Belarus 0-2 Portugal

Portugal made it two from two to start their U21 European Championship qualification campaign after a 2-0 win in Belarus.

Rafael Leão pounced to put Portugal into the lead in the 68th minute with substitute Dany Mota adding the second goal in added time.

One-way traffic

Portugal asserted their authority in the opening stages, Domingos Quina with a weak shot before another effort from the Watford midfielder hit the post. Vitor Ferreira’s through ball found Jota who fired into the side netting with Belarus on the back foot.

Portugal were permanently camped in Belarus’ half as Ferreira released Jota once again, his cross picking out Leão who volleyed at goalkeeper Pavel Pavlyuchenko. Nuno Tavares was enjoying plenty of open space, the left-back creating a chance for Jota who saw his shot blocked.

Rafael Leão shot wide after instigating a fast break before Belarus eventually ventured into Portugal’s half. Dmitriy Podstrelov shot well wide and Artem Kontsevoy’s cross was cleared by Diogo Queiros, signifying how difficult it was for the hosts to create any clear cut chances.

Normal service resumed

The action swiftly shifted to the other end, Jota with a shot saved before his free kick was deflected wide. A succession of corners saw Diogo Leite’s header force a save from Pavlyuchenko and a Nuno Santos volley deflected past the post.

Rúben Vinagre replaced Nuno Tavares at half time and immediately created a chance for Leão. Domingos Quina’s promising first half came to a close with some sloppy touches to open the second period, he was replaced by Francisco Trincão as Portugal increased the tempo.

Portugal break through

Nuno Santos shot over the bar before Portugal finally turned their dominance into a goal in the 68th minute. A loose touch from Roman Vegerya caused some confusion in the Belarus box, Rafael Leão pouncing and firing past Pavlyuchenko from close range.

Trincão and Jota combined with the latter shooting over the bar, Belarus creating a half chance that was snuffed out by Thierry Correia. Dany Mota replaced Rafael Leão and immediately had a shot blocked before Romário Baró came on for Jota.

Baró made his limited minutes count, finding Mota in the box who rounded Pavlyuchenko and fired into the net. Three important points for Portugal secured before their next match in the Netherlands on 11 October.

Strong squad

Manager Rui Jorge made five changes to the side that beat Gibraltar U21 4-0 on Thursday. Nuno Tavares replaced Rúben Vinagre at left-back, Vitor Ferreira came in for Daniel Bragança in the holding midfield role and there was a complete overhaul of the front three.

Nuno Santos, Jota and Rafael Leão replaced Francisco Trincão, Pedro Neto and Dany Mota to highlight the strength in Jorge’s squad. Rui Jorge has top quality options in every position and they are surely one of the favourites to win the title in Hungary/Slovenia in 2021.

Belarus were coming off a 10-0 thrashing of Gibraltar but never looked like troubling Portugal. The Seleção dominated the total attempts 26-2, shots on target 10-0 and corner 10-2 in another convincing performance. 

Notable mentions

Domingos Quina was brilliant in the first half, hitting the post and creating numerous chances for his teammates. He became frustrated after half-time, making some uncharacteristic errors and was hooked for Trincão in an attacking substitution.

Vitor Ferreira was excellent in the holding midfield role and his passing range is a real asset to the team. Has most likely overtaken Daniel Bragança for the defensive midfield role.

Thierry Correia was my man of the match. An attacking threat from right-back, the new Valencia man was decisive in defence and made some crucial interceptions. With sound awareness and speed to burn, Correia clears danger with ease and continues to improve.

Portugal 4-3-3: Diogo Costa - Thierry Correia,  Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Nuno Tavares (Rúben Vinagre 46’) - Miguel Luís, Vitor Ferreira, Domingos Quina (Francisco Trincão 60’) - Jota (Romário Baró 86’), Rafael Leão (Dany Mota 80’), Nuno Santos

Coach: Rui Jorge

By Matthew Marshall

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“We're not magicians. The Portuguese manager has a DNA, he's able to adapt to the various leagues and countries. Adapting is something many coaches from other nations aren't able to do. This gives us a great advantage

Leonardo Jardim
(on why Portuguese coaches prosper worldwide)