Portugal’s World Cup campaign continued yesterday with a 1-0 win over Morocco, eliminating their opponents in the process and giving themselves a great chance of reaching the last 16. Once again talisman Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference, scoring the only the goal in the 4th minute with a powerful header.
However, it was a far cry from his man of the match display against Spain, and his below par level of performance was shared by the majority of his team-mates on the day. Picking a standout player is a difficult task, but ultimately Seleção fans can point to a rock-solid showing between the sticks from their number one goalkeeper Rui Patrício.
It’s been a tumultuous past month or so for Rui Patrício to say the least, getting caught up in the madness going on at his now former club Sporting. The 31 year old looked set for a move to Italy with Napoli but earlier this week was announced by Wolves as the latest member of their Portuguese revolution. However the off-field dramas do not appear to have seriously affected Patrício as he put in a dependable display in a match that saw the Portuguese backline come under heavy pressure throughout the 90 minutes.
In terms of attempts on goal, Patrício was rarely seriously tested, gathering long shots with ease while also seeing his defence come to the rescue on a couple of occasions, notably centre-back Pepe making a crucial block in the second half.
However the standout moment of his performance came in the 57th minute, when he made arguably the save the of the tournament so far. A deep Morocco free kick was headed goalwards by Younés Belhanda but Patrício showed outstanding reflexes to leap to his right and palm the ball clear from danger. The attacking pressure Fernando Santos’ side faced during the match was relentless at times and this was indeed a timely reminder from Portugal’s number one that he was not about to beaten easily.
Patrício’s decision-making and dealings with crosses will also provide Santos a great deal of comfort, particularly as there could have been possible question marks over the goalkeeper’s confidence coming into the tournament after a very high profile and costly error for his former club Sporting on the final day of the 2017/18 Primeira Liga season.
Of course Ronaldo grabbed the headlines again with his latest record-shattering goal but there is a good central spine of this team in place for the European champions. Some of the wider and more creative players are struggling for form but William Carvalho had a strong game in defensive midfield while Pepe and José Fonte steadily improved at the heart of the defence as the game went on. With Patrício behind them in such good form too, Portugal are looking very hard to beat once again.
by Jamie Farr