Francisco Conceição scores late as Portugal beat Czech Republic 2-1 at Euro 2024

Portugal got off to a winning start at the 2024 UEFA European Championship after earning a last gasp 2-1 victory against Czech Republic.

The Seleção were the superior side in Leipzig but couldn’t make it count, finding themselves behind in the 62nd minute when Lukás Provod scored from long range.

The equaliser came seven minutes later after some good fortune. Nuno Mendes headed Vitinha’s cross into the danger zone, Jindrich Staněk’s save diverted into Robin Hranáč and into the net.

Portugal had a goal ruled out for offside before Roberto Martínez made three substitutions in the 90th minute. It paid off and then some.

Pedro Neto beat his man and sent a dangerous cross into the box, Hranáč unable to clear the ball which was slammed home by Francisco Conceição.

Portugal dominate

Portugal exerted their authority early on, Cristiano Ronaldo heading Rafael Leão’s cross wide and another dangerous cross from Leão cleared.

The Seleção failed to convert their dominance into clear cut chances as Nuno Mendes and Rúben Dias tried their luck from distance, Bruno Fernandes’ shot deflected over the bar.

Czech Republic were struggling to get out of their own half, and when they did they produced horror passes that gifted Portugal possession. Vladimír Coufal’s loose pass was picked up by Bernardo Silva who released Fernandes, his cross narrowly evading Leão.

The quality of chances began to improve for Roberto Martínez’s side, Fernandes’ pinpoint pass sending Ronaldo through on goal where Jindrich Staněk made a strong save. Ronaldo then turned provider for Vitinha who was denied by a determined defence.

Leão’s speed and trickery continued to give the Czech side problems, getting past Tomas Souček in the 39th minute before going down, referee Marco Guida not buying it and booking the winger for diving.

The final opportunity of the half fell for Ronaldo, his shot from a tight angle saved by Staněk.

The Seleção continued to turn the screw in the second half, Diogo Dalot and Bernardo firing over the bar before crosses started raining in the box. Patrik Schick’s clumsy challenge on Cancelo put Ronaldo in the spotlight, his free kick hit straight at Staněk. 

Related: Portugal 2-1 Czechia reflection: What to take away from Euros opener 

Related: Portugal 2-1 Czechia match reaction: “Today it was about resilience” – Roberto Martínez

Provod put Czech Republic ahead

Ivan Hašek had seen enough and went to his bench in the 60th minute when Schick and Jan Kuchta were replaced by Mojmír Chytil and Ondrej Lingr.

It proved to be a master stroke as his side enjoyed their best spell of the game and made it count two minutes later. A deep cross fell to Vladimír Coufal, the right-back laying the ball to Lukás Provod who hit a sweet strike that sailed through traffic and past Diogo Costa.

Roberto Martínez immediately made his move with Gonçalo Inácio and Diogo Jota replacing Diogo Dalot and Leão.

Own goal equaliser

The goal that Portugal had been waiting for eventually came in the 69th minute thanks to some good fortune. Nuno Mendes headed Vitinha’s deep cross into the danger area, Staněk unable to catch the ball that rebounded off Robin Hranáč and into the net.

The Czech goalkeeper was becoming busy, stopping Bernardo’s effort before tipping Vitinha’s shot wide.

Hašek tried to turn the tide from the bench with Pavel Šulc and Lukás Provod making way for Petr Sevcík and Antonín Barák. Once again the changes had an instant impact, Sevcík’s shot blocked and Souček sending the follow up effort wide.

Portugal regained control and put the ball in the back of the net when Ronaldo headed Bernardo Silva’s cross off the post, Diogo Jota converting the rebound before celebrations were cut short when the VAR ruled Ronaldo narrowly offside.

Conceição the hero

Martínez’s last throw of the dice came in the 90th minute when Nélson Semedo, Pedro Neto and Francisco Conceição came on for Mendes, Cancelo and Vitinha.

It proved to be a master stroke with two of the substitutes combining for the winning goal a minute later. Neto did well to beat his man and drive into the box, his cross forcing a way through Hranáč which allowed Francisco Conceição to pounce and score from close range.

Better late than never

Portugal survived a scare and eventually prevailed in a match they dominated from start to finish. Czech Republic scored a great goal with their only shot on target, Diogo Costa largely a bystander.

The Seleção bossed the ball with 74% possession, 13-0 corners and 8-1 shots on target. There were plenty of positives to take away despite the winner coming in added time.

Vitinha had a strong game and was named man of the match. Pepe and Nuno Mendes played the full 90 minutes which will be valuable moving forward.

It was a great moment for Francisco Conceição, the youngster scoring after spending 111 seconds on the pitch, becoming first Portugal player to score as a substitute at a European Championship after Éder in the Euro 2016 final.

Mendes surprise

Roberto Martínez surprised many by starting João Cancelo, Diogo Dalot and Nuno Mendes for the first time. Mendes began on the left side of a back three that featured 41-year-old Pepe in the heart of defence.

It was an unusual move from the manager who has had plenty of time to experiment during his 15 previous matches in charge. The tactics were designed to allow João Cancelo to continue moving infield, something that was required with Vitinha and Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

Fernandes emerged as the dominant force in the qualifiers, but his effectiveness is reduced without a dedicated holding midfielder doing the dirty work and allowing him more freedom to get forward, instigate and get involved in attacks.

It was a vital victory with plenty of room for improvement, Turkey the next opponents in Dortmund. Força!

By Matthew Marshall at Zentralstadion

Line Ups

Portugal (3-4-3): Diogo Costa - Rúben Dias, Pepe, Nuno Mendes (Pedro Neto 90’) - Diogo Dalot (Gonçalo Inácio 63’), Bruno Fernandes, Vitinha (Francisco Conceição 90’), João Cancelo (Nélson Semedo 90’) - Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldzo, Rafael Leão (Diogo Jota 63’)

Unused substitutes: Rui Patrício, José Sá, António Silva, Danilo Pereira, João Palhinha, Rúben Neves, João Neves, Matheus Nunes, João Félix, Gonçalo Ramos

Coach: Roberto Martínez

Czech Republic (3-5-2): Jindrich Staněk - Robin Hranáč, Ladislav Krejčí, Tomas Holeš (Tomas Chorý 92’) - Vladimír Coufal, Lukas Provod (Antonín Barák 79’), Tomas Souček, Pavel Šulc (Petr Ševčík 79’), David Douděra - Patrik Schick (Mojmír Chytil 61’), Jan Kuchta (Ondrej Lingr 60’)

Unused substitutes: Matej Kovář, Vitezslav Jaroš, Martin Vitík, Tomas Vlček, David Zima, David Jurásek, Lukas Červ, Matej Jurásek, Vaclav Černý, Adam Hložek

Coach: Ivan Hašek


[0-1] Lukás Provod 62’

[1-1] Robin Hranác OG 69’

[2-1] Francisco Conceição 91’