Azerbaijan 0-3 Portugal

Portugal made light work of beating Azerbaijan in their latest World Cup qualifier in a wet Baku this afternoon. Two quickfire first-half goals by Bernardo Silva and André Silva put Portugal in charge.

The second half was even more one-sided, with Portugal creating a host of chances to increase their lead and Diogo Jota finally ending his recent barren run with another headed goal. 

In relation to the Ireland game last week André Silva was selected in place of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, with João Moutinho coming in for Rafa Silva as Fernando Santos opted for a 4-4-2.

Portugal took the initiative from the off, João Cancelo causing panic early doors with a break down the right flank and low cross that was cleared with difficulty by the Azeri defence. The visitors continued to press for an early breakthrough but just when it seemed the hosts had weathered the storm the Seleção struck to take the lead in the 26th minute.

Bruno back on song

A looping cross by André Silva looked to be heading out of play, but the ball was retrieved by Raphael Guerreiro and passed to Bruno Fernandes. Much more positively involved throughout than in recent games for his country, the Manchester United man whipped in an inviting cross that Bernardo Silva took full advantage off with a lovely mid-air finish with his heel.

Azerbaijan almost hit straight back, Salahli spurning a chance from just six yards out after some sloppy defending by Portugal. It proved a costly miss for the home team, as Portugal soon doubled their lead.

An excellent passage of keep-ball saw Santos’s men string together umpteen passes, moving the ball quickly from one flank to the other. Fernandes swung in another sumptuous cross, Jota cut it back across goal and André Silva was left with a simple tap-in. 2-0.

The Leipzig striker then had another glaring chance, again set up by Fernandes, but scuffed his shot off target from in front of goal.

At half time the yellow-carded Palhinha was substituted by Rúben Neves, and Portugal’s domination of possession accentuated. Diogo Jota missed badly when played in on goal, his first attempt well saved by Magomedallyev, then blazing his follow-up effort over the bar.

Bruno Fernandes also tested the Azeri goalkeeper, forcing him into two sharp saves with powerful shots, one right-footed from outside the box, another left-footed that was heading into the top corner before being turned over for a corner.

Cancelo magic

A third goal was only a matter of time, and it finally came when the excellent João Cancelo again skipped past his marker with remarkable ease and chipped over a peach of a cross that Jota rose well to plant into the bottom corner of the net with a downward header. His celebration was one of relief rather than joy after missing so many chances in recent matches for Portugal.

“We could have scored more goals. We lacked better decisions with our finishing,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos. “We were a very consistent team at all times and played an excellent game, but there are a lot of things we must improve on.”

A solid performance by Portugal and top spot in Group A – the only position that guarantees automatic qualification to the World Cup – increasingly looks like it will come down to the final match when the Seleção host Serbia in Lisbon on 14 November.

By Tom Kundert

 

Azerbaijan: Magomedaliyev, Badalov, Haghverdi, Salahli (Sadykhov, 76’), Huseynov, Mahmudov, Emreli (Toral Bayramov, 62’), Qarayev (Nuriev, 46’), Ozobic (Mustafayev, 62’), Khalilzade (Ghorbani, 46’), Aleskerov

Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, Raphael Guerreiro (Nuno Mendes, 71’), João Palhinha (Rúben Neves, 46’), João Moutinho (João Mário, 78’), Bernardo Silva (Otávio, 78’), Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota (Gonçalo Guedes, 78’)

Goals:

[0-1] Bernardo Silva, 26’

[0-2] André Silva, 31’

[0-3] Diogo Jota, 75’

 

Comments (40)

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Their best performance in a long time regardless of it being a minnow. Bruno able to pull the strings, team was able to press as a unit and win the ball high, there was actually some intricate combinations being played (second half especially),...

Their best performance in a long time regardless of it being a minnow. Bruno able to pull the strings, team was able to press as a unit and win the ball high, there was actually some intricate combinations being played (second half especially), and we put a team away for once. Hmmmmm I wonder what the difference was? I just can’t put my finger on how they were able to play more as a team and not look like they were down a man all the time.

I think Silva showed that he can be a pylon in front of goal, so he can do everything Ronaldo can at this stage in his career. He still won’t be as prolific as Ronaldo, but he literally does everything else better to help this team. Aside from his work rate and hold up play, he will even pass the ball if a player is in a better position to score. This is why United would be much better off with Cavani on the field. Cavani will provide a similar goal return to current Ronaldo, but will also not stop working for 90 minutes and help the overall team performance.

The team was a lot more fluid once Neves came on. Not sure if it was him or more a product of them being up two already and Azerbaijan needing to open up.

I think we have our answer. Santos will not change his tactics, so at best we are destined for a round of 16 exit.

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I think with Neves, they had developed a flow already in the first half and he is a better passer than Palinha.

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Lmao, shitting on Ronaldo? Oh please. Without him, we would lucky to be fourth

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Weird guy holding up a win against bottom of the group Azerbaijan to try and make Ronaldo look bad. Some people have no shame

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JP that is

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Happy for Jota to get that goal, that might change things around for him. Santos selection of Moutinho is/was a joke. Cancelo man of the match, unbelievable form. Octavio over Trincao? Moutinho over Neves? Complete nonsense.

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With the game in hand, I think he want to get Otavio his first competitive cap. He did get a great goal in the last game, so I don't mind. Overall, yeah I would probably use Trincao on the left forward over Otavio.

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I enjoyed the victory, but what a Jeckyll and Hyde performance when Ronaldo isn’t on. It’s like the team plays more of a ‘unit’ and allowed to build up seemingly well. And I’m a big keeper of Ronaldo on the Selecao.

This doesn’t change the fact...

I enjoyed the victory, but what a Jeckyll and Hyde performance when Ronaldo isn’t on. It’s like the team plays more of a ‘unit’ and allowed to build up seemingly well. And I’m a big keeper of Ronaldo on the Selecao.

This doesn’t change the fact that Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva shouldn’t be anywhere near this team. One ‘good’ performance out of a dozen shit ones shouldn’t be a redeeming factor.

Viva Portugal, and Viva Fernando Santos

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The team moves and therefore creates more space and better opportunities when Ronaldo isn't on. Both Bernardo and Fernandes move from playmakers to attackers and were constantly moving. The first Bruno pass was from the left wing and the second...

The team moves and therefore creates more space and better opportunities when Ronaldo isn't on. Both Bernardo and Fernandes move from playmakers to attackers and were constantly moving. The first Bruno pass was from the left wing and the second was from the right.

Also, they get more consistent pressing when Ronaldo isn't there. Andre will actually press.

As many have said on this site, maybe it would be better if Ronaldo can off the bench as our not so secret weapon. He wouldn't have to conserve his energy and everybody knows what he can do when all else fails.

I am not so worried about when Ronaldo leaves, but when Pepe does.

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That was a much better all around performance, albeit against the weakest team in the group. Apart from a couple of avoidable lapses in concentration, we shut down virtually all of Azerbaijan's attempted counter attacks. Joao Moutinho was...

That was a much better all around performance, albeit against the weakest team in the group. Apart from a couple of avoidable lapses in concentration, we shut down virtually all of Azerbaijan's attempted counter attacks. Joao Moutinho was particularly effective at being in the right place at the right time the moment we lost possession.

Both Palhinha and Neves were solid in the #6 position. Both are playing regularly for their clubs and should therefore be our first two options in that role.

Fernandes and Bernardo were excellent today. Again, Azerbaijan are weak, but that was still encouraging to see.

Andre Silva quietly put in a very solid shift up top. He's clearly a much more natural center-forward than Ronaldo, especially with his back to goal.

Jota could have had a hat trick on another night, but at least he continues to get himself into great goal scoring positions. What he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for with his work rate and clever movement.

Cancelo was class. Not sure why Santos sent him home before the start of the Euros rather than keeping him quarantined for two weeks. He is - by far - the best 1v1 dribbler on the team. We may not have a winger with the dribbling ability of a Figo, young CR7, Nani, or Quaresma, but in Joao Cancelo we at least have one player who can create something out of nothing all by himself. He's world-class and he needs to start each and every game barring injury.

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Cancelo would have probably been a winger(and has played there before for Valencia), if wingers were more common. Now wing-backs give width.

Yeah, tough decision to send him home at the Euros. As you said, he is one of those players who can...

Cancelo would have probably been a winger(and has played there before for Valencia), if wingers were more common. Now wing-backs give width.

Yeah, tough decision to send him home at the Euros. As you said, he is one of those players who can create out of nothing.

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Credit where it is due. This was not a world beating performance, but solid nonetheless. Lovely to see Bruno F finally play at the level we know he can.

Having the team in a 4-2-3-1 and Bruno in the #10 is no coincidence; he cannot play in a...

Credit where it is due. This was not a world beating performance, but solid nonetheless. Lovely to see Bruno F finally play at the level we know he can.

Having the team in a 4-2-3-1 and Bruno in the #10 is no coincidence; he cannot play in a 4-3-3.and needs to sit in that 10 role to create chances.

Palhinha with another gritty display, he's great at his role. Andre Silva was very good off the ball, a bit wasteful in front of net but still scored.

Cancelo was his usual fantastic self in attack, but also much improved in defence. They didn't just cross endlessly either, there was actually some good.link up play and passing inside the box. Well done.

Hoping the team and Santos can build on this, but I still am not optimistic about Qatar. Cheers.

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I don’t get the hate on Moutinho from the comments above, or the ones about Fernandes and B. Silva.

There was a definite difference today and sad to say it was having 10 players on the pitch with a steady solid work rate. Love Ronaldo for his...

I don’t get the hate on Moutinho from the comments above, or the ones about Fernandes and B. Silva.

There was a definite difference today and sad to say it was having 10 players on the pitch with a steady solid work rate. Love Ronaldo for his late headers but look how many we could get if the whole team was involved.

Cancelo was MOTM in my opinion and when Renato and Neto are better there will be danger come World Cup time!

Best take aways, our ball recovery.
Areas of improvement, finishing, positive reinforcement from the coach.

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Agree 100% Jerrold, aside from Pepe, I cannot think of a more consistent and high quality performer for Portugal than Moutinho over the last decade. You know he's going to put in a great shift every time. Chase down balls, great at getting...

Agree 100% Jerrold, aside from Pepe, I cannot think of a more consistent and high quality performer for Portugal than Moutinho over the last decade. You know he's going to put in a great shift every time. Chase down balls, great at getting possession back, excellent at passing, finds open space.

Moutinho is not flashy, but make no mistake, he is of the top quality. Renato should still start when healthy, but Moutinho as your #8 is still one of the best guys in the world.

Plus, he linked up perfectly with Palhinha today.

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This was probably true 3 or 4 years ago, now Moutinho cannot compete. Go back and look at the game, how many 50/50 balls did he win? Yeah go look. Also, go look at his pass rate, most of the balls Moutinho gave went to the other team or out of...

This was probably true 3 or 4 years ago, now Moutinho cannot compete. Go back and look at the game, how many 50/50 balls did he win? Yeah go look. Also, go look at his pass rate, most of the balls Moutinho gave went to the other team or out of bounds.

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I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Moutinho won a ton of possession back with tackling and pressure, and he his passing % was fantastic.

He's played 3 games in the WC qualifier, and has a 94% passing accuracy. He's a bonafide starter...

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. Moutinho won a ton of possession back with tackling and pressure, and he his passing % was fantastic.

He's played 3 games in the WC qualifier, and has a 94% passing accuracy. He's a bonafide starter for Wolves. The guy, in my eyes, is quality and always consistent. Maybe not as flashy as some other pkayers, but he gets the job done.

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Jerrold, I’ve been singing the praises on the website on Moutinho for years. He is a classic #10: builds the play up nicely, dangerous passes and intelligent positionally. The only knock on JM is his overreacting to fouls. Wish he kept it normal....

Jerrold, I’ve been singing the praises on the website on Moutinho for years. He is a classic #10: builds the play up nicely, dangerous passes and intelligent positionally. The only knock on JM is his overreacting to fouls. Wish he kept it normal. People get too caught up in his age, but you need those experienced heads on the field.

I personally have never seen or believed the hype with Bernardo Silva. I think he is highly overrated, and doesn’t have a spot on the starting lineup in a 4-3-3.

Fernandes is an interesting one. He is an attacking midfielder, nothing more, nothing less. Every time he plays on the NT though, he always has me on edge and is disappointing.

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Moutinho is a master of the sly foul, he has a knack for breaking up play and is always like, oops, did I do that?

When he went to the Wolves, most fans thought, great a guy to hold us over for a year while the young guys develop, then he could...

Moutinho is a master of the sly foul, he has a knack for breaking up play and is always like, oops, did I do that?

When he went to the Wolves, most fans thought, great a guy to hold us over for a year while the young guys develop, then he could come of the bench. He is now firmly entrenched as the starter and you can tell the difference when he isn't in. Of course it could be Wolves have no depth in midfield also.

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You know sometimes when I watch these games and I hear from a handful of you, I honestly wonder what in the world are you guys actually watching? Now I'll admit, im a single man in my mid 30s and I watch a ridiculous amount of football every week...

You know sometimes when I watch these games and I hear from a handful of you, I honestly wonder what in the world are you guys actually watching? Now I'll admit, im a single man in my mid 30s and I watch a ridiculous amount of football every week for years so that's my reference point, that's where I'm coming from. I've been frequenting this site for probably 10 years now and one thing I've noticed is how quickly people either forget problems, don't recognize them or they're masked by results.


Let me say this again for the 100th time, we have no ability on the wings whatsoever. Bernardo Silva is a neat and tidy player but he's useless against good teams if he's on the wing. Trincao isn't much better either because he's soft and not athletic, everything they do is cut back on their left foot and pass the ball backwards to fill in the blank midfield player. On the other side, Jota isn't actually good at football, he hustles and he's rewarded for being in good spots, spots that won't always be easily available when we play good teams. Now you can point to his misses in the euros all you want and praise him but in general, he's only as good as the players around him. I said last article how we need creativity and speed on the wing and this game was the same story.

Really think about this for a second. Bernardo goal was 100% lucky, yes it takes some ability to make the run and finish but it's a play that usually gets headed away or the forward misses completely. Our best attacking player is.....wait for it....hang on...,little longer.... oh it's Joao Cancelo and he's our Right back. Do you know what we need again for the millionth time? No it's not pote, otavio, Bernardo, trincao, Guedes, Rafa etc. we need more attacking players on the wings that are dynamic and selfish to create plays and take chances themselves. One of you thought I was crazy when I said Jota(Celtic) or Francisco Conseciao is the type of winger we're missing because they're just "fancy dribblers) but the truth is that's exactly what we need.

Find me one legit national team that is contention to win trophies who don't have fast tricky wingers that will go past fullbacks? Here's a hint, you can't. Until Portugal decides to bring up more individually talented wingers/forwards we will always struggle to beat great teams. This has been going on for years and years now. We won in 16 primarily based off of luck and determination. In the future and current situation, we will struggle because everything we do offensively is pass backwards and cross the ball.

My opinion. Don't @me if you're an optimist because I'm not, I watch the games. It's clear as day to me.

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Justin, I agree with mostly everything you said here. My only issue that I have is your ‘tricky winger’ position. I’m not sure if it’s because Portuguese players aren’t being developed into that anymore, but dribblers like Ronaldo, Nani,...

Justin, I agree with mostly everything you said here. My only issue that I have is your ‘tricky winger’ position. I’m not sure if it’s because Portuguese players aren’t being developed into that anymore, but dribblers like Ronaldo, Nani, Quaresma, Fabio Paim (LOL) aren’t what they used to be.

The closest thing I could think of is Pedro Neto, possibly Gelson Martins, or even Rony Lopes?

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Why do I keep seeing you asking for Jota (Celtic) and Conceiçao? You must be delusional now. They are not ready. Let's be realistic here, nobody is going to call them up at this stage.

Jota didn't do much at Valladolid last year, scoring just 1...

Why do I keep seeing you asking for Jota (Celtic) and Conceiçao? You must be delusional now. They are not ready. Let's be realistic here, nobody is going to call them up at this stage.

Jota didn't do much at Valladolid last year, scoring just 1 goal. He had no place even on the bench at Benfica, so now he is going to a club and league nobody cares about. As for Conceicao, he is still a kid. In Porto first 3 matches, all he got was around 35+ mins total. He has not scored or registered an assist.

They are not even starters for their team. Calling them up is just madness at this point. Will never happen.

Find me one legit national team that is contention to win trophies who don't have fast tricky wingers...

Other nations bring in fully developed wingers. Period.

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Joao Moutinho was excellent today. He's neat and tidy on the ball, intelligent with his positioning off the ball, and never fails to work his socks off each and every game. As long as he is playing week in week out in the Premier League for...

Joao Moutinho was excellent today. He's neat and tidy on the ball, intelligent with his positioning off the ball, and never fails to work his socks off each and every game. As long as he is playing week in week out in the Premier League for Wolves, he should continue to be a regular. However, as others have mentioned, the #8 role belongs to Renato barring injury.

Bernardo is a brilliant player, but he hasn't always been utilized correctly by Fernando Santos. He doesn't have the pace to excel on the wings nor does he have the finishing ability of a second striker, but his technique is world class, he can pick a pass, and his ability to dribble out of pressure and combine intelligently in intricate passing combinations is second to none on this team. He's almost like an #8/10 hybrid. He needs to operate centrally in between the lines where he can get on the ball and dictate our moves. He doesn't have to be the guy playing the killer ball, but get him involved, let him drift wide on occasion, and you've got one of the best midfielders in Europe on your side.

Bruno is better suited to an advanced #10 role. There is the potential of both he and Bernardo getting in each other's way, but they certainly do not have to take up the same role on the team. As tonight's match demonstrated, they can coexist, even in more central positions on the pitch. Whereas Bernardo likes get orchestrate passing combinations, Bruno is better suited at playing the killer ball and getting in behind the defense.

A narrow 4-4-2 or diamond shape could accommodate Bernardo, Bruno, and Renato. Perhaps that is a more likely scenario than Santos switching to a 3-5-2.

Regardless, the talent is there to play proactive, winning football. It remains to be seen, however, is Santos has what it takes to make it happen.

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Ronaldo has had his time. He is a legend, but I will continue to say that the team as a whole is better without him. This isn’t about emotions. Get your sentimental snowflake garbage out of here. The man is 36. He has 30-40 quality minutes in...

Ronaldo has had his time. He is a legend, but I will continue to say that the team as a whole is better without him. This isn’t about emotions. Get your sentimental snowflake garbage out of here. The man is 36. He has 30-40 quality minutes in him if he were to go all out. Watch him on the ball in open space and see if he can take anyone on anymore. Although, he will dazzle you with step overs and fakes from a standstill position. Also, while you are at it, watch him off the ball when Portugal lose possession in the opposition half. He is almost always the reason why we can’t quickly win the ball back. In the modern game that is extremely important to sustained pressure and is so often undervalued. We care more about a person and how he ages than we are about the team as a whole and what is best for them today.

@Justin
It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t decent improvement in form compared to their last few run of games or even the last time they played Azerbaijan. No one is leaving this game thinking we are world beaters. I don’t really recall anyone acting that way. It’s just good to see a convincing win. It was clear there was combination play and movement not seen in a long time. I think most can see that we don’t have top class wingers for selection at the moment. It’s actually quite noticeable since Portugal is a country known exclusively for producing them. But bringing on unseasoned ones who haven’t proven anything at the highest levels isn’t the answer either.

Portugal has always been known to play the game the right way. Silky touches in tight spaces, lots of 1 or 2 touch passing, probing teams and recycling possession, but being direct and threatening while doing it. It was just nice to see a team out there that looked like they were having fun. I don’t think anyone is saying this team is now a WC contender because of this performance. Either way, we all believe we have the answers and if it was as simple as that we all would be managers. You seem to think it’s mostly down to wingers from your post while others, like myself think it’s more about the formation and players playing out of position. It’s probably a little bit of everything.

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I totally disagree with you about C Ronaldo having 30 to 40 minutes. Today top elite teams respect Portuguese team because of Ronaldo for he can cause damage when left unmarked. He may be 36 years but still lethal.

Facts : Without Ronaldo we...

I totally disagree with you about C Ronaldo having 30 to 40 minutes. Today top elite teams respect Portuguese team because of Ronaldo for he can cause damage when left unmarked. He may be 36 years but still lethal.

Facts : Without Ronaldo we would have not won against Republic of Ireland two headers thats all was required from the world class player to win the match.

Do you have better player than Ronaldo?

The match against Azerbaijan a 112 ranked team, top flight Portuguese players playing for top clubs where not to the bench mark. Bruno Fernandes, Jota, Andre Silva could not penetrate the Azerbaijan defence in the penalty area and you are satisfied with the team.

The counter attacking was awful or non existence.

Bernand Silva, Moutinho was all over the field and not forgetting Paulinha was at his best helping to get back the ball and not forgetting PEPE.

Santos, should try pairing Paulinha with PEPE at the central defence,

PEPE & RICARDO CARVALHO WHERE the defensive midfilder before settling as a CB

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Bro, not trying to be rude here, but there's so much here that I'm shaking my head at, I don't even know where to begin....

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@Jp

I understand that bringing up people who aren’t ready isn’t exactly the answer. My problem is this has been going on for almost 5 years now. It boggles mind how this is such a glaring hole and need on the team. Look it, just as an example ...

@Jp

I understand that bringing up people who aren’t ready isn’t exactly the answer. My problem is this has been going on for almost 5 years now. It boggles mind how this is such a glaring hole and need on the team. Look it, just as an example when you have a front 3 with Jota, Ronaldo and Bernardo. You have no real threat individually on the wings when we have the ball because Jota can’t dribble past defenders 1 v 1(Guedes can’t either) and Bernardo can dribble but he doesn’t have another gear to accelerate past defenders and he’s relatively weak strength wise. So all that leads to is passing the ball backwards to our midfielders.

When we play great teams and we’re pinned back defensively, the problem we run into is when we win the ball back, our only outlet ball to the outsides are to guys who can’t dribble or guys who are slow. Ronaldo and Andre Silva aren’t exactly track stats either. If we play against shitty teams like Azerbaijan then it doesn’t matter that much because eventually we should score because we’re simply that much better than them.

When you have guys on the wing that are fast and skilled, that’s a huge advantage when you have the ball and teams park the bus, look at Cancelo yesterday for example. Our best attackers on the team shouldn’t be right wing backs. At this point if Santos isn’t willing to call up some of our dynamic players from the U-21s then I’d rather see Semedo or Ricardo play right back and let Cancelo play up top in that right wing spot instead of Bernardo or Trincao.

The argument to not call up younger players always seemed a little silly to me, when you’re 20-21 and you play on one of the top club teams in any country then I think you’re ready to play against all of these shitty teams in the qualifying games. Let’s really think about this, take a guy like Jota(Celtic) or Conceicao for example, do you really think these kids aren’t ready to play against Azerbaijan, Qatar, Ireland, Luxembourg and Serbia? Come on, really….those countries are usually worse than what these kids play against every day. I understand that it’s easy for me to just say this and it might be harder than it looks but I don’t think it should be at all. Why call up Rafa and Guedes just because they’re older and more experienced if they’re not individually better than guys 5 years younger? Especially when these young guys offer us something we’re clearly missing? It doesn’t even have to be Jota or Conceicao, even Leao and Gelson are a much bigger threat than Guedes or Rafa.

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We do have that talent on the team... Cancelo, Guerrero, Mendes, Semedo,Dalot...and the list can continue.

The issue is winger has transformed into the wingback position to get ultimate width. Portugal has an abundance of talent to do what you...

We do have that talent on the team... Cancelo, Guerrero, Mendes, Semedo,Dalot...and the list can continue.

The issue is winger has transformed into the wingback position to get ultimate width. Portugal has an abundance of talent to do what you explain needs to be done we just don't have the mister who is willing to implement the changes.

There is also talent in the pipeline Neto, Trincao...etc.

It's not about the talent... It's a out the strategy and getting the best out of your players. You have arguably the most talents wingbacks as a group in the world. They can come at defenses with blazing speed and trickery as you suggest is needed.

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The answers are 343 and 352, but we'll never see that under Santos.

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