Portugal began their UEFA U19 European Championship title defence in Armenia with a comprehensive 3-0 win against Italy at Banants Stadium in Yerevan.
Gonçalo Cardoso headed home a corner to open the scoring, Gonçalo Ramos and Félix Correia with two quick goals after half-time giving Portugal an unassailable lead.
All eyes on Armenia
There may have been a Wimbledon final, Cricket World Cup final and Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals going on, but all eyes were on Portugal as they began their U19 Euro campaign against Italy in a rematch of the 2018 final. Portugal won that encounter 4-3 in dramatic fashion, but there was no drama in the early stages in Yerevan with neither side able to conjure up a meaningful attempt in the opening 20 minutes.
Manager Filipe Ramos decided to switch it up by moving winger João Mário to the left and Félix Correia to the right. It began to pay immediate dividends with the combination play between Correia, midfielder Fábio Vieira and right-back Tomás Tavares causing Italy’s defence plenty of problems.
Gonçalo Ramos created the first chance of the game, beating Paolo Gozzi and his shot from a tight angle forcing a save from Marco Carnesecchi. From the resulting corner Portugal took the lead, Vítor Ferreira’s inswinger met by Gonçalo Cardoso who headed home from close range.
Portugal began to turn the screw, Ferreira with a shot wide as he and Vieira started to boss the midfield, Diogo Capitão providing insurance in the holding midfield role. Italy came back into the contest before the break, Roberto Piccoli’s shot deflected wide by Cardoso and Eddy Salcedo heading wide from a corner.
Fabio Vieira went on a solo run through the middle of the pitch, neglected to find Correia and dragged his shot wide as Portugal took a 1-0 lead into half time.
UEFA U19 European Championship: Portugal 3-0 Italy - watch the goals
Portugal end the contest
Less than 10 seconds into the second half it was 2-0 as Italy were caught asleep. Vitor Ferreira’s long pass found Félix Correia on the right wing, the speedster racing clear and providing a pinpoint cross to Gonçalo Ramos who couldn’t miss from close range.
Italy’s defensive deficiencies were even more alarming five minutes later as Portugal went 3-0 up. Goalkeeper Celton Biai’s long ball bounced over Gabriele Bellodi, Correia taking advantage to steal it and smash the ball past a stranded and helpless Carnesecchi.
Diogo Capitão conceded a free kick that provided Italy a chance, Nicolo Fagioli testing Biai who produced a smart save. Portugal soon resumed their dominance however, Correia taking a back seat and fellow winger João Mário taking over.
Some great work from Mário down the left wing saw him feed Vieira who could only smash the ball straight at Carnesecchi. Minutes later it was the same duo at it again, Mário beating his man, providing a through ball for Vieira who squared to Ramos, but the striker’s left footed effort was also straight at Carnesecchi.
Cruise to the finish line
Mário and Félix Correia switched wings once again as Filipe Ramos started to wear down the clock by using his five allocated substitutions. António Gomes replaced João Mário and Rodrigo Fernandes came on for Vitor Ferreira as Italy chased a consolation goal. Piccoli raced clear on a counter attack with their best chance, but his cross was startlingly short in a moment that summed up Italy’s performance.
Costinha replaced Tomas Tavares, Daniel Silva replaced Felix Correia and Gonçalo Ramos made way for Tiago Rodrigues. Portugal had one last chance to put some icing on the cake, Vieira’s free kick met by Capitão whose header forced a save from Carnesecchi.
It was a total team performance from Portugal, thoroughly deserving the win that could have been a bigger margin. Long haired full-backs Tomás Tavares and Tiago Lopes were lively, Fábio Vieira linked up well with the attack and Félix Correia was the pick of the front three.
Portugal’s next assignment is Spain at Banants Stadium on Wednesday, the Spaniards defeating host nation Armenia 4-1 in their opening match.
Portugal U19 starting formation and line up: 4-3-3
Celton Biai (SL Benfica) - Tomás Tavares (SL Benfica), Gonçalo Cardoso (Boavista FC), Gonçalo Loureiro (SL Benfica), Tiago Lopes (FC Porto) - Fábio Vieira (FC Porto), Diogo Capitão (SL Benfica), Vítor Ferreira (FC Porto) - João Mário (FC Porto), Gonçalo Ramos (SL Benfica), Félix Correia (Sporting CP).