Portugal women rounded off an experimental international break with a 1-1 draw against Wales in front of a record crowd.
Coach Francisco Neto fielded a completely different 11 to the one that lost 2-1 to Japan on Friday as he makes his final preparations ahead of female Seleção’s first ever FIFA World Cup appearance in the summer.
Portugal limited Wales to very little in the way of clear-cut opportunities in the first half and went close to opening the scoring when Braga’s Ana Rute fired an effort from distance onto the post.
Encarnação hits spectacular opener
It was a moment of pure magic that opened the scoring for Portugal in the second half. Telma Encarnação received the ball on the right-hand side, cut inside on her left foot past defender Esther Morgan before rifling a tremendous shot from just outside the area into the bottom corner.
The introductions of Jéssica Silva and Tatiana Pinto in the 57th minute was a cause for applause as it meant both players had reached 100 caps for Portugal.
Wales pushed forward in search of an equaliser and in the 73rd minute they achieved parity. Silvia Rebelo’s clearance from a corner reached Rachel Rowe, who thumped home a stunning volley past Patrícia Morais.
The game finished 1-1 and rounded off an experimental international break where Francisco Neto was able to field 24 of the 25 players at his disposal and play two completely different starting XI’s.
Record attendance in Guimarães
Portugal once again smashed their attendance record just days after setting the previous record.
Before this international break, the record attendance for a Portugal Women’s match in Portugal was 5,595 spectators. The record was broken when 9,758 supporters turned out to watch the Seleção play Japan last week and now just four days later a new record of 11,055 spectators was set!
The successive new landmarks encapsulate just how quickly women’s football is growing in Portugal.
The outright record for a women’s football match in the country was set just a fortnight ago as 27,221 fans watched the Lisbon derby between Benfica and Sporting’s women’s teams at the Estádio da Luz.
The feel-good factor
There is an air of optimism and positivity surrounding the women’s national team and rightly so. They have qualified for their first FIFA Women’s World Cup; they are breaking attendance records with each passing match and the talent pool at Francisco Neto’s disposal is constantly getting deeper and filled with more quality.
He spoke to the FPF after the match about the good selection headaches he will have from now until the start of the World Cup in July.
“It’s going to be a tough task,” admitted Neto, when asked about the task of selecting the World Cup squad. “Our under-17s fought to qualify for the European Championship until the last game and our under-19s also fought hard.
“The Seleção is getting increasingly competitive, which means that I have an ever-increasing range of options. That, for me, is happiness, but it will also bring me some sleepless nights. This process will require a lot of proximity, a lot of monitoring, a lot of kilometres.”
Portugal have been drawn in a tough group at the FIFA Women’s World Cup alongside the favourites and current World Champions USA as well as Netherlands and Vietnam.
The tournament, held in Australia and New Zealand, kicks off on 20 July 2023.
By Aaron Barton