Portugal’s UEFA Nations League campaign ends in Braga after a 1-0 defeat to Spain

Portugal suffered a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Spain which allowed their Iberian neighbours to steal top spot and earn a place in the UEFA Nations League finals.

The Seleção created all the quality chances in Braga before a disastrous final 15 minutes saw them retreat into their own half.

In scenes almost identical to Portugal’s late capitulation to Serbia in the World Cup qualifiers, they sunk into their shell and eventually paid the price.

The killer blow came in the 88th minute when Álvaro Morata converted from close range, Ronaldo unable to save his side with the last chance in the match. PortuGOAL’s Matthew Marshall reports from the Quarry. 

Spain and Portugal are both fancied by many to go deep in the 2022 World Cup, with bets on the Iberian duo as enticing as a trip to the best uitbetalende online casino sites, so the match offered a good barometer as to how both sides are shaping up ahead of the tournament in Qatar. 

The Seleção came into the game on the back of a 4-0 thrashing of the Czech Republic on Saturday, while Spain had suprisingly lost at home to Switzerland on the same night. 


Spain going nowehere

Spain were justifying their reputation early on, monopolising possession for the sake of it and trying to bore the capacity crowd to sleep. Their first chance came from a João Cancelo turnover, Pablo Sarabia making space before seeing his shot blocked.

Nuno Mendes was enjoying plenty of the ball in Braga but on the rare occasions Portugal regained possession, they were unable sustain any serious spells of pressure.

Rúben Neves was first to force a save in the 25th minute, trying his luck from distance which called Unai Simón into action.

Hugo Guillamón was the first player booked after hacking down Ronaldo.

Bruno Fernandes was becoming increasingly involved, winning the ball and releasing Diogo Jota who stepped inside two defenders before forcing another save from Simón. The crowd then thought Fernandes had scored when his left footed shot from distance went into the side netting. 

Portugal 0-1 Spain match reaction

Portugal were sloppy in the lead up to half time, frequently giving the ball away in their own half with Spain unable to capitalise.

Sergio Busquets replaced Guillamón at the break which saw Rodri move into central defence.

Chances keep coming for Portugal

Portugal continued to create opportunities, Jota robbing Dani Carvajal and breaking clear before feeding Ronaldo who forced an important save from Simón. William saw his shot blocked as the Seleção continued to dominate, Carvaljal booked for preventing Jota breaking clear.

Carlos Soler blasted high and wide in the 56th minute, a rare effort from La Roja who were still unable to test Diogo Costa.

Luis Enrique shook things up in the 60th minute when he introduced Gavi, Pedri and Yeremi Pino for Soler, Koke and Sarabia. Still it was the hosts going closest with Busquets clearing Rúben Dias’ effort off the line.

Ronaldo was next to have an opportunity after Fernandes and Jota combined, but he took too long to shoot which was reflective of his impact throughout the game.

Here we go again...

Portugal slipped back into carelessly gifting the Spaniards possession in their own half. Bernardo Silva was replaced by João Mário as Nico Williams replaced Torres, Enrique’s fifth and final substitution.

Álvaro Morata finally forced Costa into a save in the 77th minute when the Portuguese shot stopper diverted his shot wide.

Spain were now entrenched inside Portugal’s half as Santos made two more substitutions, Vitinha and Rafael Leão coming on for William and Jota.

Santos continued to urge his players to get forward but they were sitting deeper and inviting more pressure, memories of the closing stages against Serbia coming flooding back.

Spain eventually unlocked the door in the 88th minute, a near replica of the way Aleksandar Mitrović crushed Portuguese supporters hearts in Lisbon. Carvajal’s cross to the back post found Williams, the 20-year-old heading the ball back into the danger area where Morata had couldn’t miss from a yard out.

Santos’ last throw of the dice was replacing Rúben Neves with João Félix. Portugal had once last change to salvage a draw, Cancelo releasing Ronaldo who couldn’t sqeeze the ball under Simón from a tight angle.

Deja Vu

There were obvious dangers before a ball was kicked in Braga, Portugal conceding a late goal in a 2-1 defeat against Serbia when a draw was enough to reach the World Cup.

With another draw required against Spain and the game tied throughout, there must have been many Seleção supporters fearing the worst and that’s exactly what happened.

All the circumstances were eerily similar. Santos pleaded for his players to press forward, but the exact opposite occurred with the nature of the goal almost identical.

Portugal 0-1 Spain player ratings 

Combination of factors at play

Fernando Santos waited until the 73rd minute when Bernardo Silva made way for João Mário, a player that was not going to streak forward and instill any fear in Spain’s defence.

William Carvalho, who had failed to make any real impact all evening, lasted until the 78th minute when he was replaced by Vitinha.

Cristiano Ronaldo, as he did in Prague when the game was won with 30 minutes remaining, played the full game and missed a chance to equalise with the last opportunity.

It’s sad to say, but it seems clear now that the record international goalscorer is half a step too slow in almost every situation, is frequently too late to get onside and can’t beat defenders for pace.

Santos tried to get a subtle message to his players before the game, saying “When we focus less on ourselves, not on egocentrism, thinking that we are the ones who are good, but with humility, knowing what we have to do, we are closer to winning.” 

The one bright spark on a dull evening was Nuno Mendes. The left-back had a monster game and shut down Ferran Torres, the 20-year-old now an undisputed starter ahead of Raphaël Guerreiro and Mário Rui.

Line Ups

Portugal (4-2-3-1): Diogo Costa - João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Danilo Pereira, Nuno Mendes - Rúben Neves (João Félix 89’), William Carvalho (Vitinha 79’) - Bernardo Silva (João Mário 73’), Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota (Rafael Leão 79’) - Cristiano Ronaldo

Unused substitutes: Rui Patrício, José Sá, Tiago Djaló, Diogo Dalot, Mário Rui, João Palhinha, Matheus Nunes, Ricardo Horta, Pedro Neto, Gonçalo Ramos

Head Coach: Fernando Santos

Spain (4-3-3): Unai Simón, Dani Carvajal, Hugo Guillamón (Sergio Busquets 46’), Pau Torres, José Gayà - Carlos Soler (Pedri 60’), Rodri, Koke (Gavi 60’) - Ferran Torres (Nico Williams 73’), Álvaro Morata, Pablo Sarabia (Yeremi Pino 61’)      

Unused substitutes: Robert Sánchez, David Raya, Diego Llorente, Jordi Alba, Marcos Llorente, Marco Asensio, Borja Iglesias

Head Coach: Luis Enrique


[0-1] - Álvaro Morata 88’