Brazil 0-0 Portugal (3-1 Brazil win on penalties)
Portugal bowed out of the 2015 U20 World Cup in New Zealand after losing on penalties against Rogerio Micale’s Brazil side at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton. After dominating for the majority of the 120 minutes, Hélio Sousa’s men could not find the back of the net, with Gelson Martins, Rony Lopes and André Silva all guilty of rued misses.
Penalties were the decider as the Portuguese youngsters were their own worst enemies, as was the case in normal and extra time, with Guzzo, Silva and Santos shying away from the spot light like a deer in headlights.
Andreas Pereira, captain Danilo and Gabriel Jesus did not shy away from the occasion, as Brazil look to reach the heights of heroes past and win the South American nation’s sixth Under 20 World Title.
A typically quick start
Portugal’s tendency to threaten early continued to be a staple against Brazil, expelling any doubts raised after a sub-par loss performance against the same side less than three weeks prior, with a Podstawski long ball setting up Nunes for a dangerous header. This was followed up by a whipped in Lopes free-kick that was punched away by Jean in a crowded penalty box.
Undoubtedly, Sousa had taken a lot from the sides’ last encounter, a preparation friendly in Sydney, where the Portuguese were overrun in the middle of the park, changing Portugal’s flexible 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation in favour of a lithe system based on a 4-4-2/4-3-3. With Podstawski and Estrela the two deepest lying midfielders, Chico Ramos and Rony, especially, were given greater freedom when going forward in between the lines, paying dividends as the latter found space on the right, playing in Gelson for the Sporting B winger to head over.
With every opportunity the Seleção das Quinas seemed to be getting that much closer to the opener, as a lovely cross on the left from Gelson set up André Silva for a header that bounced agonisingly wide of Jean’s post. Gelson continued to be the highlight reel of a busy an opening quarter of an hour, shooting from range but his shot was easily saved by the EC Bahia junior, Jean.
A scare for Portugal as Brazil look for a foothold
For all Portugal’s dominance, they were nearly 1-0 down 22 minutes in after skipper Danilo powered a header into the back of the net, only for the German official to have blown his whistle seconds earlier for an offensive foul on Estrela.
On the half-hour mark, Rafa would continue Portugal’s vein of ascendency, receiving a cross from Gelson. Taking it first time, the effort bounced and bobbled wide of the post. Brazil would follow up with an effort of their own, as Gabriel Jesus shot fiercely, but wide, from range.
The Canarinhos captain and much vaunted Braga midfield lynchpin Danilo looked to be the only answer to breaking the Portuguese resolve. Spreading and controlling the Brazilian play, the no.5 showed off his footwork with a nutmeg on Rafa, followed up by a skyed effort moments later.
A mini-revival from the South Americans did little to sway Portugal’s steadfastness, defending from the middle third and not conceding ground when not in possession, as Micale and co. struggled to muster opportunities that didn’t come from the deal ball, such as a Boschilia free-kick that was easily saved by Moreira.
Brazil had grown as the clock ticked on, although they could count themselves lucky not be to down by a goal or two, and possession would read 50-50 as the whistle blew for half time.
Sousa plays his hand
The second half started with a change in personnel for Micale’s side, with the underwhelming Real Madrid junior Jean Carlos making way for Red Devil wonder kid Andrea Pereira, who was cautioned two minutes later.
In a largely uneventful opening 10 minutes, Brazil were the first to cause a ripple in an otherwise settled pool, as Gabriel’s shot was deflected out for a corner by Nunes, only for the ensuing set piece to end in Moreira firmly grasping onto the ball.
By the hour-mark the Brazilians began to take the tie by the scruff of the neck, as fruitless, ineffective possession in the final third began to turn into incisive runs and passes. A dangerous João Pedro centre was cut out valiantly by Nunes, before Gabriel’s protests for a penalty were justly waved away a minute later.
With Sousa sensing a changing of the tide, he reverted to the tried and trusted system that had gotten his charges to the quarter-final, a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 system, as the solid Estrela made way for super-sub (and more recently super-starter for that matter), Nuno Santos.
An immediate impact was evident, and the Portuguese looked more lucid in attack as the Hamilton wind was gathering behind their sails. Santos looked lively, not restricting himself to the left-wing as he dropped deeper to begin attacking forays. Rony Lopes reverted back to a more accustomed No.10 role with Portugal’s attacking trident ahead of him, floating in behind.
Complete and utter dominance
A Gelson effort that deflected off Brazilian defender Marlon was the start of a series of Portuguese chances that tightened their stronghold over the affair. Moments later, another rued miss would fall to André Silva, whose inability to muster enough power and precision from a header would see his effort go wide, stemming from a teasing Gelson cross who had received a cross-field pass from Santos.
Nuno Santos continued to exhibit his trademark crossing from the left with Gelson his recipient, coupled with fine combination-play between Rony and the Sporting winger on the right, as Sousa’s soldiers continued to force the subject.
Taking up his mantle from the first-half, Gelson forced a fine save out of Jean at the near post, with the ensuing corner ending with Domingos Duarte heading agonisingly wide.
In the 85th minute Rony Lopes could only chuckle and shake his head as Portugal could not break the deadlock. In a period of twenty minutes of complete dominance, not even a sumptuous André Silva cross and subsequent Rony shot on the half-volley could guarantee a spot in the final four, as it ricocheted off Jean’s left-hand post.
With stoppage time left, Portugal began to find even more space behind the Brazilian back four as Micale prayed for the whistle. Both Santos and Silva found themselves bearing down on goal, only to find last ditch effort save Brazil from their blushes.
Chance after chance after chance with nothing to show for it
Micale’s charges looked to be low on gas after 90 minutes, and with Sousa still to play two substitutes, and countless Portuguese aces up his sleeve; a fiery thirty minutes was expected. Nonetheless, the ever-consistent and impressive Raphael Guzzo was thrown into the foray for Ramos’ tired legs.
But, it would be the Brazilians that would start extra-time the stronger after a dangerous cross from the left was hurriedly cleared from Rafa for a corner. Five minutes later, Portugal would respond with arguably the chance of the game. Substitute Guzzo played a lovely ball into the box having anticipated Rony’s run. Perfectly choreographed until the finish, the Brazilian-born Manchester City youngster headed wide when one-on-one with Jean when it would’ve been easier to score.
The first half of extra-time would end with another golden Portuguese opportunity, as Gelson was found all by himself in front of goal, only to blast wide as their hopesof avoiding the lottery that is penalties were dashed.
The start of the second-half was earmarked by open, dangerous attacking forays. Both sides had their opportunities in the first 10 minutes, as Silva, Guzzo, Lopes, Jajá and Gabriel Jesus all had a bite at the cherry, with both Moreira and Jean equal to the task. For all their huff and puff, neither side were able to break the deadlock as the legs that had carried them to that point fell from underneath them in extra-time.
Penalties to come.
A lottery that should have never happened
Manchester United youngster Andreas Pereira was first to step up and buried it expertly, leaving Moreira with no chance having guessed the right way.
Rony Lopes would take Portugal’s first spot-kick with all the pressure on his shoulders in the red of Portugal against the country of his birth. 1-1. His duck had been broken.
Next was Lucão. The São Paulo defender looked unsure as soon as he placed the ball on the spot. A poorly taken penalty would see his effort go wide, opening the door for Portugal. It wasn’t to be. Guzzo, who had impressed thoroughly throughout this summer’s tournament, failed to capitalise, stupidly attempting a Panenka that Jean was more than ready for.
Captain Danilo showed his mettle, leaving Moreira to watch his effort blast into the back of the net and the weight of expectation was back on Portugal with André Silva looking to respond.
Portugal was shaken, and it was telling when the Porto B striker blasted his shot agonisingly wide when Jean had dived the wrong way.
Gabriel Jesus put Brazil in an almost insurmountable position, placing his effort in the bottom left-hand corner as Moreira was just a fraction late in meeting his invitation.
It would be Nuno Santos, Portugal’s saviour on countless occasions up to that point, to keep his side’s chances alive… but history would not repeat itself.
3-1 to Brazil.
Portugal were the better side over 120 minutes against an esteemed Brazilian team that will arguably be lifting the trophy in less than a week. For all of their dominance in a tournament that was touted as the platform of Portugal’s next Golden Generation, there will be no fairy tale. Nonetheless, Sousa’s charges will take a lot from the experience, and the undoubted quality of a side that will bring much joy for Lusos around the globe in years to come cannot be written off by abysmal penalty taking.
Watch this space.
Watch match highlights
Brazil: Jean; João Pedro, Lucão, Marlon, Jorge (Caju 85’); Danilo, Guilherme, Boschilia (Malcom 76’); Jean Carlos (Andreas Pereira 46’), Gabriel Jesus &Jajá
Portugal: André Moreira;Riquicho, Domingos Duarte, João Nunes, Rafa; Chico Ramos (Guzzo 91’), Podstawski, Estrela (Nuno Santos 68’); Rony Lopes,André Silva& Gelson Martins (Ivo Rodrigues 114’)
[1-0] Andreas Pereira
[1-1] Rony Lopes
[3-1] Gabriel Jesus
By Mitchell Rua