn’t train.

If Eliseu can’t take the field, Nélson Semedo is likely to switch to the left-back position. Bernardo Silva was also absent from training but assured his supporters through twitter that everything is fine with his ankle. Seleção supporters will be hoping all is well after being replaced at half time against New Zealand.

Ronaldo will partner André Silva up front while Santos has multiple options in midfield. William Carvalho is likely to come back into the holding midfield role with André Gomes and Adrien Silva completing a solid midfield. Ricardo Quaresma has been brilliant thus far but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

 

 

 

Juan Antonio Pizzi has no suspensions or major injury concerns to contend with. Claudio Bravo got his first start against Australia, playing well despite a risky pass leading to Australia’s goal which was reminiscent of some of his howlers for Manchester City last season.

José Fuenzalida has offered little thus far and is unlikely to start, while Marcelo Díaz should return to his holding midfield role. Eduardo Vargas has looked dangerous up front and is unlucky to have just the one goal to his name, hitting the post on two occasions and having a goal disallowed by the VAR.

 

Danger man – Portugal

The man that needs no introduction. Cristiano Ronaldo played a vital role in both goals against Mexico, scored the winner against Russia and started against New Zealand, opening the scoring from the penalty spot. He could have easily had a hat-trick with two headers denied by the crossbar and Marinovic in goal.

His appetite for goals and records knows no bounds. Ronaldo picked up his third consecutive Man of the Match award of the tournament against New Zealand and scored his 75th international goal. Portugal’s altered formation allows Ronaldo less toiling down the channels, an increased presence in a central role which benefits his endurance and goal scoring opportunities.

 

Danger man – Chile

It’s a toss-up between Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez for Chile’s danger man, but the award goes to the current Arsenal forward. Sanchez become Chile’s all time top scorer against Germany and is a constant threat for opposition defences with his pace, skill and invention.

His movement across the front line, creativity and willingness to drop deep to initiate attacks makes him very difficult to contain. Australia did as well as they could to neutralise his threat, Portugal will need to devise a way to stop him if they are to be successful.

 

What to expect

Portugal are growing into this tournament and possess the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Bernardo and André Silva are future stars for the Seleção and will play important roles in this match. Pepe is a big loss with his likely replacement José Fonte uninspiring against Mexico.

Mexico troubled Portugal with high tempo, high press tactics which is also Chile’s forte, but La Roja have clearly shown an inability to maintain the energy required to persist with it. As the matches have come thick and fast, a day’s less rest and fatigue is a definite worry for the South Americans.

Australia gave Chile a physical game with frequent, heavy fouls which would have left some of their players battered and bruised. Sanchez and Vidal have expended a lot of energy thus far which could affect them in the concluding stages of the match.

By Matthew Marshall (Twitter: @noobzcorp)

 

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Chile are a fantastic side with plenty of tournament experience, but they are not without their flaws. We are likely going to start with a back four of Bruno Alves, Jose Fonte, Eliseu, and Cedric. Apart from Cedric, it is an very experienced, yet extremely slow combination of defenders, so don't expect us to play a high line against a team with two pacey forwards in Sanchez and Vargas. The absences of Pepe and Guerreiro are also going to significantly affect the way we build out of the back, as both of them are far more comfortable on the ball than their expected replacements.

    Thankfully, Fernando Santos knows this, so don't expect Fonte and Alves to take any chances in possession, especially considering how well Chile press their disrupt their opponents first phase of construction. Chile's only goal against Germany game from an early press during which they won the ball back just outside of Germany's box and ruthlessly pounced on their mistake. This means that we are going to see a whole lot of route-one football, with Fonte and Alves attempting to bypass Chile's high press with long balls out to Ronaldo and Andre Silva. Now this type of football may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, but given the circumstances, it may be most logical approach.

    However, when Portugal do have time on the ball, particularly in the second half when Chile generally start to sit back, we will definitely look to whip in crosses to Ronaldo and Andre Silva, who have huge height advantages over Chile's two center-backs (Medel and Jara) who are 5'7'' and 5'11'' respectively. Neither Gomes, nor Eliseu are going to give us much width on the left, so I expect most of our attacks to come down the right flank through Bernardo and Cedric. I also think that our height advantage could come in handy when both defending and attacking set pieces.

    Defensively, Santos is likely going to have us sit back in two compact banks of four, cutting off central passing lanes, minimizing space in between the lines, and forcing Chile to move the ball out wide to play more of a cross-oriented game which isn't exactly their forte. A back four with Fonte, Alves, and Eliseu could be ripped to shreds on the counter or in 1v1's, but I think they'd actually be quite comfortable defending crosses, especially since Chile do not play with a target man or out-and out striker -- if anything Arturo Vidal, who operates as an attack-minded box-to-box midfielder is their biggest aerial threat in the box.

    In the end, I think Portugal have a slight edge due to our superior depth and extra day of rest. Chile's style of play is extremely difficult to maintain, especially when they play every 3-4 days, and unlike Portugal who will have quite a few players with a whole week of rest (Adrien, William, Gomes, Cedric, etc), most of Chile's starters really only have two full days to recover from their last match. Therefore, while Chile certainly have more than enough quality to beat any side in international football, I am confident that we will get the job done.

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  • Good points there Jon. Pepe and Guerreiro's absence weakens the defence significantly and is the major concern heading into the game.

    We saw against Latvia that Portugal simply couldn't get through the middle, so they changed tactics quickly and started to cross the ball from wide areas. As you mention, Ronaldo and Andre Silva have a big advantage over Medel and Jara in the air and it would be no surprise to see Portugal take advantage

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Some excellent points made there, Jon, and I agree with most of them. Chile are a very tough opponent for us in this semi final, no doubt about it, and we will likely have to be something close to our best to get past them. They are a team I've enjoyed watching since the 2010 World cup and this new generation of theirs, and I really appreciate their bold, all out attacking and high energy style. I remember seeing their 7-0 rout of Mexico at the Copa America last year, and thinking at the time that they looked like the best team in the world (because as we all saw last week, Mexico are no easy team). We have to have a very clever tactical approach to deal with their high energy pressing and attacking. After what we saw at the Euros last summer though, with Santos doing just that -employing a very clever and effective tactical scheme- in all the knock-out matches, I'm confident Santos will have another clever tactical plan up his sleeve for this match and this particular opponent.

    As Jon stated, Chile are certainly not without their flaws. Their midfield and attack are excellent but their defence is really nothing special at all, and we have the attacking players to expose this weakness they have at the back. Sometimes they are a little too all out attack and leave big spaces at the back, just the kind of space that Cristiano and co could really punish with quick and direct counters. It has to be said also that since their Copa America triumph last summer, Chile's form has waned a bit. They had a few dodgy results in the South American WC qualifiers and at one point were occupying the play-off spot (I believe they're currently 4th in the standings but with work to do to qualify). They haven't been overly convincing in this tournament either, needing late goals to beat Cameroon and failed to beat Australia. So this could be a better time to be playing them then say, a year ago.

    I agree with the probable starting 11 for the Selecao, and that is the exact team I would choose. Definitely Adrien ahead of Moutinho. We will need more muscle in the middle to face off to Chile's high energy game. And hopefully Adrien will be able to deal with Vidal in a similar way that he so impressively dealt with another CM maestro - Modric- last summer when we beat Croatia. It's tempting to start Quaresma again because he's played so well in this tournament thus far, but Andre Gomes is probably the safer option for the more physical and defensive qualities he offers. While I think there is no question that Nelson Semedo is a way more talented right back and footballer in general than Cedric, he is much less acclimatised to the Selecao than Cedric is up to now, and Cedric has played well in this tournament so he should get the cut at RB. Hopefully Bernardo has shaken off his knock and can play because that kid really gives another dimension to our offensive play. Anyway should be a really interesting and exciting match and I'm really looking forward to it. It's gonna be tough for us for sure, but I'm still confident we will be in the final.

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  • Guest - Nelson Oliveira

    Without Pepe (the heart of our defense) and Guerreiro, Chile have to be considered slight favorites. I simply don't trust Eliseu and Bruno Alves against their high press. The rest factor will only play into things in the latter stages of the match; if we give up a goal or two early, our rest advantage may not matter. I think our best bet is to trot out that probable 11, sit back and keep our lines compact and make sure the score is level until around the 60th minute, then bring on Quaresma (whose crossing from the left will surely be needed) and Nani/Moutinho and push forward in the final 30 minutes.

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  • Guest - Arghadeep

    I am in agreement with most of your views but one : Ricardo Quaresma on the bench.
    I think he's been far and wide our most dangerous man out wide and there's no point benching him, especially when we are almost certainly play with crosses being our primary goal-scoring avenue.

    Quaresma and Bernardo Silva as the wide men with William and Andre Gomes through the middle in the 4-4-2 would serve as the perfect foil to stop the mischiefs of Chile's midfield marauder - Arturo Vidal. Moutinho is more than decent as a man marker but we will need more muscle (read Gomes) to be able to come to grips with Vidal.
    The rapid exchange of passes and high-pressing of Chile would definitely be our main threat as all our defenders are slow movers. We will need to push them out wide and reduce them to swinging in the crosses and hope that Bruno still hasn't lost his leap. Fonte needs to step up, because he had a sleep versus Mexico.

    All in all, the above is quite gibberish. We need Ronaldo to have a good day, that's all.

    from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
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