Luxembourg 0-2 Portugal 

Portugal were made to work for their ticket to Euro 2020 against a hard-working Luxembourg side that certainly had their moments. Bruno Fernandes' sumptuous goal at the end of the first half was quite possibly the lone bright spot of a very difficult opening 45 minutes while Cristiano Ronaldo added to his international goal tally just minutes before full time.

It was at times incoherent and undisciplined from Portugal with misplaced passes and poor decisions only complicated by the abysmal pitch. Many may remember it as the worst played match of the campaign, but Portugal survived what was always going to be a challenging final game and will now have the opportunity to defend their European title.

Having swept aside Lithuania four days prior, Fernando Santos still elected to make changes to the starting XI with Danilo taking over at defensive midfield. Raphael Guerreiro assumed his usual role at left back while André Silva replaced his Eintracht Frankfurt teammate, Gonçalo Paciénicia, at the top of the formation. 

Ronaldo had an early opportunity from a free kick after André Silva went down under a heavy challenge, but his effort went straight into the wall. But Luxembourg showed their mettle by carving out an opportunity of their own in the 6th minute when Deville headed over the bar following a good cross from the left. 

Play broke down in midfield for Luxembourg minutes later, and André Silva found himself well-positioned to shoot but elected to pass to Ronaldo instead. Cristiano beat his marker along the left side of the penalty area and got in a near post effort which forced Moris into a decent save.

But Portugal struggled to put together passing combinations through a congested midfield, and Luxembourg very nearly opened the scoring when a cross from the right found Thill with his goal-bound effort well-blocked by José Fonte. 

Luxembourg continued to threaten on the counter and Portugal's back line was forced into action again and again with the hosts focusing on the left side of Portugal's formation. Ronaldo badly mishit an attempt in the 27th minute summing up Portugal's difficulty in creating scoring chances.

André Silva teed up Pizzi to shoot in the 32nd minute, but the Benfica man fired well over the bar. Luxembourg seemed as if they would keep Portugal out with relative ease until Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes intervened. The Manchester City playmaker spied just a bit of space behind Luxembourg's backline and floated in a wonderful cross that Bruno brought down with Velcro control, and his finish at the near post was superb to fire Portugal into a crucial lead just before halftime. It was only the Sporting midfielder's second goal for the Seleção. 



Fonte rose highest to meet an early second half corner but his effort drifted just wide of the left upright. The visitors responded as Rodrigues found just enough space to bend an attempt over the bar from the left side of the penalty area.

Rodrigues continued to be a nuisance down the left side of midfield as the match descended into a stalemate. Fernando Santos introduced João Moutinho for Pizzi just after the hour mark to reinforce Portugal's lagging midfield. Crosses from wide positions continued to torment Portugal and Deville very nearly got his foot to the ball following a delivery from the right.

Diogo Jota entered the fray in the 71st minute, replacing André Silva who had struggled to make an impact. But the hosts continued to deny Portugal's efforts to find an elusive second goal. Ronaldo struck a free kick just wide of the post after Bruno Fernandes was brought down a bit easily on the edge of the penalty area with just over ten minutes remaining.  

But Portugal finally found a way in the 86th minute. Once again Bernardo Silva was involved with a teasing cross into the penalty area. Jota's acrobatic effort bounced onto the keeper's shoulder and onto the line, and Cristiano Ronaldo was on hand to help it into the back of the net, his 99th international goal for Portugal. 

It was a scrappy goal that accurately reflected the match itself, but it was enough cushion for Portugal to see the result through. In difficult conditions, Portugal were not at their individual or collective best, but they exemplified the will and ability to endure nonetheless. Danilo, André Silva, Raphael Guerreiro, and Pizzi were all below their best, but José Fonte showed why even at 35 he is a crucial asset in the center of Portugal's defense. Ricardo Pereira again showed his merit with blistering recovery pace to keep Luxembourg's best player in check. 

Portugal now await the official draw on November 30th to discover their group fate. It is the 11th major tournament in a row for which Portugal have qualified.

 

Portugal XI: Rui Patrício - Raphael Guerreiro, Rúben Dias, José Fonte, Ricardo Pereira - Danilo, Pizzi (Moutinho, 62'), Bruno Fernandes (Rúben Neves, 90'), Bernardo Silva - André Silva (Jota 71'), Cristiano Ronaldo 

Luxembourg XI: Moris - Jans, Carlson, Chanot, C. Krogh Gerson - Skenderovic, Barreiro (Sinani, 74'), V. Thill (Joachim, 82'), Turpel (O. Thill, 59') - Deville, Rodrigues 

Goals:

[0-1] - Bruno Fernandes, 39'

[0-2] - Cristiano Ronaldo, 86'

 

by Nathan Motz

 

Comments (16)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

As expected, this match proved to be far less straight forward than our 6-0 thrashing in Algarve. This is a feisty yet disciplined Luxembourg side that has managed to punch well above it's wait for quite some time now. They do lack real quality...

As expected, this match proved to be far less straight forward than our 6-0 thrashing in Algarve. This is a feisty yet disciplined Luxembourg side that has managed to punch well above it's wait for quite some time now. They do lack real quality in several positions, but they more than make up for it in other areas.

Many were making a big deal about the pitch before the match and their concerns were proved to be quite valid. That was probably the worst playing surface I have ever seen us play on. An artificial turf would have been a massive upgrade.

Nonetheless, despite struggling to adapt to the playing surface, and finding it difficult to create any incisive combinations through their dogged defense, I think we did just enough to deserve the victory. Despite not creating a whole lot from open play, we at least looked a lot more comfortable in the second half, especially after the introduction of Moutinho.

Apart from the the first goal (brilliant pass from Bernardo and an even better first touch from Fernandes) there really wasn't much quality on display from our attacking players.

I also agree with Nathan regarding Ricardo. I think he has done just enough to warrant a starting spot at right-back. He is not quite as dynamic as Cancelo going forward, but he is a clear upgrade from Semedo in this department. I also don't think he is a downgrade from the Barcelona man on the defensive side of the ball.

Ruben Dias and José Fonte also put in a solid shift. Fonte, despite his age, rarely puts a foot wrong when representing the colors of Portugal. He can be exposed in 1v1 situations, but his ability to marshall a back 4 in high pressure situations in the absence of Pepe could prove vital.

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Anyone else think Jota should be credited with that goal?

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yes he should have, and Ronaldo should have been credited the other day so it all balances out.

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I missed the second half, was it better than the frustrating first?

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Eh, not really "better" per se, but it ended the way we were all hoping so that will have to be good enough!

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Happy with the win given the conditions. One thing Santos needs to take away from this is André Silva is finished in the national team. He offers absolutely nothing and paciencia offers far far more. Also can't stand rafael guerrero from both a...

Happy with the win given the conditions. One thing Santos needs to take away from this is André Silva is finished in the national team. He offers absolutely nothing and paciencia offers far far more. Also can't stand rafael guerrero from both a defensive and offensive perspective. Would prefer cancelo or semedo at LB although not natural LBs

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When will Portugal learned to defend & take proper corner kicks? For years this seems to be an issue. Does anyone else feel the same way? How does this not get addressed for so long.

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Can someone explain to me the love fest with Moutinho? Also, the field is terrible, why not go over the top more often? Why not take direct corners? Sometimes we tend to over think things for no apparent reason, as if we are too smart for the...

Can someone explain to me the love fest with Moutinho? Also, the field is terrible, why not go over the top more often? Why not take direct corners? Sometimes we tend to over think things for no apparent reason, as if we are too smart for the situation. I personally don't get. Go direct and you score the first goal. Great finish and control, but wow did that really work.....

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I recommend you watch him play for the Wolves in the EPL to appreciate his game. Wolves MVP last year and a great presence in midfield. Good player at this point for the national team to bring off the bench.

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I don't have a problem with Moutinho continuing to be included in these squads. He isn't a starter when everyone is fit, but it doesn't hurt to have a guy with Moutinho's experience to call upon off the bench, especially when we need to add a...

I don't have a problem with Moutinho continuing to be included in these squads. He isn't a starter when everyone is fit, but it doesn't hurt to have a guy with Moutinho's experience to call upon off the bench, especially when we need to add a calming presence with tactical nous to help close out tight games.

It's also important to note that he is still playing regularly at a high level at Wolves, and from what I've read, the fans over there have nothing but good things to say about him.

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Agree, he is a nice player to have off the bench at this stage of his career. Over the past 10 years CR7, Pepe, and Moutinho have been the most reliable players.

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A couple of thoughts to share. Something that needs to be addressed and changed is Fonte shouldn’t continue to be our back up option to Pepe when he’s unavailable. I would really like to see Rúben Semedo, Ferro or Duarte see the field instead of...

A couple of thoughts to share. Something that needs to be addressed and changed is Fonte shouldn’t continue to be our back up option to Pepe when he’s unavailable. I would really like to see Rúben Semedo, Ferro or Duarte see the field instead of Fonte and in these games against Lithuania and Luxembourg that’s when these players need to play. Fonte can’t run anymore, he was never fast and now he’s just slow and against quality teams with fast forwards or wingers...Fonte has no chance and to be honest Pepe isn’t much quicker these days. Second thought I have is I like the idea of that 4-1-4-1 formation but when Joao Felix comes back and assuming he keeps getting better than he should be in middle instead of Bernardo and Bernardo can move outside again. Lastly, André Silva is terrible and has no future on this team in my opinion and I’d really like to see Rafael Leao play in that role, Paciéncia is ok and really not that much better than Silva in my opinion. Leao offers us a dynamic that no other forward option we have and I know he doesn’t get that much playing time with Milan consistently but he needs to be on the Portugal team. No more Joao Mario bullshit either, there’s no reason in the world why Joao Mario should be on this team especially if it means that guys like Leao stay home.

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Picture a front 5 like this and how dangerous it would be. This is the kind of attack we need to create havoc for other teams. With guys like Guierro and Ricardo bombing forwards too, we have so many ways to split defenses apart.

...

Picture a front 5 like this and how dangerous it would be. This is the kind of attack we need to create havoc for other teams. With guys like Guierro and Ricardo bombing forwards too, we have so many ways to split defenses apart.

Leao
Ronaldo Bernardo
Joao Felix Bruno Fernandes

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Justin,
We can't play a front five like that. We need buildup play that otherwise wouldn't be there. We need at least two deep-lying mids and a c-mid in front to connect the back six to the three upfront. Let's play a 4-2-1-3

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Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach reacts to tough Euro 2020 draw for the Seleção) 

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