Portugal predictably punished a poor Armenia side 4-0 at the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium in Yerevan to advance to the UEFA U19 European Championship semi-finals. The host nation were no match for the defending champions, Vítor Ferreira’s first half penalty putting Portugal 1-0 up at half-time, João Mário scoring a stunner and substitute Tiago Gouveia bagging a brace in a result that was never in doubt.
Manager Filipe Ramos made one change to the side that drew 1-1 with Spain, Tiago Lopes on the bench with Costinha starting at right back which saw Tomas Tavares switch to left back.
Portugal start strong
Portugal started on the front foot with Fabio Vieira close to winning a penalty and Tiago Rodrigues heading Tomas Tavares’ cross just wide. Armenia were sitting deep and inviting pressure, Costinha taking advantage of his first start in the competition by beating two players and crossing to Vítor Ferreira who shot over the bar.
Costinha was enjoying plenty of space, drifting infield and getting involved in attacks due to Armenia offering little attacking threat. Félix Correia shot wide but Portugal took their foot off the gas, playing pedestrian football with little investment in a high pressing line, perhaps due to the extreme heat in Armenia.
Grenik Petrosyan shot straight at Celton Biai to give Portugal’s goalkeeper something to do, but the defending champions immediately resumed the monopolisation of the ball in Armenia's half. Costinha’s cross saw Tiago Rodrigues produce a weak header, Fabio Vieira’s free kick going very close to Diogo Machado who couldn’t get his head on the ball.
Portugal break through
Armenia’s attempts to play the ball out from the back were non-existent, the very definition of amateur football and from another wayward goal kick Correia saw a shot deflected over the bar. Armenia goalkeeper Harutyun Melkonyan was insistent on giving the ball straight to Portugal and the hosts eventually paid the price.
Fabio Vieira was clumsily taken down by Narek Alaverdyan on the edge of the box, referee Nikola Dabanović pointing to the spot and Vítor Ferreira sending Melkonyan the wrong way for a belated yet deserved lead. Aremia had their best chance of the game not long after, Petrosyan squeezing the ball through to Rafik Misakyan who shot way too close to Baia.
Tiago Rodrigues’ shot from distance forced a save from Melkonyan before a Portugal fast break just before half time went begging. Fábio Vieira broke clear and found Félix Correia, the winger releasing João Mário who decided to square instead of shoot on his right foot.
Portugal power home
The second half saw Portugal play with an intensity that was lacking in the opening period and it paid immediate dividends. Corriea drew a foul that resulted in a clever free kick, Vítor Ferreira feeding Fábio Vieira who shot over from a tight angle.
Armenia’s goal kick attempts went from the ridiculous to the absurd, completely clueless and it was no surprise when Portugal went 2-0 up. Vítor Ferreira’s shot was blocked but fell straight to João Mário, the winger taking a touch and curling a right footed effort into the far corner.
It was only a matter of how many Portugal would score now with Armenia praying for the final whistle. Diogo Capitão’s long ball saw Félix Correia sneak in behind the defence but his shot went wide. Did I mention Armenia’s attempts to play it out from the back?
They fearlessly and foolishly persisted with this pointless play, Tiago Rodrigues stealing the ball on the edge of the area and shooting wide when a cross was on. Armenia had almost given up by the time Fábio Vieira went down in the box but no penalty was forthcoming.
Vítor Ferreira saw a shot blocked, Costinha headed over from close range and João Mário shot wide after a fast break before Felipe Ramos made his first two substitutions. Fábio Vieira and Félix Correia made way for Rodrigo Fernandes and Tiago Gouveia and minutes later both players were involved in Portugal's third goal.
Substitutes make immediate impact
João Mário played a neat 1-2 with Fernandes, Mário crossing for Gouveia who headed home with Armenia’s defence looking for answers. Tiago Lopes replaced Tomas Tavares in the 69th minute but the contest was over and Portugal had little reason to extend themselves.
João Mário released Tiago Lopes with his cross going unanswered, Mário then providing for Tiago Rodrigues who couldn’t get a shot away. Mário went himself with a curling effort just wide, Portugal’s final two substitutions seeing Gonçalo Loureiro and Celton Biai make way for Levi Faustino and Francisco Meixedo.
There was still time for Gouveia to make it 4-0 with a great strike in the 88th minute. The Benfica winger picked the ball up outside the area, made space and smashed the ball into the top corner.
Portugal’s 4-0 victory and Spain’s 2-1 win against Italy means the Seleção finished top of Group A with a superior goal difference than their Iberian neighbours. Portugal will now avoid France and face Norway, Republic of Ireland or Czech Republic in the semi-finals on Wednesday.
Few changes likely in semi-final
Manager Felipe Ramos has largely stuck with the same starting side in Portugal’s three group games. Striker Tiago Rodrigues replaced Gonçalo Ramos who hasn't been seen since the opening 3-0 win against Italy, right-back Costinha coming in for Tiago Lopes against Armenia and having a strong game.
Tiago Gouveia scored two goals off the bench to push for a starting spot, but that will surely only come if Tiago Rodrigues is benched and Félix Correia moves to a central attacking position.
Felipe Ramos found joy switching the wings of João Mário and Félix Correia in the opening two games, but we didn’t see that tactic used against Armenia. Mário spurned an opportunity to shoot with his right foot in the first half against Armenia, but then produced a stunner with his right foot when he was positioned on the left side.
The Porto UEFA Youth League winning winger overcame a forgettable first half to be man of the match. Mário seems to get better as games progress and has shown himself to be one of Portugal’s star players at the UEFA U19 European Championship alongside Gonçalo Cardoso, Fabio Vieira and Félix Correia.
Portugal U19 starting formation and line up: 4-3-3
Celton Biai (SL Benfica) - Costinha (Rio Ave FC), Gonçalo Loureiro (SL Benfica), Gonçalo Cardoso (Boavista FC), Tomás Tavares (SL Benfica) - Fábio Vieira (FC Porto), Diogo Capitão (SL Benfica), Vítor Ferreira (FC Porto) - João Mário (FC Porto), Tiago Rodrigues (Sporting CP), Félix Correia (Sporting CP).