It’s crunch time in the Confederations Cup as Portugal face Chile in the first semi-final at the Kazan Arena. Portugal have steadily improved throughout the tournament and appear in good shape, Chile advancing to the knockout rounds after a laborious 1-1 draw against a spirited Australian side in Moscow.
Arguably the two best teams in the competition, much is at stake as the winners will be favoured to lift the trophy in Saint Petersburg on Sunday. PortuGOAL in association with The Beautiful Game provide an audio and written preview of the match.
Matthew Marshall and Tom Kundert had a chat looking forward to the game. Listen to the podcast here.
How they got here – Portugal
Portugal created the better chances against Mexico in their opening match, but were largely on the back foot due to an unwillingness to put any pressure on El Tri in their own half and Mexico’s high press. Héctor Moreno’s stoppage time equaliser hurt, but 2-2 was a fair result as questions were asked about Santos’ team selection and tactics.
The Portuguese manager responded by making four changes to the line-up against Russia, the three Silva’s all starting and Bruno Alves replacing Jose Fonte. The fluid 4-4-2 allowed Bernardo Silva to replicate his Monaco form from the right wing, Portugal working hard late on to secure the 1-0 victory despite Russia failing to get a single shot on target.
The Seleção took time to get going against New Zealand, but two quick goals before half time ended the contest. Santos made five changes, Ricardo Quaresma and João Moutinho restored with Danilo Pereira, Nélson Semedo and Eliseu getting their first starts in the tournament. It was a mismatch on paper and so it proved in a comfortable 4-0 victory.
How they got here – Chile
Chile dominated Cameroon and were unlucky not to score in the first half, La Roja eventually getting the job done as Alexis Sanchez came off the bench to set up Arturo Vidal in the 81st minute, Eduardo Vargas sealing the deal late on.
Chile got off to a great start against Germany, pouncing on a defensive mistake as Vidal set up to Sanchez who scored his 38th international goal that made him the top-scoring Chilean of all time. Vargas smacked the bar before Germany equalised before half time. Both teams appeared to take few risks and settle for a draw which virtually ensured safe passage to the semi-finals.
Australia were expected to be swept aside by Chile but the Socceroos were not about to roll over, playing aggressive football and taking the lead before half time. With their tournament in jeopardy and Australia unable to take their chances, substitute Martín Rodríguez equalised in the 67th minute as the match ended 1-1.
The Confederations Cup has often been criticised as an unnecessary strain on players who require sufficient rest after a long and arduous season. Germany have twice declined to participate and sent an experimental side to Russia, but Portugal and Chile clearly approached this tournament with the intention of lifting the trophy.
With games occurring every 3-4 days, Portugal have been able to rotate their squad with the fixtures and opposition being kind in that respect. Santos has given every outfield player a run except Neto, with Ronaldo substituted in the 67th minute against New Zealand. One vital factor is that Portugal have an extra day to rest.
Chile’s high-energy style of play won’t make matters any easier for the South Americans. Defenders Gonzalo Jara, Mauricio Isla and midfield maestro Arturo Vidal have played every minute thus far, while Alexis Sanchez was forced to work hard against Australia.
Pepe is suspended for the semi-final with José Fonte likely to be recalled. Cédric Soares was back in training on Monday after sitting out the New Zealand game, but Raphaël Guerreiro (left-ankle bruising) and Eliseu (illness) didn’t train.
If Eliseu can’t take the field, Nélson Semedo is likely to switch to the left-back position. Bernardo Silva was also absent from training but assured his supporters through twitter that everything is fine with his ankle. Seleção supporters will be hoping all is well after being replaced at half time against New Zealand.
Ronaldo will partner André Silva up front while Santos has multiple options in midfield. William Carvalho is likely to come back into the holding midfield role with André Gomes and Adrien Silva completing a solid midfield. Ricardo Quaresma has been brilliant thus far but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.
Thanks a lot for all your support messages. Everything is fine with my ankle ⯑⯑
Thanks a lot for all your support messages. Everything is fine with my ankle ⯑⯑— Bernardo Silva (@BernardoCSilva) June 25, 2017
Juan Antonio Pizzi has no suspensions or major injury concerns to contend with. Claudio Bravo got his first start against Australia, playing well despite a risky pass leading to Australia’s goal which was reminiscent of some of his howlers for Manchester City last season.
José Fuenzalida has offered little thus far and is unlikely to start, while Marcelo Díaz should return to his holding midfield role. Eduardo Vargas has looked dangerous up front and is unlucky to have just the one goal to his name, hitting the post on two occasions and having a goal disallowed by the VAR.
Danger man – Portugal
The man that needs no introduction. Cristiano Ronaldo played a vital role in both goals against Mexico, scored the winner against Russia and started against New Zealand, opening the scoring from the penalty spot. He could have easily had a hat-trick with two headers denied by the crossbar and Marinovic in goal.
His appetite for goals and records knows no bounds. Ronaldo picked up his third consecutive Man of the Match award of the tournament against New Zealand and scored his 75th international goal. Portugal’s altered formation allows Ronaldo less toiling down the channels, an increased presence in a central role which benefits his endurance and goal scoring opportunities.
Danger man – Chile
It’s a toss-up between Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez for Chile’s danger man, but the award goes to the current Arsenal forward. Sanchez become Chile’s all time top scorer against Germany and is a constant threat for opposition defences with his pace, skill and invention.
His movement across the front line, creativity and willingness to drop deep to initiate attacks makes him very difficult to contain. Australia did as well as they could to neutralise his threat, Portugal will need to devise a way to stop him if they are to be successful.
What to expect
Portugal are growing into this tournament and possess the one and only Cristiano Ronaldo. Bernardo and André Silva are future stars for the Seleção and will play important roles in this match. Pepe is a big loss with his likely replacement José Fonte uninspiring against Mexico.
Mexico troubled Portugal with high tempo, high press tactics which is also Chile’s forte, but La Roja have clearly shown an inability to maintain the energy required to persist with it. As the matches have come thick and fast, a day’s less rest and fatigue is a definite worry for the South Americans.
Australia gave Chile a physical game with frequent, heavy fouls which would have left some of their players battered and bruised. Sanchez and Vidal have expended a lot of energy thus far which could affect them in the concluding stages of the match.
By Matthew Marshall (Twitter: @noobzcorp)