Portugal made it two straight wins at the U21 European Championship group stage with a 2-0 victory against England. Dany Mota finished a fast break in the 64th minute with Trincão converting a penalty ten minutes later.
Rui Jorge’s side are in pole position to qualify for the knockout rounds after a convincing display at Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana. PortuGOAL’s Matthew Marshall breaks down the contest and looks forward with one match to play.
Portugal dominate first half
Rui Jorge made two changes to the side that beat Croatia with Fábio Vieira and Dany Mota coming in for Trincão and Tiago Tomás. Portugal threatened early with Thierry Correia’s cross met by Mota at the back post, his headed effort cleared by Ben Godfrey.
A poor pass from Tom Davies presented Vieira with a chance but it was weak and easily saved by Aaron Ramsdale. Diogo Leite’s error allowed Edward Nketiah to surge into the 18 yard box, Diogo Dalot alert to snuff out the danger.
Dalot shot high and wide from long range as the Esperanças regained control, going close to scoring twice in the space of a minute.
Correia’s long distance shot was saved by Ramsdale, Godfrey clearing the danger with Mota ready to pounce. From the resulting corner Pedro Gonçalves’ volley forced another save from Ramsdale, Florentino unable to steer the rebound on target.
Mota showed some great footwork to drive to the byline before the break, his cross met by Gonçalves who saw his shot deflected wide.
Changes at the break
Both managers made changes at half time with Florentino and Gedson replaced by Daniel Bragança and Trincão. Aidy Boothroyd brought on Eberechi Eze for Emile Smith Rowe.
Eze was looking dangerous but it was Portugal that continued to create the chances. Vieira fired over the bar and Vitinha's shot sailed narrowly wide. Noni Madueke had a rare effort for England, harassed at the edge of the 18 yard box before shooting over the bar.
That was as close as the Young Lions got as Vieria was replaced by Francisco Conceição in the 63rd minute. A minute late Portugal were in front.
Portugal take the lead
Oliver Skipp lost possession, Portugal pouncing with Gonçalves racing clear and presenting Mota with a chance that he converted into the bottom corner.
Godfrey was fortunate to only receive a yellow card for kicking Mota in the face, Portugal’s goal scorer lasting a few more minutes before being replaced by Gonçalo Ramos.
Ramos hadn’t been on the pitch for more than a few seconds before winning a penalty. Marc Guehi clumsily stepped on his foot a metre inside the area, Trincão stepping up and giving Ramsdale no chance from the spot.
England were done and dusted. Ramos fired wide as Portugal continued to be the only side capable of creating chances, but it was game over in Ljubljana with the result rarely in doubt.
Vitinha, Vieira & Gonçalves strengthen the squad significantly
Portugal’s squad has progressed nicely since the disappointing group stage exit at the U20 World Cup. The defence is largely intact and Diogo Dalot has improved since being dropped from the starting side in Poland.
The addition of Vitinha, Fábio Vieira and Pedro Gonçalves is significant with the midfield gaining much more creativity and goal threat.
Rafael Leão hasn’t been missed with Dany Mota’s clever play continuing to shine and the emergence of Tiago Tomás giving Rui Jorge another option up front.
They still have to reach the knockout rounds, but Portugal have shown in the opening two games that they are one of the top sides in the tournament.
Florentino fails to fire
Florentino Luís’ lack of game time was evident against Croatia and he was hooked at half time against England. Daniel Bragança replaced him and didn’t do much wrong, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Florentino benched for the Switzerland match.
Florentino’s loan move to Monaco hasn’t worked out, and if he continues to warm the bench in the Principality his starting spot could be under threat.
England are the perfect example that a lot of individual talent doesn’t necessarily constitute a good team. The Young Lions have failed to register a shot on target in two games, their confidence looks shot and it appears Aidy Boothroyd's time is up.
Portugal made them look ordinary, controlling the match and creating all the chances. The Esperanças fully deserved the three points but won’t be taking anything for granted against Switzerland on Wednesday.
Rui Jorge’s side sit three points clear of Switzerland and Croatia with a game to go. The only way Portugal can miss out on the knockout rounds is if Switzerland win by 2+ goals and Croatia beat England by 2+ goals.
Portugal U21 Line Up (4-3-3): Diogo Costa - Thierry Correia, Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Diogo Dalot - Vitinha, Florentino Luís (Daniel Bragança 46’), Gedson Fernandes (Trincão 46’) - Fábio Vieira (Francisco Conceição 63’), Dany Mota (Gonçalo Ramos 73’), Pedro Gonçalves (Filipe Soares 88’)
Unused substitutes: João Virginia, Luís Maximiano, Tiago Djaló, Tomás Tavares, Pedro Pereira, João Mário, Tiago Tomás
[1-0] – Dany Mota 64'
[2-0] – Trincão 74' P