Portugal 1-2 Uruguay (Pepe 55 / Cavani 7, 62)
Portugal are out of the World Cup. They returned to Sochi, scene of the opening 3-3 draw against Spain in Group B, to face a Uruguay side that had yet to concede a goal. Portugal produced their best football of the tournament but had more trouble unlocking their opponents’ defence than the South Americans did. And that was the difference between the sides.
Portugal showed first, pushing Uruguay back from the off. On five minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo took a square ball on the edge of the box from Bernardo Silva, having his best game in Russia, and hit it hard and low ... straight at Muslera. But in the blink of an eye, Uruguay were in front. Cavani sprayed a cross-field ball from right to left to his partner in crime, Luís Suárez. He looked up, saw the same Cavani screaming into the box and struck a perfect cross to the back post, where Cavani met it to head in, with the Portuguese defence ball-watching.
The teams were taking it in turn to create and miss chances: on ten minutes, José Fonte popped up at the back post to head a Bernardo Silva cross from the right across the goal and wide. Up the other end, the same Fonte brought down Suárez 20 metres out, and his free-kick was saved well by Rui Patrício, down to his left. On the half hour, Cristiano Ronaldo had a free from a similar position that he crashed into the wall.
And so they went in for the oranges, separated by a ruthless bit of play. Ten minutes into the second half they were level. João Mário took a short corner on the left, Raphaël Guerreiro curled a cross over, Cristiano Ronaldo took the defenders with him and Pepe was ghosting in behind, unmarked, to head firmly past the right hand of the wrong-footed Muslera.
Portugal were on top of the game and seemed to have things under control; they were playing good, patient, thoughtful football, prodding the Uruguayan defence to find weak spots. There weren’t any. And on 62 minutes, the Seleção were behind again, and again to a venomous bit of football. Muslera cleared long, Pepe came off worse in the aerial challenge with Suárez, the ball fell to Bentancur, he took it on, found Cavani (unmarked) on the left, and his first-time shot described an exquisite curve past the despairing left-hand of Rui Patrício, possibly a little slow to react.
From then on in it was practically all Portugal, who were given the ball to run into the Uruguayan barricade. On 69 minutes, Muslera fumbled a cross from Raphaël Guerreiro and the ball fell to Bernardo Silva, unfortunately on his right foot, the wrong one, and he put his shot over. On 76, Raphaël Guerreiro had a chance from 20 metres following a corner by sub Ricardo Quaresma, and the result of the shot was the same as Bernardo Silva’s.
Near the end, Fernando Santos brought Manuel Fernandes on for his first minutes of the tournament, hoping that his shooting from distance could unlock the door. It didn’t. Portugal threw everything forward in added time, including Rui Patrício, but by that time their play had become hopeful more than coherent. Their last real chance fell to their saviour on many an occasion, Cristiano Ronaldo, off form in this game; he sliced his shot and the ball went frustratingly wide.
Portugal had had 61% of possession, 20 shots (six on target) to six (three), ten corners to two, but they couldn’t find a way through the steely Uruguayan defence often enough, and they didn’t have an Edinson Cavani on the night. It was a moral victory, perhaps, but one that sees them on the plane home.
Coach Fernando Santos was justifiably disappointed: “It doesn’t seem fair. We deserved a different result … I’m very sad, but that’s football.”
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Ricardo Pereira, Pepe, José Fonte, Raphaël Guerreiro, Bernardo Silva, William Carvalho, Adrien Silva (Ricardo Quaresma 66), João Mário (Manuel Fernandes 85), Gonçalo Guedes (André Silva 74), Cristiano Ronaldo
Uruguay: Muslera, Cáceres, Giménez, Godín, Laxalt, Torreira, Nández (Sánchez 81), Bentancur (Cristian Rodríguez 6), Vecino, Cavani (Stuani 74), Suárez
Player ratings/ 10
Rui Patrício (5), Ricardo Pereira (5), Pepe (6), José Fonte (5), Raphaël Guerreiro (6), Bernardo Silva (7), William Carvalho (7), Adrien Silva (6), João Mário (6), Gonçalo Guedes (4), Cristiano Ronaldo (5), Ricardo Quaresma (5), André Silva (4), Manuel Fernandes (5)
Portugal 1-1 Iran (Quaresma 45 / Ansarifard pen 90+3)
Portugal are through to the last 16 of the World Cup, but could only clinch second place in Group B, headed by Spain, who drew 2-2 with Morocco.
It was a far better Portugal in the first half than the one that had scraped a 1-0 win over Morocco in the previous match. They were passing – though Iran were letting them, it must be said – and being patient, but their play never really got out of second gear. Carlos Queiroz’s Iran, on the other hand, were sitting back and depending on sporadic breaks to keep Portugal on their toes, especially through Amiri, but the Portuguese defence was comfortably handling everything that Iran brought.
Portugal’s best chance came on nine minutes, when the keeper Beiranvand and his defence got their messages mixed up, couldn’t deal with a William pass from deep and let the ball fall to João Mário on the edge of the box, but he swung at it wildly and sent it way over the bar. Four minutes later, Beiranvand was again found wanting, dropping a Ricardo Quaresma cross, but André Silva, within striking distance, wasn’t sharp enough to pounce.
In midfield, Adrien was proving a useful replacement for João Moutinho, who’d been suffering from flu, and it was the former Sporting, now Leicester player who combined beautifully with Quaresma on the stroke of half-time. On the right, Cédric passed to Adrien, who passed to Quaresma, who returned the ball to Adrien, who back-heeled it into the path of Quaresma, who went on and struck a trivela – a shot with the outside of his right boot – from the edge of the box and into the top lef-hand corner of the net, beyond the desperate right hand of Beiranvand. A beautiful goal to send Portugal in with a deserved, though deservedly narrow lead.
Portugal had the reins at the beginning of the second half too, and on 53 minutes had a great chance to extend their lead: Cristiano Ronaldo was brought down just inside the box, but the ref needed the VAR to help him give it. Portugal’s star player stepped up and stroked the ball to the right of the goal, but Beiranvand guessed correctly and parried, making up for his earlier nervousness. Portugal’s play began to get a little ragged, while Iran sensed that they could get something. On 58 minutes, Pepe was vital as he cut out a low cross bound for Azmoun. Cristiano Ronaldo tried to atone for his penalty miss with a cut inside from the left and shot from 20 metres, but it was not his night and the ball skewed wide. He might also have seen a red card for an elbow on Pouraliganji, but after the VAR intervened, and the ref had a look, he got off with a yellow.
Portugal just needed to hang on to their slender lead, knowing that the Spain v Morocco result was heading in their favour. It was not to be: the VAR was called into action again. On 90 minutes, Cédric jumped to challenge for the ball, it rolled down his arm, the VAR and the ref took three minutes to decide but ... they decided on a penalty. Sub Ansarifard stepped up to stroke the spot kick coolly past Rui Patrício. It still meant that Portugal would qualify – they had needed the draw from the very beginning – but they might have let qualification slip from their grasp deep into added time when the ball fell for Amiri to the left of goal. Rui Patrício made himself big, Amiri tried to get the ball inside the near post, and it went – to Portugal hearts’ delight – into the side netting. When the final whistle went on 98 minutes, Iranian players and fans were bathed in tears, while their Portuguese counterparts breathed a huge sigh of relief.
But the failure to win may have a heavy price; instead of playing hosts Russia, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, Portugal will play Uruguay, who looked fearsome to beat the same Russia 3-0. Though as coach Fernando Santos said after the game: “The most important thing was to get through, and we managed it, thank God.”
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cédric Soares, José Fonte, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro, Ricardo Quaresma (Bernardo Silva 69), William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, João Mário (João Moutinho 84), Cristiano Ronaldo, André Silva (Gonçalo Guedes 90+5)
Iran: Beiranvand, Ramin, Pouraliganji, Hosseini, Haji Safi (Milad 56), Ezatolahi (Ansarifard 76), Omid, Mehdi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Ghoddos 70), Amiri, Sardar
Player ratings/ 10
Rui Patrício (6), Cédric Soares (5), José Fonte (6), Pepe (7), Raphael Guerreiro (6), Ricardo Quaresma (7), William Carvalho (5), Adrien Silva (7), João Mário (5), Cristiano Ronaldo (5), André Silva (6), João Moutinho (5), Bernardo Silva (5), Gonçalo Guedes (-)
Portugal 1-0 Morocco (Cristiano Ronaldo 4)
Coach Fernando Santos said before the game that "the team can play even better than against Spain" and that they "cannot just rely on Cristiano Ronaldo". In fact they played much worse than in the first Group B game, and did indeed have to depend on Cristiano Ronaldo again, as well as on the solidity and inspiration of keeper Rui Patrício. On four minutes, Bernardo Silva took a short corner on the right, João Moutinho clipped a cross over and the Portugal captain steamed in, ducking where the boots were flying to crash home a header. It was his 85th goal for the Seleção, overtaking the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas as the highest scorer for a European national team.
It was to be the only goal of the game and should perhaps have been the basis for a comfortable display by Portugal, but with 85 minutes of play left, they never really got started and it was always Morocco that showed the more coherent, organised football. Portugal were losing a lot of ball in midfield and missing a lot of passes; they had to depend on the centre-backs and Rui Patrício to keep Morocco out.
After the break, the disparity between the two teams intensified, with Morocco taking the game to Portugal, knowing that anything less than a draw would automatically send them home after their 1-0 defeat in the opening game against Iran; as it transpired, home is in fact where they were headed.
On 56 minutes, Rui Patrício topped an excellent display with a save that was out of this world; Ziyech sent a free into the heart of the area from deep on the right, Morocco’s most dangerous player Belhanda headed towards the bottom left-hand corner and Patrício flew, Gordon Banks-like, to palm the ball away.
Morocco had a couple of penalty shouts that might have borne fruit – a hand ball by Pepe, and a foul on Boutaib by José Fonte – and they could also point to lax marksmanship; they didn’t have a Cristiano Ronaldo. Meanwhile, Portugal created danger only sporadically, and from dead ball situations.
They were slow, disorganised, careless, uninspired, and even the entrance of Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes, respectively for Bernardo Silva and João Mário, both disappointing, was not enough to lift them.
“We need to do more than this; we have to raise the bar,” said Fernando Santos after the game. They need only to draw the last game against Iran, who lost to Spain. But Iran looked useful, and if Portugal can’t raise the bar, they may be in for a nasty shock.
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cedric, Pepe, José Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Bernardo Silva (Gelson Martins 59), William Carvalho, João Moutinho (Adrien 89), João Mário (Bruno Fernandes 70), Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonçalo Guedes
Morocco: El Kajoui, Dirar, Benatia, Manuel da Costa, Achraf, Ziyach, El Ahmadi (Fajr 86), Amrabat, Belhanda (Carcela 75), Boussoufa, Boutaib (El Kaabi 70).
Player ratings/ 10
Rui Patrício (8), Cedric (5), Pepe (6), José Fonte (6), Raphael Guerreiro (5), Bernardo Silva (4), William Carvalho (5), João Moutinho (7), João Mário (4), Cristiano Ronaldo (7), Gonçalo Guedes (4), Gelson Martins (3), Bruno Fernandes (3), Adrien (-)
Portugal 3-3 Spain (Cristiano Ronaldo pen 4, 45, 88 / Diego Costa 24, 55, Nacho 58)
An ultimately relieved Seleção got off to a positive start in Sochi, in a rousing game against the old enemy Spain. Portugal took the game to Spain in the opening minutes, with Rui Patrício hardly touching the ball.
Then on four minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo began what would be a memorable (yet another!) night for him when he broke into the box on the left and was stopped by Nacho, who would redeem himself later. Portugal’s number 7 naturally stepped up, sending de Gea the wrong way from the spot.
It was rather a surprise to see Portugal leading so early in the game, and they could have gone further in front on 23 minutes when Cristiano Ronaldo, fed by Bruno Fernandes from the right, squared into the box for Gonçalo Guedes, who dwelt on the ball and allowed Spain to clear.
It was a chance lost for Portugal and proved a fillip for Spain, who equalised a minute later. Diego Costa challenged for a 50/50 ball on the left and appeared to lead with his arm against Pepe; the ref gave nothing. The former Braga player took the ball on, holding it up against a curiously passive defence before picking his spot past Rui Patricio’s right hand.
Spain were in full flight now and had Portugal on the ropes. Isco hit the bar, Iniesta came close, and it looked like just a matter of time. But then on the stroke of half time, Cristiano Ronaldo shot tamely from the edge of the box; de Gea, one of the best keepers in the world, took his eye off the ball, and it squirmed past him – almost through him – and in.
It was a relief to go into the break in the lead, but no one in the Portugal camp could have been in two minds that it was a very fortunate partial result. And ten minutes into the second half, justice was served when Diego Costa, apparently in a personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo to see who would be the more influential in the match, swept home a second for Spain after some poor defending from Portugal – and not for the first time. David Silva hit a free-kick to the right of goal, Busquets was too strong for Gonçalo Guedes at the back post, and his header across the face of the goal was met by Costa.
There was no let up for Portugal. Earlier pressing of Spain’s players was being relaxed, and the old tiki-taka was building up steam. Three minutes after Costa’s second came Spain’s third: the ball was once again cleared poorly from a corner, but Nacho’s swinging shot was a beauty, nestling in the net after hitting the left-hand post.
With 20 minutes or so left, Fernando Santos made two changes – João Mário for Bruno Fernandes and Ricardo Quaresma for the disappointing Bernardo Silva. Quaresma especially changed the complexion of Portugal’s play going forward, and they began to respond more actively. They had Spain pushed back into their own last third in the dying minutes and it was then that Cristiano Ronaldo pulled out the joker. Winning a foul 25 metres out, he set himself up for one of his specials, but rather than blasting it, he curled it around the wall and into the top right-hand corner of the goal, with de Gea rooted to his line.
It was Ronaldo’s hat-trick and his 84th goal for Portugal. He is also one of a restricted group that have scored in four World Cups. He was clearly Man of the Match, in one of his very best performances for the Seleção. But coach Fernando Santos was far from happy. “There’s a lot that we’ve got to put right,” he said, and when asked the mark out of ten that he’d give for the team’s display, he was quite clear: “Six.”
Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cédric, Pepe, José Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, William Carvalho, Bruno Fernandes (João Mário 78), João Moutinho, Bernardo Silva (Ricardo Quaresma 79), Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonçalo Guedes (André Silva 80)
Spain: De Gea, Nacho, Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Alba, Koke, Sergio Busquets, Isco, Iniesta (Thiago Alcântara 70), David Silva (Lucas Vásquez 86), Diego Costa (Iago Aspas 77)
Player ratings/ 10
Rui Patrício (5), Cédric (5), Pepe (5), José Fonte (5), Raphael Guerreiro (6), William Carvalho (7), Bruno Fernandes (6), João Moutinho (6), Bernardo Silva (4), Cristiano Ronaldo (10), Gonçalo Guedes (4), João Mário (5), Ricardo Quaresma (6), André Silva (-)