Portugal’s 2021 UEFA European U21 Championship campaign came to an end after a 1-0 defeat to Germany in the final at Stadion Stožice in Ljubljana. Ridle Baku provided the goal for Lukas Nmecha in the 49th minute and Rui Jorge’s side were unable to find an equaliser.

It was the end of the road for a large portion of Portugal's squad who had won two European Championships and finished runners-up on three occasions. PortuGOAL's Matthew Marshall reports on a disappointing evening for the Portuguese youngsters. 

Portugal start strong

Rui Jorge made two changes to the side that started against Spain with Florentino Luís replacing Gedson Fernandes & Tiago Tomás coming in for Rafael Leão up front.

Abdu Conté was combining well with Dany Mota and it was through that channel that Portugal created their first chance. The ball found it’s way to Tiago Tomás who turned and shot just wide.

Diogo Dalot had seen an earlier shot go into the side netting, he threatened again with a great run into the box before his shot was blocked.

Conté then provided a cross that found Tomas but his looping header was easily saved by Finn Dahmen.

Germany take control

Florentino Luís lost possession and Germany pounced. Florian Wirtz picked it up, made space at the edge of the 18-yard box, his shot hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing centimetres away from the goal line.

Diogo Costa saved an effort from Lukas Nmecha, Ridle Baku shot wide and Arne Maier’s shot towards the top corner was saved by Costa.

Portugal came back into the contest 5 minutes from half time, beginning with Fábio Vieira’s shot that narrowly missed the top corner.

Their best chance was yet to come, Mota releasing Vitinha who hesitated when a shot or a pass to unmarked teammates was on and allowed Germany’s defence to get back in numbers. It was a pivotal moment in the match and a glorious opportunity that was squandered.

The decisive goal

Rafael Leão replaced Dany Mota at the break but four minutes later Germany were in front.

Baku isolated Conté who continually backed off, allowing his opponent time and space to provide a perfect through ball to Lukas Nmecha who rounded Costa and finished with style.

Portugal push hard for an equaliser

Vitinha found Vieira in the box but his shot was blocked. Leão then broke free and unsuccessfully tried to find Vieira instead of backing himself against Amos Pieper.

Rui Jorge made two substitutions in the 59th minute with wingers Jota and Francisco Conceição coming on for Vitinha and Tiago Tomás.

Vieira almost scored from the halfway line as he forced a retreating Dahmen to tip the ball away for a corner. He then provided a perfect cross towards Jota who couldn’t connect.

It was the Fábio Vieira show but he was getting little support.

Stefan Kuntz made two substitutions, Mergim Berisha making way for Jonathan Burkardt and Florian Wirtz replaced by Karim Adeyemi.

Germany dangerous on the counter

Portugal had to take more risks which resulted in the team losing balance and offering Germany opportunities to counter attack. 

Adeyemi immediately got into the action, winning a duel with Dalot before forcing a save from Costa. Nmecha’s shot was then tipped over the bar by Portugal’s shot stopper.

Florentino lost possession which saw Adeyemi streak free and force another save from Costa.

Florentino made way for Gedson Fernandes and Germany saw Niklas Dorsch and Lukas Nmecha replaced by Ismail Jakobs and Vitaly Janelt.

Rui Jorge made his last throw of the dice with Gonçalo Ramos replacing Abdu Conté but it was too little too late, Germany standing strong and closing it out.

Fábio Vieira

Fábio Vieira was judged to have been the best player of the tournament. He has been Portugal's most important and influential player throughout the entire campaign and it was a deserved award.

Rui Jorge praised the Porto playmaker after the match and described his qualities: "He had a great game. He is versatile, plays in a very technical style and has to improve some aspects of his playing, but he has a great future and I believe that he will be the player he deserves to be."

Round up

It was a long campaign for Portugal that started in September 2019, a run of 16 matches of which they won 13 in normal time, one in extra time and two defeats.

Losing the final is obviously disappointing, but the result of one match should not diminish their achievements as a group throughout the youth levels for Portugal. They have done their nation proud and can hold their heads high.

Rui Jorge offered some insight into his final message for his team: "Today everything will seem very bad but tomorrow they will go on their path. It’s hard to lose the final but you have to think about what they left behind."

"They gave everything to follow the principles that we gave them. They always behaved very well on and off the pitch. Many things are not visible but for us it was important that they behave with our principles".

I leave you with words from Portugal's captain Diogo Queirós: "We had a fantastic run to the final and we can be very proud. We have to keep working hard to win trophies in the future."

Line Ups

Portugal U21 Line Up (4-3-1-2): Diogo Costa - Diogo Dalot, Diogo Queirós, Diogo Leite, Abdu Conté (Gonçalo Ramos 86’) - Vitinha (Jota 59’), Florentino Luís (Gedson Fernandes 83’), Daniel Bragança - Fábio Vieira - Dany Mota (Rafael Leão 46’), Tiago Tomás (Francisco Conceição 59’)

Unused substitutes: João Virginia, Luís Maximiano, Tiago Djaló, Tomás Tavares, Pedro Pereira, Romário Baró, Filipe Soares

Germany U21 Line Up (4-2-3-1): Dahmen - Baku, Pieper, Schlotterbeck, Raum - Maier, Dorsch (Janelt 85’) - Wirtz (Adeyemi 67‘), Özcan (Stach 90+2’), Berisha (Burkardt 67’) - Nmecha (Jakobs 85’)

Unused substitutes: Schubert, Grill, Mai, Jaeckel, Vagnoman, Klimowicz, Appelkamp

Goals:

[1-0] - Lukas Nmecha 49'

Comments (18)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

And that's why Fernando Santos plays the team the way he does. In those important games you don't wanna be surprised even by a weaker team.

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@samuel
No not in my opinion. I’d rather play better in all facets of the game and give up a random goal if the alternative is completely sabotaging your own strengths in order to save face and squeak out a draw or 1-0 win. I watched this game...

@samuel
No not in my opinion. I’d rather play better in all facets of the game and give up a random goal if the alternative is completely sabotaging your own strengths in order to save face and squeak out a draw or 1-0 win. I watched this game from start to finish and I’d be willing to be that 9 out of 10 neutrals would tell you Portugal was better than Germany. That’s what I want, I don’t want to here about for the next 50 years how much better France was then us and how we drew games to get to the final. To me, that’s a loss. I want to go out there and play Portuguese style football and if we lose then whatever. In the end these games are often times determined by fine margins anyways so if we win 3-2 or lose 3-2 I’d prefer to lose 3-2 and keep my identity. I grew up Portuguese like I’m assuming most of us have and it’s in my blood to express myself on the field and in life. I see what you’re saying but I have never to this day heard one complimentary comment about our euro win in 2016 and that doesn’t sit right with me. I have heard about how great we were when we lost and as ridiculous as this may sound, I’d almost prefer that. I’ll forever be grateful for winning in 16 but moving forward, we have too much talent and potential to play like we’re some bullshit country just happy to be there.

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I'm sorry but I disagree. I don't understand the logic that it's better to play fancy or sexy football rather than playing to get the result. In what league or national team is this opinion shared? Managers don't get fired if their teams are...

I'm sorry but I disagree. I don't understand the logic that it's better to play fancy or sexy football rather than playing to get the result. In what league or national team is this opinion shared? Managers don't get fired if their teams are winning trophies, period. Results are the overwhelming determining factor of success in the grand scheme of things that are football. When people look back at a certain time period they typically look at whose won trophy's. Most aren't worried about how they got them as long as they were won fairly with no evidence of match fixing. Do Italians care that they have 4 world cups playing a style of football that is traditionally more defensive? I would take those world cups in a heart beat rather than just being able to say that we played a more eye pleasing offensive style with nothing to show for it.

Anyone telling you that Portugal didn't deserve the Euro in 2016 or have criticized their style of play is more than likely just jealous and I'm sure if their preferred team won it in the same manner portugal did they wouldn't be so critical lol.

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THAT is exactly why Fernando Santos plays the way he does…Samuel beat me to it, but it was exactly my thought from the moment the game went Germany’s way. I don’t care about entertaining the world. If people want entertainment they can start up a...

THAT is exactly why Fernando Santos plays the way he does…Samuel beat me to it, but it was exactly my thought from the moment the game went Germany’s way. I don’t care about entertaining the world. If people want entertainment they can start up a circus with their family members and enjoy the theatrics. I care about trophies…Portugal does NOT owe the world or “fans” anything other than trophies and golden medals. I’d much rather a disparaged team that the whole of Europe bows to as its Emperors than a much admired group of clowns that fail to drape the 1st place medals with red, green, yellow, white, and blue.

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My major take from that game: I know now why Fernando Santos picks Rafa Silva over Rafael Leão. The guy's attitude is a disgrace. Someone who shows his disinterest so obviously while wearing the shirt of the Selecção doesn't deserve to wear it at...

My major take from that game: I know now why Fernando Santos picks Rafa Silva over Rafael Leão. The guy's attitude is a disgrace. Someone who shows his disinterest so obviously while wearing the shirt of the Selecção doesn't deserve to wear it at all.

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Not sure why Danny mota and Tiago Tomas were subbed out. Now we know why Leao doesn’t get called to the senior side. Looks like a lazy bum.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Regarding Santos, it is a bit late to criticize Jorge now. Have you not been watching? The team made it to the finals with a very clear identity. They might have been eliminated sooner playing Santos' system, certainly against Spain.

I like the...

Regarding Santos, it is a bit late to criticize Jorge now. Have you not been watching? The team made it to the finals with a very clear identity. They might have been eliminated sooner playing Santos' system, certainly against Spain.

I like the idea of allowing the "youngsters" to play a freer flowing more attack oriented game because their skills are still developing. Once they transition to the senior side the emphasis can be on a more pragmatic system. That was a fun game to watch!

Having said that, I would like to see Santos loosen up some, but that is a different topic.

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Z, i agree with you on not calling leao to the senior squad. Rafa seems a far superior choice if Leao would've played like he did during the knockout stage. I'm not sure tho his attitude was as bad as you say even tho he looked a bit careless at...

Z, i agree with you on not calling leao to the senior squad. Rafa seems a far superior choice if Leao would've played like he did during the knockout stage. I'm not sure tho his attitude was as bad as you say even tho he looked a bit careless at times. I expected him to be physically and mentally superior in the tournament given he's been pretty reliable for Milan when needed. At the senior team he would've had a better manager who might have integrated him better in a system but still, given the expectations the way he played can't be even called underperforming.

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I agree about Leao..Unfortunate..he has lots of pace and talents..but effort or work ethic..reminds me of Paul Pogba..
I personally would rather see PT lose playing quality football than win playing boring defensive game..
Their time will come..

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I wanted to clarify what I meant by my earlier post. I’m not sitting here saying that only playing attractive football but losing is ok, no not at all. What I’m saying is we’re too good to play like we’re inferior to anybody. My main gripe with...

I wanted to clarify what I meant by my earlier post. I’m not sitting here saying that only playing attractive football but losing is ok, no not at all. What I’m saying is we’re too good to play like we’re inferior to anybody. My main gripe with Santos is that he stunts our strengths to try and neutralize opponents and the problem with that is we end up pinned back taking chance after chance just hoping for a counter. A counter that we don’t have by the way because the guys he plays to keep us in games defensively means we don’t have the speed on the wings especially with Neto out. It’s sort of like a boxer just taking punches to the face round after round just hoping for an opening to throw one good punch…guess what, more often than not that guy gets dropped when he fights someone equally as good or strong as he is. The point is when we’re playing these “big teams” if we just let them bombard us over and over that doesn’t work forever. WE WILL NEVER WIN AGAIN LIKE WE DID IN 2016.

Here’s the deal, like I said before, these games between great teams lives in the fine margins. This sport is played with a round ball, anything and everything does happen. If we can all agree that probability and statistics are real, if you give X team 15 shots and 70% of possession, they’re more likely to score goals and in the end that’s all that matters. So I prefer to obviously be defensively sound but ATTACK THESE TEAMS AND PRESS THEM. I mean what are we doing? Who are we? We’re f****ng Portugal, we’re not Trinidad and Tobago. It’s bad enough that we’re such a small nation to begin with so there’s always a slight inferiority complex compared to the “big teams” so I say in my opinion let’s put these teams back on their ass and stop praising them by letting them do whatever the hell they want for 90 minutes.

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A quick question to Justin and anyone who wishes to drum the offensive football Portuguese identity point:

Say, how many trophies has Portugal won using your suggested style of football since 1914?!?!?!

Santos’ tactics are superior....

A quick question to Justin and anyone who wishes to drum the offensive football Portuguese identity point:

Say, how many trophies has Portugal won using your suggested style of football since 1914?!?!?!

Santos’ tactics are superior. Frustrating, but superior to any other coach and there literally isn’t a single person in history to prove otherwise. Keep the mellow dreams for fado. I don’t want to go back to a period of time when “winning” trophies is just a mere fantasy. The hell with pleasing peoples’ eyes… give Lisbon Germany’s infrastructure and population and it may generate an entertainment-dedicated team. Control your cravings for entertainment by thinking Euro 2000–keep rewatching it and re-asking yourself whether you want to end up with the same outcome: bankrupt affection, no title.

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