Portugal’s hopes of a second successive summer of glory ended tonight in Kazan as Chile won the Confederations Cup semi-final in a penalty shootout.
There was little to choose between the two sides in a close-fought match, although Chile created the better and more numerous chances in 120 goalless minutes, and hit the woodwork twice in quick succession at the end of extra time.
The penalty shootout proved disastrous for Portugal, with Ricardo Quaresma, João Moutinho and Nani all seeing their spot kicks saved by Claudio Bravo, while Chile scored all three of theirs to make it to the final on Sunday against either Germany or Mexico.
Fernando Santos chose the expected XI. Pepe’s suspension saw Bruno Alves and José Fonte paired together at the heart of the defence, Eliseu continued to deputise for the injured Raphael Guerreiro, while Bernardo Silva was declared fit after hurting his ankle against New Zealand.
The Seleção started well in a furious opening 10-minute spell with both teams fully committed to all-out attack. But it was Chile who had the first clear chance, a clever through ball by Sanchez playing Vargas clean through, but the alert Rui Patrício raced out of his goal to spread himself well and make the save.
Portugal responded well, with a golden chance of their own immediately. Eliseu found Ronaldo with a vertical 40-yard pass, and the Portugal captain swung over a delicious cross into the path of André Silva, who was denied at point-blank range by Claudio Bravo. The men in red continued to pass smoothly, with Adrien Silva doing a fine job of containing Arturo Vidal as the Seleção looked the more settled side.
But as the minutes ticked by the Chileans began to get a firm grip of the game. Aránguiz flashed a header narrowly over the bar and the same player then had a great chance to take aim 10 yards out from an acute angle, but he sliced his shot wide of the target.
The rest of the half was played out in cagey fashion, but both sides came out from the break with renewed vigour. Vidal beat Eliseu to a Sanchez cross but could not direct his header on goal, then it required another fine Patrício save to deny Chile as the Sporting goalkeeper leapt athletically to his left to tip a superb overhead effort by Vargas past the post.
Portugal responded with a Ronaldo break, his fierce angled shot stinging Bravo’s fingers, then Vidal again gave Portugal a scare with a thunderbolt of a shot from 35 yards that just cleared the crossbar.
As the second half went on the game appeared set for stalemate. Despite excellent individual performances from William in the heat of the battle, the hard-working André Silva and the marauding Cédric, Portugal rarely looked like breaking through, and it was difficult to fathom how the clearly out-of-sorts André Gomes remained on the pitch.
Fernando Santos has proven a master at making match-changing substitutions since becoming Portugal coach, but today none of the four players he brought on – Nani, Quaresma, Moutinho or Gelson – brought any noticeable improvement to the team, and it was Chile who were the more dangerous side in extra time.
An Alexis Sanchez header scraped past the post with Patrício beaten, and Portugal were extremely fortunate when the referee disregarded what looked like a clear penalty after José Fonte had tripped Chile substitute Francisco Silva in the box. The Seleção then had an almighty double let-off as Vidal crashed a shot onto the inside off the post, and from the rebound Rodriguez’s effort came back off the crossbar.
It seemed the footballing Gods were on Portugal’s side, but in the ensuing penalty shootout Chile ultimately got the reward their more enterprising attacking merited.
By Tom Kundert
Portugal: Patrício, Cédric, Fonte, Bruno Alves, Eliseu, William, Bernardo Silva (Quaresma, 83’), Adrien (Moutinho, 102’), André Gomes (Gelson, 116’), André Silva (Nani, 76’), Ronaldo
Chile: Bravo, Isla, Jara, Medel, Beausejour, Hernández (Francisco Silva, 112’), Marcelo Díaz, Vidal, Aránguiz, Vargas (Rodriguez, 86’), Sánchez