Portugal 1-0 Italy

Portugal began their Nations League campaign in positive fashion with a thoroughly deserved victory against Italy in Lisbon tonight. Remarkably it was the Seleção's first competitive victory over the Italians since 1957! In front of over 52,000 fans, the Seleção followed up their encouraging display against Croatia by largely dominating their storied opponents at the Estádio da Luz.

André Silva’s goal shortly after half time earned Portugal all three points, and only an excellent display by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and some hesitant finishing prevented a wider margin of victory.

Fernando Santos stuck with the team that put in a lively performance against the Croats in the Algarve on Thursday, and the hosts almost had a dream start as William’s header from a fine Rúben Neves cross went narrowly wide, although a lineman’s flag would have ruled it offside.

Portugal continued on the front foot, and a slick move worked the ball to Bernardo Silva only for the Manchester City man to elect to pass instead of shooting with his weaker right foot and the chance was gone.

Intense pressure

On a rare Italy foray into Portugal’s half, a powerful Chiesa snapshot made sure Patrício was alert. But the home side were well on top and the Seleção almost took the lead on 25 minutes as a sustained period of pressure saw Bruma head the ball across the six-yard box where it fell to Bernardo Silva, but the Manchester City man’s shot was cleared off the line by Jorginho.

Portugal were again inches away from scoring soon afterwards as another piercing Mário Rui incursion ended with a cross that ex-Benfica midfielder Cristante deflected towards his own net and the ball bounced capriciously off the bar.

With the home fans urging their favourites forward, Portugal twice came close in quick succession. First Pizzi went down in the box, but the referee turned down the loud penalty appeals, and soon afterwards William smashed a thunderbolt inches past the post.

Breakthrough

The Seleção will have felt aggrieved to go into the break without a lead, but they did not take long to put that right in the second half. William and Bruma combined to win the ball in midfield, with the latter steaming towards goal and unselfishly squaring the ball to André Silva, who finished emphatically with his left foot.

Portugal continued to look the more dangerous side, with a spectacular Bernardo shot bringing an equally outstanding save out of Donnarumma, and Pizzi had a chance to double the lead after a neat Bernardo throughball, but he was denied by another fine diving save from the young AC Milan goalkeeper.

Italy were not done though, and an equaliser almost came from a corner, with Zaza connecting well from the cross but the ball went narrowly over the bar. The visitors gradually pushed Portugal back, but truth be told Rui Patrício was not seriously tested, and with a little more composure substitute Gelson could have killed the game on the break a couple of times, but he could not get the better of the impressive Donnarumma.

It mattered not, with Portugal proving that there is plenty of life in this Seleção beyond captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

By Tom Kundert, at the Estádio da Luz

Portugal: Rui Partício, João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, Mário Rui, Rúben Neves, William Carvalho (Sérgio Oliveria, 85’), Pizzi (Renato Sanches, 73’), Bernardo Silva, Bruma, André Silva

Italy: Donnarumma, Lazzari, Caldara, Romagnoli, Criscito (Emerson, 73’), Jorginho, Cristante, Bomaventura, Zaza, Chiesa (Belotti, 79’), Immobile (Berardi, 58’)

GOALS:

[1-0] André Silva, 49’

 

Comments (14)

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Another solid all-around performance. The entire back line played very well. Joao Cancelo and Mario Rui may offered been far less active going forward that they were against Croatia, but the two of them were very solid. I would actually go as far...

Another solid all-around performance. The entire back line played very well. Joao Cancelo and Mario Rui may offered been far less active going forward that they were against Croatia, but the two of them were very solid. I would actually go as far as to say that the two of them may have cemented their spots in the starting 11 ahead of Cedric and Raphael Guerreiro in particular.

William has been utilized as more of an #8 than a #6 in these past two games, and I think he's actually done quite well. Bernardo was isolated at times on the right, but when he drifted centrally, he made things happen. Pizzi's presence in the midfield, therefore, doesn't make a lot of since. Sure, he's a quality player in excellent form, but do I think he's taking the space of a more dynamic, attack-minded alternative (Guedes, Rony, etc...) Move Bernardo into the middle and play a proper winger out wide. We don't need another #8 when we are already playing with two holding midfielders in William and Ruben Neves.

I was also pleased with Andre Silva's performance. I still don't think he should start against decent opposition when Ronaldo's fit, but at least he put in a competent showing against the Italians after looking completely out of his depth against Croatia.

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How poor were Italy? or was it Portugal were too good?

Either way Portugal really should've finished with at least 2 more goals, Bruma looked pretty good aside from he tried to shoot, honestly looked like Gelson Martins when he came to shooting,...

How poor were Italy? or was it Portugal were too good?

Either way Portugal really should've finished with at least 2 more goals, Bruma looked pretty good aside from he tried to shoot, honestly looked like Gelson Martins when he came to shooting, great speed and dribblers but not exactly great finishers, you think if C. Ronaldo was in that team in the chances that Andre Silva had he would've scored them.

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I was just happy to see the ball moving around. The creativity, the ability to work in tight spaces. The confidence to just try.
There was link up play, and a sense of team, no one was ever isolated and struggling.

I have very very high hopes...

I was just happy to see the ball moving around. The creativity, the ability to work in tight spaces. The confidence to just try.
There was link up play, and a sense of team, no one was ever isolated and struggling.

I have very very high hopes for this squad in the coming future.

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Tom... before I comment, the Webmaster for this site mistyped your Twitter account (see your Twitter feed on this page).

OK, now back to the game.

Biggest take aways for me from the past two games are the now very legitimate options that are...

Tom... before I comment, the Webmaster for this site mistyped your Twitter account (see your Twitter feed on this page).

OK, now back to the game.

Biggest take aways for me from the past two games are the now very legitimate options that are now at Santos' disposal.

Impact of Rui and Cancelo now allow Guerrero to move up to the wing (if needed).

Early success of William as an attacking mid may allow both William and Danilo to be on the pitch at the same time (if needed).

Evolution of so many wingers/midfielders one can argue that there are now too many options (a nice problem to have).

Add a GOAT striker (who needs to let the new talent play their game) along with a very underrated goalie and this team is going to be hard to beat.

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Thanks for pointing that out Winnipeg. Now sorted.

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Very encouraging from the selecao these last couple of games, why on earth did we not play like this at the World Cup? Seems like Santos has hopefully learned his lesson that Portuguese players are built for playing proactive football, and nobody...

Very encouraging from the selecao these last couple of games, why on earth did we not play like this at the World Cup? Seems like Santos has hopefully learned his lesson that Portuguese players are built for playing proactive football, and nobody wants to see any more of that defensive, cautious football.

Anyway we utterly dominated Croatia last week, how we didn't win that game is a mystery. And we thoroughly outplayed Italy last night, both games with a lot of experimentation in selection, so very encouraging indeed. Most of the newbies did superbly well and only made it ever more clear how much raw talent the selecao has at it's disposal.

To me both Cancelo (way better than Cedric) and Ruben Dias (best Portuguese CB after Pepe) should really have nailed down their starting places from now on. Cancelo has improved defensively in a major way and his energy is just relentless. While Dias is solid as a rock and mature beyond his years. I was also very impressed with Bruma, especially in the Croatia game. He's the classic Portuguese winger, full of pace and running. He is far better than Gelson Martins in my opinion. I really don't understand why Gelson continues to be selected, he just brings absolutely nothing to the team.

William Carvalho, what a player! Surely one of the most underrated players on the planet, how he only ended up at Betis (with all due respect) is beyond me. I still think he should be the titular number 6 though, not a number 8, with Danilo as his backup (not as sold on Neves as many others seem to be, made a poor error for the Croatia goal). Good to see Renato back, hopefully he gets his old form back. And Andre Silva showed why he needs to start as the number 9 (how he didn't at the WC is baffling) because we still have a tendency for wasting chances and he's a good finisher in the box.

All in all things are looking very good for the selecao currently and for the near future. Plenty of young talent in all positions, as we saw in these two matches. And even younger ones still emerging, the likes of Gedson (what an amazing talent he is already looking like!) and João Felix for example. It's all down to Santos and his approach. If he's really learned his lesson from the WC and decides to play attacking and proactive football, then we have the talent available to take on anyone and to successfully defend our Euro title. No doubt about it!

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Great points Andre/UK. I totally agree with you regarding Andre Silva. He definitely should have started in the world cup alongside Ronaldo up top. He's way more clinical in the box and overall just a better pure striker than Guedes. For me if...

Great points Andre/UK. I totally agree with you regarding Andre Silva. He definitely should have started in the world cup alongside Ronaldo up top. He's way more clinical in the box and overall just a better pure striker than Guedes. For me if Andre Silva and Ronaldo started together at the world cup like they had been doing all qualification, Portugal would have progressed passed Uruguay and even further. Anyway I'm glad Santos has realized this and reinstated A.Silva as the starter.

Totally agree with you too this team as a whole has tons of talent.

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yes I forgot to mention Kudos to Santos for growing and changing

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Team played well, But did not have the required cutting edge alike Queresma and Nani who are class above the rest, the new guys need to show consistency and intelligent play.
Bruma played well but need more play time with the national team.
Pepe...

Team played well, But did not have the required cutting edge alike Queresma and Nani who are class above the rest, the new guys need to show consistency and intelligent play.
Bruma played well but need more play time with the national team.
Pepe played extremely well to his potential without showing fatigue .
No one can replace CR7, he can do magic.
Overall it was a good match.

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Good team performance. Portugal on the way back to jogo bonito? But also back to complicated play in and around the box? Individual highlights, Patricio is constant class, Cancelo confirmed that he is a valid option on the right and at the moment...

Good team performance. Portugal on the way back to jogo bonito? But also back to complicated play in and around the box? Individual highlights, Patricio is constant class, Cancelo confirmed that he is a valid option on the right and at the moment better than Cédric, Mario Rui improved compared with the Croatis game, Pepe strong, but he clearly risks a red card in the last minute. I liked Renato Sanches' display in the 15 minutes game time he had: 2-3 good passes, pro active and one tricky shot on goal. Of course he cannot repeat that over 90 minutes - but in the short time he played, he definitely gave a glimpse of the Renato we know from Euro 16. He just brings some urge and pressure through the middle - while all others tend to flew to the wings. Bruma again energetic, Gelson bviously doesn't want to score and André Silva made his goal after a slightly deflected Bruma low-cross. It goes in the right direction, but don't forgrt this was a weak and unexperienced Italy. Much too early for Euphoria.
Two major problems remain:
- Will Bernardo Silva forever play on the right wing? (bad idea) or put in in the center?
- Will Santos get back to his 442 when playing Ronaldo? (bad idea) or put him as No.9 for André Silva?
I know that Santos is constantly repeating the mantra that "no team plays better without the best in the world". But this statement is only valid if the best player in the world is used to complete the team and not the team adjusted to him.

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Rolf, your last sentence is so eloquent it managed to sum up the Seleccao’s biggest issues these last 14 years.

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Santos strategy in building a team is good. We need to have the right combination of players in the team who require to blend with the style of play of the world best player and have the required end result.

Even, when one plans an Engineering...

Santos strategy in building a team is good. We need to have the right combination of players in the team who require to blend with the style of play of the world best player and have the required end result.

Even, when one plans an Engineering project the Project leader will bring in the team that will give the a successful result.

The most important in the team is to have a leader on the playing field who can command and have the right motivation and fighting spirit, Football managers will plan a strategy but to executive the strategy you need a player and Santos and Portugal team have Ronaldo.

We need to speak sensibly and give time to players and managers and not have loose comments which can demoralise players.

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Neville, yes one can see it this way or the other. But one thing is sure: Time doesn't stand still. What you are opting for is the famous "Ronaldo + 10" approach. This approach has been applied for quite a few years now. It reached it's...

Neville, yes one can see it this way or the other. But one thing is sure: Time doesn't stand still. What you are opting for is the famous "Ronaldo + 10" approach. This approach has been applied for quite a few years now. It reached it's culmination point in the win of the Euro 2016 trophy. Well, what would your assessment be, IF Rui Patricio would not have the game of his live, that evening in the Stade de France. Or IF the so well-hated Eder would not have carved his name forever into the wall of fame of Portugal's football history by scoring the winning goal? How open would you then be towards an opinion that says: It is NOT 1 star & 10 that brings success. It is 11 on the pitch, and that must be the focus especially when looking into the future. Look what Argentina has won with the system "Messi + 10". How did Germany become World Champs in 2014? And how did Spain win it's titles and how did they smash Croatia 6:0 iin the Nations League? How could France become WC winner this year? Non of the teams was "XY + 10". None of the mentioned teams was depending on only 1 particular player when winning titles. I am not jealous for Santos' job. It is a damn tough one. Something very significant Santos decided to do for the last two matches was: Give William the opportunity to have more influence in the offense. Ok, he has Ruben Neves that he can put as No. 6 and the system can be 4141 or 4231. It worked well to put William AND Ruben on the pitch. It definitely gave Portugal overweight in midfield and (finally!) more power vertically through the center. Something that is urgently needed but missed before and after the outstanding Renato Sanches performance in 2016. But what if Ronaldo comes back and just denies to play the role as the one upfront in the middle? Then he can be put in the role Bruma played. But if he doesn't want that neither? then if he wants to play in a 442 up top? What happens then in the midfield? Putting William or Ruben Neves on the flank is totally pointless, therefore Ruben will be benched ad William get back on the No 6 position. Ok, then you can put Bernardo as a 10 with Bruma or Guedes left and Ronny Lopes or Quaresma right. And see what happens? The concept of having William doing transition into the danger zone and playing deadly passes has vanished and the power-axis through the middle is gone. Just because the will of the one star player? CR plays the next Euros and maybe retires from the national team after. He developed as a person. When he was young, he was selfish and immature. But today he's a matuired personality. My hopes are, that he sees himself more and more not as Portugals salvation, but as "Primus inter Pares". No more, no less.

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NO 7 jersey should be earned which is worn by the legend and brought laurels to the country cannot be given to any players. Players need to work to earn the jersey as a bench mark.

CR7 is still playing for his country so it should be reserved...

NO 7 jersey should be earned which is worn by the legend and brought laurels to the country cannot be given to any players. Players need to work to earn the jersey as a bench mark.

CR7 is still playing for his country so it should be reserved for him.

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