Portugal 1-0 South Korea

Though surely not quite on top form, Portugal opened Group F play at the U20 World Cup with a 1-0 victory over South Korea at the Bielsko-Biala Stadium. Braga's Trincão was the hero for Portugal as their midfield engine was stymied by a high energy display from Korea. 

Even so, Portugal outshot and outpossessed their opponents and will draw confidence from having secured three points despite the opening-match jitters. 

Hélio Sousa opted for a front three of Trincão, Leão, and Jota with Florentino Luís anchoring midfield in front of a strong defence featuring Diogo Dalot and Ruben Vinagre at fullback. With a talented and experienced squad, the Seleção are one of the favourites to lift the trophy, and backing them using bet365 bonus code for 2019 could prove profitable.

Despite being heavily favoured, Portugal struggled to find their passing rhythm and it was Korea creating danger in the opening minutes. A cross from the left required a diving intervention from Virginía, and in the ensuing scramble the ball was finally cleared with several attackers lurking.

The Koreans pressed with intensity all over the pitch as Asian sides often do, but it cost them in the 7th minute when Rafael Leão won a header following a clearance. Jota was released through the center and his throughball was perfectly weighted for Trincão, whose finish went through the keeper's legs and into the back of the net.

Ten minutes later, Portugal completed a wonderful move with Florentino Luís finding Leão down the left flank. The Lille man squared for Trincão to finish with a simple flick into the bottom right corner, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Leão then showed off his formidable pace to get beyond his marker onto Jota's ball over the top, but his low shot was saved near-post by Gwangyeon. 

Korea continued their high intensity approach, but the Portuguese defence blocked their attempted shots and dealt well with numerous crosses from wide positions. Despite registering more shots and slightly more possession, it was clear Portugal needed some midfield adjustments to gain better control of the match in the second half.

But Portugal still lacked sharpness as the second half began, especially in delivering crosses with Dalot and Jota both sending their efforts well wide of their intended targets. In the 57th minute, Miguel Luís latched onto a deflected cross into the area but his weak attempt was smothered by the keeper.

Korea made a double substitution to try to find a way through the Portuguese defence, and almost immediately initiated a moved down the left wing that culminated in a shot on goal from Sehun, but the play was ruled out for offside. 

Jota mishit a good opportunity after being set up by Dalot with a square ball inside the penalty area, but Gedson missed an even better chance minutes later. A wobbling cross found its way through the Korean backline and Gedson latched onto it on the half volley with real power, but he lacked balance and blasted his left-footed effort wide of the upright. 

Hélio Sousa introduced Lazio forward Pedro Neto for Jota in the 75th minute. Korea spurned a decent opportunity moments later when a corner kick found Youngwook unmarked, but the midfielder nodded the free header well over the bar. 

The Koreans continued to pelt the Portuguese backline with teasing crosses and Hélio Sousa removed Miguel Luís for Nuno Pina to anchor the midfield. But Portugal never found synchronization between midfield and attack with Trincão's goal remaining the difference between the two sides. 

Though a winning start for Portugal, the effort was uncoordinated at times and despite their attacking riches very few clear goalscoring opportunities were created. The Koreans will likely be encouraged by the effectiveness of their dogged tenacity, which unsettled Portugal's chemistry in midfield. Portugal's defence did reasonably well to snuff out most of Korea's attacking threat with Vinagre and Dalot both getting forward often in support of the attack. 

It was a match in which the high pressing energy of the Koreans might have been better addressed with cool and composed distribution. Instead, Portugal were at times too frenetic in their attempts to outmaneuver the Korean press.

Portugal now face a much sterner test against Argentina on Tuesday, May 28th, a match that will likely decide the winner of Group F. 

by Nathan Motz 

 

Portugal XI - Virgínia, Dalot, Queirós, Leite, Vinagre, F. Luís, Jota (Pedro Neto), Gedson, Leão, M. Luís (Nuno Pina), Trincão (Nuno Santos)

South Korea XI - Gwangyeon, Taehyeon, Jaeik, Jisol, Hyunwoo, Jungmin, Sejin, Kangin, Jaehyeon, Youngwook, Jun

Goals:

[1-0] Trincão, 7'