Portugal 0-1 Albania

The Seleçao began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign at the Estadio Municipal de Aveiro with a miserable defeat to lowly Albania. With Cristiano Ronaldo sidelined due to injury, Portugal once again failed to prove that their coherency as a team doesn't depend solely on their illustrious talisman.

Despite all of the new faces in the Portuguese side, Paulo Bento stayed true to form by choosing a relatively familiar starting eleven with Nani and Vieirinha on the wings, and Éder at striker. André Gomes was preferred in the holding central midfield role over Raul Meireles while Ricardo Costa deputised for the injured Bruno Alves. Nani was named Portugal's captain in Ronaldo's absence.

As many would have expected, the Seleção looked disjointed and noncommittal as to how they should attack the Albanian defense. The visitors meanwhile seemed content to allow Portugal to play innocuous passes across the middle of the park. 

Portugal earned a free kick on the right wing in the 6th minute that was driven in by Nani. The keeper's hesitancy allowed Vierinha to steal in but the ball deflected off his thigh and out for a goal kick.

Moutinho set up Nani with a better chance in the 13th minute when his throughball found the Sporting winger in space, but his shot was dragged wide left. The Albanians, to their credit, were unwilling to allow Portugal enough space to create many chances, and the Seleção laboured in possession throughout the opening half of the match.

Moutinho looked the most likely to break down the stubborn and physical Albanian defense, but without the raw speed and power of Ronaldo on the end of his passes, the decisive end product eluded Portugal. In fact, Patrício was called into action at the end of the half to snuff out a low cross from the right that threatened to find its way to well positioned Albanian attackers.  

Pepe probably should have placed his header on target in stoppage time after another free kick from Nani, but the 0-0 halftime scoreline was fully representative of the match at large.

Second-half changes

Paulo Bento brought on Ivan Cavaleiro in place of Vieirinha to start the second half, but it was the Albanians who eventually did what Portugal could not. A wonderful cross from Amir Abrashi was finished beautifully on the volley by an unmarked Bekim Balaj, a move of shocking simplicity and exquisite skill. Bento's reaction was to immediately bring on young Ricardo Horta in place of William Carvalho. 

Portugal continued to press the tempo but were unable to create clear opportunities. The crowd, quieted all night by Portugal's ineffectiveness, grew more and more discontent with boos and whistles heard in increasing frequency. 

Coentrão drove in a low shot across the face of goal in the 63rd minute, but it was well wide of target. Minutes later, Nani's tame shot was gathered by the Albanian keeper. But Portugal were slowly growing in their attacking threat, and the hosts struck the woodwork after a free kick from Nani was deflected into the path of Ricardo Horta. His curling shot struck the angle of the goal and came back out to Pepe who smashed the ball into the stands.

Miguel Veloso came on in the 73rd for Ricardo Costa. Coentrão tied his marker in knots and sent in a wonderful cross that found Nani's late run, but the Sporting winger misplaced his header when it seemed easier to hit the target. 

Coentrão had another shot on goal in the 87th minute that was blocked with some difficulty by the Albanian keeper. André Gomes drew an even better save from the visiting shot-stopper when his attempt from outside the penalty area was tipped over a minute later.

Abject defeat

In the end, Portugal fans mockingly waved white handkerchiefs as the Seleção finished the match as poorly as they started it. The defeat, perhaps not entirely shocking due to the absence of Ronaldo, was marked by all the familiar signs of distress for Portugal: profligacy in front of goal, lethargic movement, lack of defensive commitment, and uninspiring fan support.

Portugal's young players, such as Horta and Cavaleiro, failed to turn the tide in a match that the Seleção never really settled into. Albania, meanwhile, earned their first ever victory over Portugal in a competitive match.

Bento will need to rebuild his side's confidence and hope to have Ronaldo back next month when the Seleção travel to Copenhagen to face Denmark.

by Nathan Motz

 

Portugal:

Rui Patrício, João Pereira, Ricardo Costa (Miguel Veloso, 73’), Pepe, Fábio Coentrão, William Carvalho (Ricardo Horta, 56’), André Gomes, João Moutinho, Nani, Éder, Vieirinha (Ivan Cavaleiro, 46’)

Albania:

Berisha, Hysaj, Cana, Mavraj, Agolli, Xhaka, Kukeli (Kaçe, 65’), Abrashi, Lenjani (Lila, 73’), Roshi, Balaj (Cikalleshi, 81’)

 

Goals:

[0-1] Balaj, 52’

Comments (60)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

What else can be said that hasn't been said? Nani- selfish, and useless, doesn't get subbed. Instead Vierinha does. Bento out.

Brian
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Get rid of Bento and get rid of the FPF, they can't learn from their own mistakes. They're basically repeating the same mistakes they did with Quieroz.

Joao
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Why on Earth has the federation kept the faith with Bento? He is a horrible coach in every sense of the term. He cannot motivate his players, he is loyal to a fault to players who have no business playing this level, he has not once ounce of...

Why on Earth has the federation kept the faith with Bento? He is a horrible coach in every sense of the term. He cannot motivate his players, he is loyal to a fault to players who have no business playing this level, he has not once ounce of tactical awareness and he cannot select players. He is out coached by his counter parts every single time. What more does the FPF need to see that this guy is complete an utter garbage. It's inexcusable that Portugal lose to Albania at home, full stop, period, !!!! He has no redeeming qualities and quite honestly, I'd be surprised if he is ever able to find work after he's canned or resigns from the Selecao.

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MReis
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We lost to Albania.. friggin Albania! infront of our own crowd. Let that sink in.. FPF.

SupremoGino
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Embarassing performance from Portugal, but it's no more a surprise with Paulo Bento as a coach. Portugal willi qualify 100%, but a change is needed.

Simon (Italy)
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The midfield was too stretched near the end of the game. The only thing Moutinho or Gomes could was cross to the other side of the field. There was almost no dangerous play and quick passing between players. Cross after useless cross went to the...

The midfield was too stretched near the end of the game. The only thing Moutinho or Gomes could was cross to the other side of the field. There was almost no dangerous play and quick passing between players. Cross after useless cross went to the box. Portugal's most dangerous attempts were one by Cavaleiro, who got a corner, two by Gomes with a one-two-pass and a long distance shot, one by Nani with a horrible header, one by Coentrao which went incredibly wide, and Horta's shot that hit the post. Other than those six attempts for the whole game, Portugal posed no attacking threat.

I think this 4-3-3 just isn't working anymore. When we had Figo, Deco, etc. there were so many scoring options. Now all the goals come from Ronaldo. I think Portugal should move to a 4-1-2-1-2, with Carvalho, Gomes, Adrien, and Moutinho in the midfield, and Ronaldo as one of the two strikers.

Honestly, I wish to say goodbye to the following:

Joao Pereira. I didn't see a single good thing he did today.

Veloso. He didn't contribute at all to the game, and there are much better players.

Nani. Standing in place will not achieve anything.

Bento. You had a great run in Euro 2012 and you made the country proud. Time to move on.

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Chuck
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The good news is hopefully now the FPF can see how bad a coach Bento has become and get rid of him ASAP. Other than him getting fired immediately, I can not say anything positive. Of course to add insult to injury, he will probably stay on an we...

The good news is hopefully now the FPF can see how bad a coach Bento has become and get rid of him ASAP. Other than him getting fired immediately, I can not say anything positive. Of course to add insult to injury, he will probably stay on an we will barely qualify for the Euros, even that is only due to the fact they have just been expanded to 24 teams.

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Paulo
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What a disgrace. Bento should be replaced now. No coach should survive such a humiliation. Disgrace.

ze fresco
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So, Portugal lose at HOME to ALBANIA.

As if things couldn't have gotten any worse after the last campaign/tournament.

Bento is a selfish fool. He has no talent as a manager. No tactical acumen, no capacity to identify talent, or inspire his...

So, Portugal lose at HOME to ALBANIA.

As if things couldn't have gotten any worse after the last campaign/tournament.

Bento is a selfish fool. He has no talent as a manager. No tactical acumen, no capacity to identify talent, or inspire his players.

Yes, this is one of the worst squads on a long time, but they are performing way below expectations. Bento needs to take responsibility for that.

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Marco
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There is simply no excuse for such an inept, toothless, humiliating display against - with all due respect - a very, very average Albanian side. Sure, we were without Ronaldo, but losing at home to Albania is absolutely inexcusable given the...

There is simply no excuse for such an inept, toothless, humiliating display against - with all due respect - a very, very average Albanian side. Sure, we were without Ronaldo, but losing at home to Albania is absolutely inexcusable given the talent Bento has at his disposal. But to be honest, are we really all that surprised? Portugal has looked uninterested, disorganized, disjointed, and agonizingly predictable for quite some time now. Paulo Bento has proven time and time again that he is far too incompetent to manage the Portuguese national team, yet he continues to manage the Seleccao despite his constant failures. Our performances over the past two years have been nothing short of disgraceful. If this latest performance doesn't convince the FPF to fire Bento, nothing will.

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jon/usa
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“I hadn’t wanted to play Nani, as he hasn’t trained for a month, but he’s a champion and showed his quality with just a couple of moves. I trust that he can become an example for our younger players.”

Paolo Zanetti
(Venezia coach delighted with Nani after the Portuguese forward provides the assist for an equaliser as a late substitute on his debut) 

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