South Africa 1 - 1 Portugal
Portugal were eliminated in hugely disappointing fashion after failing to beat South Africa in the U20 World Cup. Whilst South Korea beat Argentina to secure second place, Portugal couldn’t even qualify as the best of the third place teams after having scored even fewer goals than Panama.
Rafael Leão scored early on to give Portugal a well-deserved lead. The seleção wasted chance after chance until South Africa’s James Monyane scored from the penalty spot after VAR deliberation.
VAR was then responsible for giving Portugal a penalty but Jota’s poor shot was saved, as Portugal looked toothless going forward and, ultimately, failed to grab the goal they needed, thus packing their bags to go home far earlier than they would have hoped.
Portugal were favourites for this clash and knew they needed a win as South Korea took on Argentina in the other game to progress into the knockout rounds. Portugal also needed to make sure they had a better goal difference than South Korea, should they beat Argentina. The Seleção could still go through on a third-place finish with a win, ahead of Panama.
Hélio Sousa made two changes to the team after the 2-0 defeat to Argentina on Tuesday. Miguel Luís and Diogo Dalot were dropped with Nuno Santos and Thierry Correia taking their places.
Portugal showed attacking promise straight away with Rúben Vinagre’s cross finding Trincão in the box. It looked like it would be an early goal but the Braga forward’s header was straight at South Africa goalkeeper Khulekano Kubheka.
A good start by Portugal
There was nothing Kubheka could do when Thierry Correia’s low cross from the right fell into the feet of Leão. The Lille striker had enough time to take a touch before slotting it home to give Portugal the lead.
Leão almost went from scorer to provider when he did well to drive the ball into the South Africa area. His pass to Jota looked like it was certain to double Portugal’s lead but Kubheka did well to prevent the goal.
Portugal would be hoping they wouldn’t be ruing missed opportunities as they had against Argentina. Especially after Rafael Leão did fantastically to turn the South African defence after Vinagre’s pass only to shoot at the goalkeeper.
However, the Seleção went into half time with the score at just 1-0, when they had 3 or 4 excellent chances. Meanwhile South Korea were beating Argentina 1-0 in their game to put the Koreans into second place in the group.
VAR proves decisive
All of those missed chances did come back to haunt Portugal when, with five minutes gone in the second half, referee Alexis Herrera was summoned to look at the VAR for a possible handball by a Portugal player whilst defending a South Africa corner.
The replays showed that the ball did hit the arm of Diogo Leite but it would be difficult to say what else the Porto man could have done in that situation. Orlando Pirates forward James Monyane took a cool penalty that left goalkeeper João Virgínia stranded to give South Africa a shock equaliser.
If Portugal thought they were hard done by that decision then they were soon to benefit from the new handball directives for referees. Just five minutes later, Alexis Herrera was once again summoned to look at a possible penalty, this time in favour of Portugal.
The replays showed Trincão’s cross from the left striking the elbow of Fezile Gcaba and so the referee pointed to the spot once again. Jota was the man to take the penalty but South Africa’s man of the match, Kubheka, saved well.
In the time it had taken between Portugal being awarded the penalty to when it was struck, South Korea had grabbed a second goal to put them 2-0 up against Argentina. Portugal had little chance of second place now but could still qualify with third if they found a winning goal in the remaining half hour.
Instead, there were more wasted chances for Portugal. Trincão had another shot saved b the goalkeeper and Diogo Queirós had a header hit the post. Rafael Leão forced yet another good save from the goalkeeper with Jota unable to convert the rebound.
By the end, even João Virgínia was up to try and score from a corner but Portugal’s poor finishing cost them dearly as they exit the tournament are were unable to even qualify with a 3rd-place finish because of Panama. There were certainly some talented players in this Portugal side but they still have a long way to go before they are able to push for a place in the first team.
by Richard Cole
South Africa U20: Khulekani Kubheka; Thabo Moloisane, Fezile Gcaba, Keenan Abrahams, Sbusiso Mabiliso; Thakgalo Leshabela (Muzomuhle Khanyi, 76’), Oswin Appollis (Njabulo Blom, 65’), Siphesihle Mkhize, Promise Mkuhuma; Kobamelo Kodisang, James Moyane
Portugal U20: João Virgínia; Thierry Correia, Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Rúben Vinagre (Francisco Moura, 54’); Nuno Santos (Pedro Martelo, 67’), Florentino Luís, Gedson Fernandes; Trincão, Rafael Leão, Jota (Pedro Neto, 83’)
[0-1] Rafael Leão, 19’
[1-1] James Monyane, 53’