It was a tale of two halves at Stadium 974 as Portugal just barely scraped past Ghana with all three points intact.

It was Portugal in all of her melodramatic glory, much to the chagrin of legions of heartattack-prone supporters!

In what many supporters might describe as a thoroughly unconvincing team display, Seleção correspondent Nathan picks through the wreckage highlighting last night's key performers as well as those with the most to improve in the next match against Uruguay on Monday.

Starters

Diogo Costa - 4.5

Truthfully had very little to do in the first half, and did naught else but pick the ball out of his own net in the second half. Clearly flat-footed on the second goal as the cross was permitted to float in casually, a rather serious error in a tournament of this magnitude. But it got worse for him as he was extraordinarily lucky not to be punished by Iñaki Williams deep into stoppage time. When this is all over, Diogo needs to buy Rúben Dias and Danilo a beer for coming to his rescue. Will be interesting to see if Santos keeps faith in him.

João Cancelo - 5

It was all very average for João last night going forward and several times he was too easily bypassed on Portugal's right flank. Won some tackles and aerial challenges, but his passing was the worst among the back four and he seemed genuinely uncomfortable all evening. A shadow of his Manchester City self. Will Diogo Dalot get an opportunity to take over for him against Uruguay?

Danilo - 5

Even before he made mistakes contributing to both of Ghana's goals, Danilo looked as if the moment was just too much for him. He was very heavily involved, however, with the most touches of any Portugal player, and he also proved himself one of the few to regularly win aerial challenges against the physically robust Ghanaians. Ultimately, the only reason I have not rated him lower is because of his role in clearing the danger after Diogo Costa's blunder at the end of the match. Will be very surprised if Pepe does not take over from here.

Rúben Dias - 6

Kudos to Rúben for being the first on-scene to stop Iñaki Williams from scoring the equalizer, but when I say he was Portugal's best defender on the night I am only saying he did not commit any wholesale blunders. He was the most competent passer on the backline, but he does not exude that sense of control over a match like Pepe. Lots of room for improvement.

Raphael Guerreiro - 5.5

Beaten a few times by Ghana's speedy forwards and could have been a bit more alert to help his struggling centrebacks on occasion. It honestly looked as if he was not completely ready for this match and that is understandable because Nuno Mendes would surely have played if fit. Guerreiro passed the ball fairly well and even recorded a couple key passes including a peach of a cross for Ronaldo in the first half which should have resulted in a goal. 

 


 

Portugal 3-2 Ghana match report

 


 

Rúben Neves - 5.5

Portugal supporters have pleaded for Rúben to take over from the likes of William Carvalho and it was more of the same from him. Nothing special in defence, and nothing special in attack, and he just does not have the pace to break down counterattacks. He was probably Portugal's most anonymous player on the night - he made no big mistakes, but he made no overwhelming contributions either. 

Bruno Fernandes - 8, PortuGOAL.net Man of the Match

I have been very critical of Bruno but the last few matches he seems to have turned a corner. He recorded 94% passing - incredible by his standards - two assists, and what should have been a third when he split the defence open for Ronaldo in the first half. He never stopped running and was the only player who tried to warn Diogo Costa that Inaki Williams was behind him. In the midst of so much chaos, this is a performance which will hopefully inspire him to even greater achievement in the next few weeks.

Bernardo Silva - 6.5

Unsurprisingly Portugal's best passer on the night, but his lack of pace and strength showed against Ghana. He was Portugal's most relied-upon midfield outlet with 76 touches, and he made no glaring errors. Still, for a player of his quality it was a fairly muted performance.

Otávio - 6

The Porto man specialized in his utility role, making challenges and linking play. On this night it is a compliment to say he made no egregious mistakes, but he was fairly untidy with the ball and was the first player substituted by Fernando Santos. May also have picked up a knock.

João Félix - 7

He finally did what we really needed him to do: score a big goal when the rest of the team seemed out of ideas. Much of the criticism against him in this match seems to draw upon our past experiences with him. He did float in and out, but he does not have to be perfect for 90 minutes. Could he have passed better? Yes. Could he have influenced proceedings more? Also yes (only 44 touches). But keep in mind Portugal really need him to assert himself as a genuine threat and score clutch goals. He did that last night, finally. I look for him to have a big tournament if he continues in this vein of form. 

Cristiano Ronaldo - 6

As with other players, it was a complicated night for Portugal's leading figure. Should have scored at least once in the first half, saw a soft foul chalk off what would have been a really nice goal then got Portugal into the match when he kept his nerve and blasted a penalty beyond the Ghanaian keeper. Aside from all of that, he had the fewest touches of any starting player, passed poorly (79%) and was dispossessed multiple times. Near the end of the match he burst onto a pass out of midfield and showed he can still gallop when needed. Ronaldo was there for us last night, as ever, but he needs to play better or he should be substituted much earlier. 

 


 

Portugal 3-2 Ghana match reaction

 


 

Substitutes

William Carvalho - 6.5

William was William. He won challenges, recorded 93% passing and was genuinely competent. For as much criticism as he gets for being so lethargic, he is a better DM for Portugal than Neves, plain and simple. Hard to envision him not replacing Neves if Santos continues to ignore Pahlinha.

Rafael Leão - 7.5

Fans were screaming for him to come on and when he finally did it was glorious. Ghana were extremely narrow and compact and Leão just ate that up using his outstanding pace and finishing Bruno's layoff with a wonderful far-post effort to put the game out of reach. There remain questions about his decision-making and how to fit him into Portugal's tactical set-up, but he has that special-something other Portugal players do not have. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, he is hugely important to Portugal's tournament ambitions.

João Pahlinha - not rated

João Mário - not rated

Gonçalo Ramos - not rated

by Nathan Motz

 

Comments (27)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have no clue how you gave Ruben dias a higher rating than Danilo. He was absolutely shit, as usual. In fact, the 1st goal comes from the fact that his slow ass couldn't get to the ball nor the man, and allowed him to get off a cross which...

I have no clue how you gave Ruben dias a higher rating than Danilo. He was absolutely shit, as usual. In fact, the 1st goal comes from the fact that his slow ass couldn't get to the ball nor the man, and allowed him to get off a cross which unluckily went under Danilo's legs. I blame Ruben dias more for that goal than I do Danilo.

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Kadir Paulo
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Agreed. His inept play on their first goal definitely qualifies as a wholesale blunder.

BennyFromBrooklyn
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I think the ratings are more than fair. Well done Nathan. Though I think Joao Mario and Palhinha were positive in the little time they had.

I made this point in the match article and I stand by it. Individually we should expect a lot better from...

I think the ratings are more than fair. Well done Nathan. Though I think Joao Mario and Palhinha were positive in the little time they had.

I made this point in the match article and I stand by it. Individually we should expect a lot better from a lot of players, but when I think you have players of such quality consistently under performing as a collective, we have ask questions of Santos. He's had enough time to come up with something that works by now surely?

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Santos
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Looks like it's a Christmas gift to Joao Concelo -5 and Ruben Dias- 6. They don't deserve it. Nathan is too generous.

Neville
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Agreed.

Chris
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Fair enough but we can go round and round slating this player or that player or we can accept that most of these players are consistent for their clubs and then they come and play for Portugal and it's like we're seeing different players....

Fair enough but we can go round and round slating this player or that player or we can accept that most of these players are consistent for their clubs and then they come and play for Portugal and it's like we're seeing different players. Fernando Santos has had most of this squad together for 2 or 3 years and the couple of new faces like Leao or Diogo Costa should be improvements over what we had previously and yet collectively we just look poor. We don't look to have made any progress from the Euros last year and I have to ask, how much time does he need? When are we finally allowed to say that despite the incredible job he did at Euro 2016 (and it really was an amazing job when you consider where we were at the end of the Bento reign) he has not been able to recreate it since despite having a much better squad of players.

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Santos
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Agreed. On the other hand, an argument could be made that Dalot, Mendes, Antonio Silva and Pepe should be given a shot given what we saw from the first 3 against Nigeria and what Pepe could bring as the conductor for the youngsters. It could not...

Agreed. On the other hand, an argument could be made that Dalot, Mendes, Antonio Silva and Pepe should be given a shot given what we saw from the first 3 against Nigeria and what Pepe could bring as the conductor for the youngsters. It could not be worse than what we saw yesterday, could it?

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Nelson
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Absolutely but isn't it ridiculous we've arrived at the tournament and we have no idea what our best 11 is? I mean there will always be some debate about any 11 but we're not even close.

I agree Dalot was pushing for a start anyway, Pepe is...

Absolutely but isn't it ridiculous we've arrived at the tournament and we have no idea what our best 11 is? I mean there will always be some debate about any 11 but we're not even close.

I agree Dalot was pushing for a start anyway, Pepe is Pepe and Nuno Mendes probably is first choice but carrying a knock, so they could all come in. Let's just hope either way we're more solid vs Uruguay..

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Santos
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They were all pretty awful back there.

Nelson
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CR7 got only 2 passes on goal in the 1st half.
2nd half, he bought a penalty from experience.
Apart from that , he did not get any perfect pass.
Lastly, CR7 was actively involved in the run up to the 3rd goal.

Ghana had 3 central defenders,...

CR7 got only 2 passes on goal in the 1st half.
2nd half, he bought a penalty from experience.
Apart from that , he did not get any perfect pass.
Lastly, CR7 was actively involved in the run up to the 3rd goal.

Ghana had 3 central defenders, played compact football. Portugal lacked creativity in the attacking midfield for its sole striker. Even Richarlson of Brazil had the fewest touches but scored 2 goals because he got the supply.

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Peter
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João Cancelo - 5? that's a big number for his below-average performance. Both goals were orchestrated from the right side of J Cancelo. He was a generous player giving away the ball to Ghana time and again.

Rúben Dias - 6? No no no that's not...

João Cancelo - 5? that's a big number for his below-average performance. Both goals were orchestrated from the right side of J Cancelo. He was a generous player giving away the ball to Ghana time and again.

Rúben Dias - 6? No no no that's not right. he could not stamp his authority in the D. He was out run by Ghanian players and so Portugal conceived two goals.

João Félix - 7 should have been 7.5 to 8 he was great passer of the ball and a torn in Ghanian defence. Hope Simeone learns something from this game and the game against Nigeria, how to play J felix to get the best result. He is world class.

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Neville
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I think Cancelo play at Man City more of inner Midfielder. But at Portugal he plays wide that's why he struggle.

Tarini Prasad Sahoo
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I agree. He plays on the left and inverts into a deep midfielder. I think Portugal should use him that way.

Lou
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Nathan, I enjoy reading your content as always. My two cents:

Danilo was not good, but he at least tried. His performance was not good but was based on always pressing and trying to defend, unlike Ruben Dias who was completely anonymous out on...

Nathan, I enjoy reading your content as always. My two cents:

Danilo was not good, but he at least tried. His performance was not good but was based on always pressing and trying to defend, unlike Ruben Dias who was completely anonymous out on the pitch. For me, Dias gets a 2. He was abysmal.

Second point:
Why no rating for the manager? I think it's only fair he get a big fat zero as per usual. No ideas, no gameplan, no strategic substitutes until after 80 minutes.

I mean, he's a nice man but he's absolutely useless as a manager for this group of players. There is no defending shambolic displays of football like what we saw yesterday.

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Chris
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Cancelo and Dias both very poor, deserved lower ratings. Surely,the two centre backs who are facing the goalkeeper have to alert him about the player behind him (they were actually pretty close). Pinning blame entirely on Diogo for that mistake...

Cancelo and Dias both very poor, deserved lower ratings. Surely,the two centre backs who are facing the goalkeeper have to alert him about the player behind him (they were actually pretty close). Pinning blame entirely on Diogo for that mistake unjustified.

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David
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Bruno, Dias and Danilo all shouted and pointed. It's obviously a bad error to make but I don't think he will make it again any time soon. Just glad we got away with it. I would keep faith with Diogo personally.

Santos
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I wouldn't be surprised to see Santos make sweeping changes for the Uruguay game, especially across the back line. Pepe and Nuno Mendes should return but I also wouldn't be surprised to see Dalot get the nod at right back.

I also felt Neves was...

I wouldn't be surprised to see Santos make sweeping changes for the Uruguay game, especially across the back line. Pepe and Nuno Mendes should return but I also wouldn't be surprised to see Dalot get the nod at right back.

I also felt Neves was a bit to light weight in many of the 50-50 disputes he had. William is perhaps the more solid alternative, but I wouldn't sleep on Palhinha either. The Fulham man may lack what the others possess on the ball, but he's by some distance the best destroyer we have on our squad.

Felix definitely earned himself a start with this performance. Took his goal really well, created the penalty with a trademark flicked pass, and made the slide tackle that led to the Leão goal.

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jon/usa
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I recognise that Neves has quality, but he has no intensity and in my view is not defensively sound. I think ultimately there's a reason he is still at Wolves despite always being linked to bigger clubs. Palhinha would give more guarantees. Post...

I recognise that Neves has quality, but he has no intensity and in my view is not defensively sound. I think ultimately there's a reason he is still at Wolves despite always being linked to bigger clubs. Palhinha would give more guarantees. Post WC I would be looking at Florentino.

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Santos
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Portugal don’t do much tactical training in closing spaces or counter pressing, off course he will struggle and so will Palinha, the only option left means playing the most secure players with the ball & decent workrate plus the speed of Leao is...

Portugal don’t do much tactical training in closing spaces or counter pressing, off course he will struggle and so will Palinha, the only option left means playing the most secure players with the ball & decent workrate plus the speed of Leao is needed to stretch the game

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Ali
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António Silva, Pepe and Vitinha to replace Danilo, Ruben Dias and Ruben Neves.

Benjamim Floro
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Can't argue with that. Especially the first part... if Pepe is fit enough he's exactly who I want next to Silva... its a passing of the torch and the best insurance that our last line of defense has some experience and youth (though at the two...

Can't argue with that. Especially the first part... if Pepe is fit enough he's exactly who I want next to Silva... its a passing of the torch and the best insurance that our last line of defense has some experience and youth (though at the two extremes lol)

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Nelson
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Maybe Santos could have done more to develop the CBs but he did call up Silva which he deserves credit. It is not his fault Dias is limited and is more of an organizer and Cancelo is a reckless disaster only surpassed by Semedo's (should never...

Maybe Santos could have done more to develop the CBs but he did call up Silva which he deserves credit. It is not his fault Dias is limited and is more of an organizer and Cancelo is a reckless disaster only surpassed by Semedo's (should never wear a Portugal shirt again) inept performances at Wolves.

I personally am a fan of Danilo as he brings attributes like a motor and pressing to defending as a CB or DM. I think he is still valuable and don't fault him for the goals as he was in recovery mode after others failed. He had to cover for Cancelo and Dias.
Any center back combo with Dias in the back will come up short, I look at some past great combos like Andrade/Carvalho and Bruno Alves with Pepe combo would surpass any combo with Dias. Dias is the problem not sure we can replace him at this point. Asking a lot for a 40 year old Pepe or young Silva to cover for Dias. After this WC we need to look at removing Dias and develop better options.

What Santos can control is getting Dalot who is a bit more grounded but still prone to errors for Cancelo. Bring Nuno Mendes back from injury. Bring back Pepe or keep Danilo with Dias. No matter what you need to strengthen what is in front of the CBs.

IMO and it seems to be a common theme Neves is NOT THE ANSWER and is out of consideration. He is slow and not physical to be a destroyer in DM especially playing in front of Dias to protect him and cover for the inept Cancelo. William is back in the picture or Pahlinha.

I think need to go with the double pivot try to get something to transition the play from the back from one of the two. I'm inclined to go William with Pahlinha. This is where having Sanches would have helped but maybe slide Nunes or try Octavio to combo with one of them. Anyone is a improvement to Neves.I don't think the double pivot is the problem it has to do more with the quality of players playing the role.

After going with a more double pivot approach rely on your front 4 with Bruno in CM to counter and score. This provides our best chance as we move through the tournament given the players and their attributes.

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Tony
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