Portugal 1-1 Croatia

Pepe's 100th Portugal appearance was marked with a goal as his header cancelled out a vicious Ivan Perišić strike for a new-look and Ronaldo-less Seleção in the Algarve.

Sérgio Oliveira and Gedson Fernandes made their debuts from the bench as Fernando Santos' side looked refreshed and renewed in this friendly before Monday's Nations League match against Italy.

Fernando Santos unveiled a fresh-looking Portugal side at the Estádio Algarve to face World Cup runners-up Croatia. The selecção were without captain Cristiano Ronaldo who was left out of the team to apparently adjust to life in Turin. His presence tonight may have filled some more seats in south of the country but his absence was not significantly missed by a lively Portugal side.

Pepe took up the captain's armband in his place and to mark his 100th game for Portugal, the 35-year old joined 21-year old Rúben Dias in central defence. Santos opted for Pizzi and Rúben Neves ahead of William Carvalho in midfield and a forward trio of Bruma, Bernardo Silva, and André Silva. They faced a Croatia side with plenty of their World Cup heroes with Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić starting for Zlatko Dalić's side.

Early threat

Portugal were very nearly in front inside the first few minutes when Bruma couldn't finish João Cancelo's cross after good work from Bernardo Silva. Bruma and Bernardo both looked bright going forward for Portugal in the opening stages. Despite some protestations from fans and pundits, Bernardo Silva started from the right-side in this game and not centrally.

New Premier League star Rui Patrício was required to make a fantastic save to deny Chelsea's Mateo Kovačić after 10 minutes. At the other end, there would have been nothing Lovre Kalinić could have done a few minutes later when Neves' freekick was centimetres away.

Ivan Perišić put Croatia in the lead in the 18th minute with a thunderous shot from inside the area after a defensive mix-up from Portugal.

14 minutes later Pizzi picked up the ball from a corner kick to swing in an excellent cross to allow Pepe to tower above the Croatia defence and give Portugal a much deserved equaliser. It was a fitting way for the Beşiktaş man to celebrate his milestone in the national side.

Santos made one change at half time with Gelson Martins coming on in the place of Bernardo Silva, the former Sporting winger has played just 32 minutes for Atlético Madrid so far this season.

Almost immediately after the start Ivan Perišić could have put Croatia ahead with a header after he connected with Luka Modrić's corner. Fortunately for Portugal it went straight at Patrício.

Second-half slowdown

As is typical of the second half of a friendly like this the substitutions disrupted the flow of the game after an action-packed first 45 minutes. Portugal couldn't quite find the attacking verve and impetus they demonstrated in the early part of the game.

Portugal's best chance of the second half came through Mário Rui's drilled low cross that Antonio Milić diverted towards his own net but fortunately for him his interception hit the post and rebounded out to safety.

With less than 10 minutes of the game remaining Fernando Santos gave a debut to 26-year-old Porto man Sérgio Oliveira in the place of the solid William Carvalho. Benfica's Gedson Fernandes made his debut too in the 88th minute as the teenager replaced André Silva.

Portugal couldn't grab a winning goal though in truth they didn't look like conceding either. Only Ivan Perišić's early effort really troubled the Portugal defence. It was an impressive performance despite the absence of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. The new cycle promised by Fernando Santos demonstrated some exciting, energetic football at times, and if this game is anything to go by the future is looking very promising indeed.

It will be interesting to see how Portugal do on Monday against arguably easier foes in Italy as the brand new UEFA Nations League begins.

by Richard Cole

Portugal XI: Rui Patrício; João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, Mário Rui; William Carvalho (Sérgio Oliveira, 81'), Rúben Neves (Renato Sanches, 86'), Pizzi (Bruno Fernandes, 61'); Bernardo Silva (Gelson Martins, 46'), André Silva (Gedson Fernandes, 89'), Bruma (Rony Lopes, 68')

Croatia XI: Lovre Kalinić; Šime Vrsaljko (Antonio Milić, 46'), Matej Mitrović, Domagoj Vida, Borna Barišić; Milan Badelj, Mateo Kovačić; Marko Pjaca (Marko Rog, 72'), Luka Modrić (Mario Pašalić, 55'), Ivan Perišić (Duje Čop, 63'); Marko Livaja (Ivan Santini, 57')

Goals:
[0-1] Ivan Perišić (18’)
[1-1] Pepe (32’)

 

Comments (6)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The standout player for was definitely Joao Cancelo. He is absolutely brilliant when he joins the attack -- so much so that I would argue that he is the most dangerous 1v1 dribbler Portugal has at the moment. Bruma also showed several flashes of...

The standout player for was definitely Joao Cancelo. He is absolutely brilliant when he joins the attack -- so much so that I would argue that he is the most dangerous 1v1 dribbler Portugal has at the moment. Bruma also showed several flashes of his undeniable talent, but Cancelo was a consistent threat all game long.

Gelson was completely ineffective in the second half. Bernardo may be more comfortable as a 10, but he was far more involved than Gelson on the right wing. To be honest, I really don't think Gelson has a place on this team. I'd much rather see Joao Cancelo moved up to the right wing to give Nelson Semedo or Ricardo Pereira a spot at right-back behind Cedric. Barring injury, our best options out wide are Goncalo Guedes, Quaresma, Joao Cancelo, Bruma, and Rony Lopes.

I also don't see anyway back for Joao Mario. Pizzi and Bruno Fernandes offer far more of a cutting edge in the final third, and Gedson and Renato (if he can get some playing time) are much better suited to the box-to-box role. Ruben Neves definitely has a spot in the center of midfield along the likes of Moutinho, William, and Danilo.

Andre Silva, however, was the biggest disappointment. You think he'd be on a high after his positive start to the season at Seville, but he was absolutely terrible today. He looked like he hadn't kicked a ball in months. His touch constantly let him down, he frequently made the wrong decisions in dangerous situations, and his shooting was absolutely abysmal. We're going to need a proper finisher when Ronaldo parts ways with the Seleccao, and I'm still not convinced that Andre Silva has what it takes to be that guy.

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Insteresting how line ups are read differently by commentators. About yesterdays line up I read (in different publications)
433 (as here on portugoal.net) with Willam as 6, 4231 (with double pivot Neves-William) and 4141 (which it really was, at...

Insteresting how line ups are read differently by commentators. About yesterdays line up I read (in different publications)
433 (as here on portugoal.net) with Willam as 6, 4231 (with double pivot Neves-William) and 4141 (which it really was, at least what I have observed in the first half):

Patricio
Cancelo Pepe Diaz Rui
Neves
Bernardo Pizzi William Bruma
A.Silva

Well, maybe formation is just academic, but to me it looked like the above mentioned formation. Nevertheless some takeaways:
- Santos doesn't want to play a real No. 10. Otherwise he wouldn't put Bernardo on the wing and not in the center.
- He wanted William to have more influence in offensive play. This was achieved. Unfortunately A.Silva was unable to do something even with the neatest passes.
- Ruben Neves did a very good job. He was able to contribute what's expected from him. Vision, long range passing, long range shots/freekicks respectively.
- Ruben Neves should take the default free kick role from Ronaldo. Will the latter hand over?
- Rui Mario was weak. He lacked calmness and intelligence when giving that inside pass to Ruben Neves who had no chance to keep the ball in the game for Portugal. As a result of that mistake, Croatia marked the 1:0
- André Silva was a disaster. Disjointed, wrong running, wrong decisions, no goal threat
- Bruma was a positive. Energetic, dynamic, willing.But he lacks the cool sometimes - hope he matures a bit
- Cancelo was really awesome offensively. I don't know that player much - how is he defensively?
- All others did their job well, Patricio again with an excellent save.

All in all a good game from Portugal, even though they should produce more concrete goal threat than they did yesterday. Even though I agree that Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world - but the strongest Portugal squad at the moment does NOT line up in a 442 with two inverted wingers. It would be CR himself to replace André Silva. But then the next problem pops up: When you change to 4231 or 4141, who will then replace Ronaldo as lone striker when he retires?

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Concelo is good defensively, if he is interested. I think he along with Rafa G, Ricardo, Vinagre, are much more interested in going forward, and have the skills to attack. These guys have at times played in the midfield and even forward as...

Concelo is good defensively, if he is interested. I think he along with Rafa G, Ricardo, Vinagre, are much more interested in going forward, and have the skills to attack. These guys have at times played in the midfield and even forward as wingers in a 433. Rui used to be more attack minded, I still remember his great goal in the u-20 world cup(2nd to a great Brazil team), but he, along with Cedric and Nelson, venture forward less frequently.

The attack minded guys are more wing-backs best suited in something like a 3-4-3.

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Cancelo is a poor mans Marcelo.

You will get from time to time enormous brain farts from him defensively but he is great going forward. I still am shaking my head as to how he got to start with Juventus but good for him.

Is it enough to get...

Cancelo is a poor mans Marcelo.

You will get from time to time enormous brain farts from him defensively but he is great going forward. I still am shaking my head as to how he got to start with Juventus but good for him.

Is it enough to get him a place over other better defensive backs? I don't know, only the coach does. Portugal seem to have an identity problem with offense v defense. Not sure a great offensive back is worth it with a defensive system setup by Santos and not enough attacking gameplay...

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Yay another draw, just keep proving the naysayers right. The Croats lose to the French 4-2, and they're failed as warrior poets and all look on in awe. Our Portuguese actually defeat the French 1-0, and instantly everyone dismisses it as a fluke....

Yay another draw, just keep proving the naysayers right. The Croats lose to the French 4-2, and they're failed as warrior poets and all look on in awe. Our Portuguese actually defeat the French 1-0, and instantly everyone dismisses it as a fluke. They'll never give us our due until we starting dominating our way to titles. It's not good enough to just be better than everyone. We have to be ten times better while standing on our heads. It's time for an offensive-minded coach. Sorry Santos, but playing Bernardo out wide and leaving a lone striker up top to fend for himself just isn't going to cut it. Oh, and Novak's "pet experiment" is insulting and reeks of racism. We lost Renato the day he signed for Bayern.

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@Danny

To be fair France's squad improved from two years ago. Portugal did not have to deal with Mbappe and as I recall it Patricio was the man of that match making a series of extraordinary saves which led us to winning the Euro. At the same...

@Danny

To be fair France's squad improved from two years ago. Portugal did not have to deal with Mbappe and as I recall it Patricio was the man of that match making a series of extraordinary saves which led us to winning the Euro. At the same time, Payet intentionally hurting Ronaldo changed the game entirely. All in all the flukish nature of how Portugal won their first trophy has to be acknowledged in some way big or small but this doesn't mean we were no match for France. We had and still have the squad and the talent to go toe-to-toe with the very best and I say this on the contrary after previously having cast doubts on the post CR/Quaresma/Pepe era. However, our B team looked strong against the world cup finalists. It comes down to finishing the move with a goal. That's football. But while Santos proved to be the perfect coach to stabilize the sinking ship that Bento had left, he definitely doesn't seem to be the man who will thrust our players forward and allow them to fully excel.

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