A sparkling first-half performance provided the platform for Portugal women to beat Vietnam 2-0 at the FIFA World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023.
The electric Telma Encarnação was the star of the show, scoring the opening goal and assisting Kika Nazareth as Portugal raced into a 2-0 lead.
The Seleção could and should have scored more, but will be happy to record a first ever World Cup win in convincing fashion.
Neto rings the changes
Portugal coach Francisco Neto completely renewed the team in relation to the opening match that ended in a 1-0 defeat against the Netherlands, making seven changes to the starting line-up.
Kika Nazareth was selected after fully recovering from injury, and striker Telma Encarnação was rewarded for her lively cameo against the Dutch with a start. Patrícia Morais, Lúcia Alves, Ana Seiça, Joana Marchão and Andreia Jacinto were also drafted into the initial XI.
Vietnam won a free kick out wide and a corner in the opening exchanges, but that proved an anomaly as Portugal soon clicked into gear and began to swamp their opponents with the ball rarely leaving the half of the pitch the Seleção were attacking.
In the 4th minute Jacinto and Jéssica Silva combined well, with the latter shooting wide. Moments later Kika Nazareth showed why she is such a highly-rated talent, collecting a pass from Jéssica Silva, spinning beautifully past her marker to create a shooting opportunity and hitting an effort over the bar with the outside of her right foot.
Encarnação makes history with superb opener
The Seleção were rewarded for their enterprising play with a lovely opening goal in the 7th minute. A flowing move released Lúcia Alves down the right flank, her inviting cross smashed into the net first-time on the run by Encarnação, scoring Portugal’s first ever goal at a World Cup.
Portugal continued to pour forward, Kika, Lúcia Alves, Jéssica and Andria Jacinto all going close to doubling the lead, and it was no surprise when Kika made it 2-0 midway through the first half.
Telma Encarnação was giving the Vietnamese defence a torrid time with her clever running, goal threat and link-up play and the Marítimo forward’s neat turn past her marker and pass released Kika. The Benfica forward produced a composed low finish past the Vietnam goalkeeper Kim Tran from the top of the box.
Minutes later Jéssica Silva missed a golden opportunity to score a third, losing her footing at the crucial moment. The Portugal No10 signalled to the bench to bring out a different set of boots with longer studs.
Encarnação had no such problems, the Madeira-born striker so close to scoring again, getting the better of two Vietnamese defenders and forcing Kim Tran into a sharp double save.
The Portuguese slowed down as half time approached, with Vietnam making a few tentative incursions towards the Seleção net, the sum product of which was a tame effort from distance by Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy that Patrícia Morais gathered comfortably.
Half-time, the Navegadoras 2-0 to the good and in full control.
The quality of Portugal’s play dropped in the second half, but the chances kept coming. In the 56th minute Encarnação shot over the bar from a sumptuous Jéssica cross.
Chances keep coming… and going
Vietnam had an enormous let-off soon afterwards as three times in quick succession the Seleção looked certain to score. Encarnação was put off by a defender as she was about to nod in another fine Jéssica cross, and from the resulting corner Jéssica and Kika peppered Kim Tran’s goal, the ball capriciously not entering the net.
Jéssica was convinced she had been brought down for a penalty, but the referee waved away her appeals.
A series of substitutions by both teams further disrupted the stop-start nature of the second half, but the chances kept coming for Portugal.
Joana Marchão’s cross-shot bounced off the bar and Carolina Mendes headed a whisker wide from a wonderful dinked vertical pass into the box by Ana Borges.
Andreia Norton had the final opportunity, forcing the overworked Kim Tran into another sharp save.
Analysis and what’s next
After all the hype in the build-up to the World Cup, Portugal’s opening display against the Netherlands proved a letdown, although the 1-1 draw between the Dutch and world champions USA earlier today perhaps puts that result into context.
Francisco Neto shook things up and the wholesale changes worked a treat, with an assertive Portugal bossing Vietnam throughout the 90 minutes, opening up the opposition defence at will and rock solid from the defensive point of view.
Telma Encarnação was outstanding and Nazareth lived up to her billing as a rising star of the women’s game. The complete dominance of the Seleção is shown by their final shot count of 29, although that statistic also shows an extremely low efficacy rate – a characteristic the Portuguese women seem to share with the men’s team.
Against USA, Portugal will have far fewer goal-scoring opportunities and must be more clinical to have a chance of pulling off a shock.
The Seleção will likely need a victory to make progress, which on the face of it is an almost impossible task. However, if Portugal reproduce the attacking verve shown in the first half today, they could make it uncomfortable for the reigning world champions.
by Tom Kundert
Portugal: Patrícia Morais, Lúcia Alves, Ana Borges, Carole Costa, Ana Seiça (Sílvia Rebelo, 90’), Joana Marchão, Andreia Jacinto (Ana Rute, 90’), Tatiana Pinto, Kika Nazareth (Andreia Norton, 69’), Jéssica Silva (Ana Capeta, 69’), Telma Encarnação (Carolina Mendes, 75’)
[1-0] Telma Encarnação, 9’
[2-0] Kika Nazareth, 21’