Written by Dan Anjos
After an embarrassing group stage where Portugal ended 3rd, they managed to beat Croatia (one of the best teams in the group stages) by 1 goal on extra time to qualify for the quarter finals. The quarter finals in my eyes was always the minimum objective we needed to have with the team we currently have.
But after Portugal dominating games but not winning what changed? Well after many Portuguese fans talking about the fact that Moutinho isn’t good enough to start, it seems that the coach listened. With all respect to Moutinho who has had a very good career, he is simply not playing his best football at the moment. So our manager decided to replicate a Sporting Lisbon midfield with Joao Mario, Adrien SIlva,William Carvalho. Adrien and Carvalho, were capable of keeping Modric and Rakitic fairly quiet during the game whilst at times helping Portugal also play football. That is a midfield duo that cannot change versus Poland. Another change which offered more defensive comfort was Cedric in for Vierinha, versus Perisic Santos knew he needed a more defending option to deal with him. And obviously with Perisic still causing some trouble here and then he was not as efficient as he had been in games before. Fonte also filled in for Ricardo Carvalho very well and I would like to see him keep his place more for his physicality against Milik and Lewandowski.
The man of the match versus Poland ended up being Renato Sanches. I have been very impressed with this player so far, I knew he had a lot of talent whilst playing for Benfica as many pundits acknowledge their season was turned around because of him. But with many people being against his inclusion in the national team, he has well and truly shut them up with his performances. The 18 year old does not seem to be nervous about playing for Portugal but instead relishing the chance and playing with brimming confidence and energy. His impact off the bench in my eyes is still more important than him starting. Andre Gomes has had an average tournament but tactically he is still ahead of Sanches and the first 50/60 minutes are key to keep a solid shape and Sanches does not offer that just yet. Despite his talent he is still very raw in aspects of his game but when he gets running with the ball he is very good as well as his defence to attack transition being one of his strongest points. Well done to the teenager.
Versus Poland it will be just as much of a hard game as against Croatia with the only difference being Poland are likely to be more direct to try and avoid our midfield and get it to their strongest player in Lewandowski. Whilst Croatia’s strongest point was their midfield. It is likely to be another boring game for the neutral with both teams knowing they have a chance to reach the Semis it might cause both teams not to take as many risks. We will have to wait to see what happens, it’s too tight to predict.
What have you made of Portugal’s campaign so far? Let us know in the comments below!