During the victory against Ghana (3-2) for its entry into this 2022 World Cup, Portugal recalled that its attack could purr for an hour, then destroy everything in its path after the start.
Since Sunday and the start of the World Cup in Qatar, Portugal has been waiting for its time. And if entering the competition penultimate increases the pressure, it also allows you to see the other teams at work and thus note the mistakes not to make. Except that obviously, the defense of Portugal – from Cancelo, who was had on every ball behind his back, to Diogo Costa, who almost got himself had by the malice of Iñaki Williams, via Danilo Pereira, at fault on André Ayew’s goal – preferred to play sueca rather than seeing the Argentinian and German rear guard being eaten away by Saudi Arabia and Japan. Fortunately for defenders of the Select, Ghana did not really want to go to the Lusitanian surface. Above all, the Portuguese attackers did the job to allow Portugal to win (3-2) and save a defense that could have ruined everything from the start.
CR7 is no longer alone
It’s not the first time that Portugal’s attack has been well-tuned for international competition. In 2018, the Portuguese had already started with 3 goals scored (a hat-trick from Ronaldo in the 3-3 against Spain). Between the two Worlds, the Select also had the second best attack in Division A of the last Nations League, as well as the second best attack in the group stage of the last Euro. Except that this time, Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t do all the work alone. Quite the contrary. So yes, the captain opened the scoring with a generous penalty that he obtained himself and which allowed him to be the first player in history to score a goal in 5 different World Cups.
On the other hand, CR7 is only a spectator on the other two goals scored where Bruno Fernandes – who probably had his best match with Portugal – is at the helm to send two caviars to João Félix and Rafael Leão, who do not tremble for adjust the Ghanaian doorman. Enough to give a smile to this attack and validate the choices of Fernando Santos, who established the Atlético de Madrid striker to better let the AC Milan winger take advantage of the opponent’s fatigue thanks to his speed at the end portion. No, the Portuguese attack did not become the MSN or the BBC after this victory against Ghana, but they reminded that the friends of Bernardo Silva – who was the most discreet of all on the offensive level – can hurt at all times and to all opponents as soon as they accelerate and successfully combine. Except they don’t succeed every time.
An hour to purr
The first hour of play also showed the shortcomings of the Portuguese attack. Facing a Ghana team grouped 10 behind, the Portuguese struggled for a long time to get around the opposing block, chaining side passes without creating big chances. Blame it on missed crosses, clumsiness in the last move and a lack of long shot attempts. Once Ghana freed themselves after conceding Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty, the Portuguese were then able to use their strong point: the transition game. Proof in numbers with 70% ball possession and seven strikes in the first period for 0 goals scored. And the 55% possession and the four strikes in the second half for… three goals scored. It’s not for nothing that Portugal have never done better than 10e at the World Handball Championships. By dint of not offering an exhilarating game, the band of Fernando Santos does not know what to do against a team that refuses the game and stays behind. Like the Blues of Didier Deschamps, the Select excels in this transition game. Problem for CR7 and company, the next opponent is called Uruguay and should not leave much more space in the back.
By Steven Oliveira