Portugal 1-0 Argentina
Fernando Santos' Portugal clocked up a third successive single-goal victory as a late diving header by Raphael Guerreiro from a wonderful Ricardo Quaresma cross proved enough to beat Argentina in a friendly international played in England tonight.
It completes a memorable five days for the Lorient left-back, who enjoyed a sparkling debut for Portugal against Armenia on Friday night.
The sequence of wins provides a good foundation for the new coach. Iffy performances with good results is far more encouraging than the other way round.
However, Portugal were far from impressive, with the South Americans looking a slicker outfit throughout the match, especially during a one-sided first half. In a low-key game bereft of noteworthy action, most of the players seemed to be making it their priority not to get injured as the club season gets into full swing. The much hyped Messi & Ronaldo show failed to materialise, both playing just 45 minutes, with flashes of skill but little of substance.
Solid defensive unit
Argentina passed the ball around nicely in the opening 25 minutes especially, with Portugal often chasing shadows, but goalkeeper Beto showed impeccable handling when called upon, and both Bruno Alves and Pepe put in fine displays. Another plus point was the displays of three Seleção debutants, Tiago Gomes, José Fonte and Adrien, who all looked comfortable and did a decent job.
Yet a continuing worry for the Seleção is a distinct lack of cohesion. The midfield trio of André Gomes, João Moutinho and Tiago were slack in their passing and lacked dynamism, while up front the experimental trident of Danny, Nani and Ronaldo are yet to click after four matches together. Indeed, in all four games of the Santos era, Portugal have only scored when a conventional striker has come on as a substitute.
So plenty to think about for Fernando Santos, who admitted after the match that it had not been a good performance by the Seleção. The roaring success of Raphael Guerreiro may encourage the coach to start the long-awaited renewal process of the national team when the next matches come along in March. As discussed in depth on this site, there are no lack of options (see Portugal's midfield goldmine and Are Portugal on the verge of another Golden Generation? articles).
Portugal: Beto, Bosingwa, Bruno Alves, Pepe (José Fonte, 46), Tiago Gomes (Raphael Guerreiro, 52), Tiago (William Carvalho, 78), João Moutinho, André Gomes (Adrien Silva, 66), Danny (Éder, 46), Nani e Cristiano Ronaldo (Ricardo Quaresma, 46)
Argentina: Guzman, Facundo Roncaglia, Martin Demichelis, Nicolas Otamendi, Christian Ansaldi (Jonathan Silva, 73), Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia, Javier Pastore (Roberto Pereyra, 73), Angel Di Maria (Erik Lamela, 61), Lionel Messi (Nicolas Gaitan, 46) e Gonzalo Higuain (Carlos Tevez, 62)
[1-0] Raphael Guerreiro, 90'
Portugal coach Fernando Santos:
"The first 20 minutes were very bad, we couldn't get the ball, Argentina dominated, attacked us and did what they wanted. I rectified some positions, and we improved from the 25-minute mark, but even so Argentina remained on top. In this first phase there were more negative aspects than positive ones.
"In the second half we improved and in the last ten or fifteen minutes we were on top and ended up getting the goal. I'm not happy with the performance; we have the ability to do better. But I can't fault the players for the effort they put in and above all I'm happy we have beaten Argentina for the first time in 42 years."
"I'm confident and things are going well for me. I'm going to continue working hard so things continue that way."
"The coach is mixing the team up. It's difficult to play excellent games when we don't play together and we change systems. But things are going well, we're motivated, we're winning and we have to continue with this mentality. The good performances will come afterwards."
"It was an emotional moment. Only I know what I went through to get here. I remembered how I worked on my own, the tough times in England. This is the culmination of many years of fighting towards a goal. Making my Portugal debut at Old Trafford, a mythical stadium, winning and not conceding goals... I couldn't ask for more."
"Everything has a time to happen. Today my moment arrived and I tried to step up to it and help the team. We achieved our aim, which was to win."
by Tom Kundert