Bruno Fernandes on fire as Portugal beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 in Lisbon

Portugal maintained their perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying with a third successive victory in Group J, beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-0 at Estádio da Luz.

The Seleção struggled to find space against the well-organised visitors, but eventually broke through on the stroke of half time when Bruno Fernandes assisted Bernardo Silva. 

Fernandes took over in the second half after being given more freedom to move forward, the playmaker scoring two goals as Portugal remain on track for a straightforward qualification to next summer's tournament in Germany.

Slow start

Bosnia and Herzegovina fired the first shot in Lisbon with Amir Hadžiahmetović’s effort sailing harmlessly wide. The visitors were proving hard to break down, their back three formation mirroring Portugal’s under Roberto Martínez.

João Félix was frequently dropping deep and Bruno Fernandes was searching for open space, but the Seleção were not able to create any attacking opportunities. Diogo Costa was called into action in the 22nd minute, Adrian Leon Barišić sending a cross/shot towards the top corner with Costa slapping it away from danger.

Portugal put the ball into the net a minute later when Ronaldo headed home a pinpoint cross from João Cancelo, his celebrations cut short after straying offside.

Bosnia and Herzegovina were more than content to wait for counter attacking opportunities and spurned a great chance in the 29th minute. Gojko Cimirot found Edin Džeko completely unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box, the 37-year-old striker volleying over the bar.

Portugal come to life

Félix finally tested Ibrahim Šehić in the 37th minute with the goalkeeper up to the task, Félix then taken out by Miralem Pjanić who was the first player booked.

Portugal maintained the pressure and opened the scoring in the 44th minute. Ronaldo started the move by finding Bruno Fernandes who produced a perfectly weighted through ball for Bernardo Silva, the Manchester City star effortlessly lifting the ball past Šehić.

Portugal started the second half well with Fernandes firing over the bar. Roberto Martínez made his first substitution in the 62nd minute when Rúben Neves replaced João Félix, the change resulting in Bruno Fernandes pushing higher up the pitch.

Bruno Fernandes takes over

Bosnia and Herzegovina were not threatening which saw Faruk Hadžibegić make two changes in the 72nd minute, Adrian Leon Barišić and Amir Hadžiahmetović making way for Benjamin Tahirović and Saïd Hamulić.

Fernandes’ shot was blocked by Siniša Saničanin but he didn’t have to wait long for another chance, doubling Portugal’s advantage in the 77th minute when he headed home Rúben Neves' perfect cross.

Martínez immediately replaced Raphaël Guerreiro with Nélson Semedo as Hadžibegić emptying his bench, Amar Dedić shot straight at Costa but the Seleção controlling proceedings.

Otávio and Diogo Jota replaced João Palhinha and Bernardo Silva late on, Ronaldo selflessly squaring the ball to Jota a minute later with the forward denied by Šehić.

Neves lost possession which gifted Hamulić the ball, the substitute firing a fierce strike at Costa who was up to the task, the keeper once again showing his ability to come to life after spending long spells unopposed.

There was still time for Fernandes to stamp some more authority on the match in added time which he did with aplomb. Saničanin headed the ball straight to the playmaker who took a touch with his chest before hitting a half-volley into the top corner, capping off an outstanding individual performance.

Work in progress

Portugal’s players are still adapting to a new formation and the new ideas imposed by Roberto Martínez. It’s going to take a lot of time before they hit their stride and play to their full potential.

The Seleção struggled to break through Bosnia and Herzegovina’s well organised and deep lying defence comprising three centre-backs, something we saw on many occasions under Fernando Santos.

After the comfortable victories against Liechtenstein and Luxembourg, Bosnia represented a step up in class which was evident in the opening 35 minutes. In the end we saw Portugal’s individual quality come to the fore, none more so than Bruno Fernandes.

Bruno Fernandes is the key 

Portugal were struggling to create overloads with Bosnia and Herzegovina getting players back in transition, particularly out wide to nullify the threats posed by Raphaël Guerreiro and João Cancelo.             

Bruno Fernandes was the key to providing a numerical advantage and getting into positions where his superb range of passing could send a teammate clear or into a goalscoring opportunity.

The breakthrough came in the 44th minute and it was no surprise to see Fernandes in the right place at the right time to receive Ronaldo’s pass, the playmaker's perfect pass putting the ball on a plate for Bernardo Silva.

Martínez’s decision to replace João Félix with Rúben Neves gave Fernandes even more freedom to get forward and impose himself on the game. He rewarded his manager by grabbing two goals to kill the game and cap off another man of the match performance.

Related: Roberto Martínez on man-of-the-moment Bruno Fernandes

I asked the Spanish tactician about Fernandes' impact on the match, to which he replied "He’s very intelligent. Every pass, every touch has got a thought behind it, and his understanding with other players creates ways of penetrating that is very difficult to defend against.

Today we were finding it difficult to get that penetration and I think Bruno Fernandes in a higher position and having the ability to play a bit longer in central areas was the reason to move him higher and bring in Rúben Neves. Bruno who was also the first one to apply pressure and give us strength in that central area.

I think the intelligence of Bruno Fernandes is of the highest, highest level - the football intelligence that he has. I don’t think it is a doubt that he makes players around him better."

Fernandes has been a shining star under Portugal’s new manager, his importance increasing in every game as Martínez gives him the clarity and freedom to do what he does best.

By Matthew Marshall at Estádio da Luz

Line Ups

Portugal 3-4-3: Diogo Costa, João Cancelo, António Silva, Rúben Dias, Danilo, Raphael Guerreiro (Nélson Semedo, 77'), João Palhinha (Diogo Jota, 87'), Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva (Otávio, 87'), Ronaldo, Félix (Rúben Neves, 62')

Unused substitutes: Rui Patrício, José Sá, Pepe, Gonçalo Inácio, Diogo Dalot, Vitinha, Ricardo Horta, Rafael Leão

Bosnia 3-5-2: Sehic, Ahmedhodzic, Sanicanin, Kolasinac, Barisic, Dedic, Cimirot, Hadziahmetovic, Pjanic, Dzeko, Stefanovic (Also played: Hamulic, Tahirovic, Varesanovic, Gazibegovic)

Unused substitutes: Menalo, Vasilj, Prevljak, Pirić, Kodro, Miličević, Bilbija


[1-0] Bernardo Silva, 44’

[2-0] Bruno Fernandes, 77'

[3-0] Bruno Fernandos, 90'