Portugal 0-0 Sweden (after extra time, Sweden win 4-3 on penalties)
Sweden defeated Portugal on penalties at Eden Stadium in Prague to win the U21 European Championship final. Portugal dominated for large portions of the match but were unable to beat Patrik Carlgren in the Swedish goal, the keeper saving two Portuguese penalties in the shootout to give his side an historic victory.
The defeat will be difficult for Rui Jorge and his men to take after being favourites to win in Prague after a convincing 5-0 win against Germany in the semi-final. Despite the immediate disappointment, it was a positive campaign in the Czech Republic after a flawless qualification campaign.
Portugal’s first choice 11 dominate once again
Tiago Ilori took his place in the starting XI as Rui Jorge named his preferred team against Sweden, Ricardo Pereira signalling Portugal’s intentions with an effort into the side netting in the opening exchanges. Raphael Guerreiro was heavily involved in the early attacks as William Carvalho won a free kick within shooting distance. Captain Sérgio Oliveira stepped up and rattled the crossbar with Carlgren beaten.
Thelin headed at José Sá and João Mário shot high and wide as Portugal schemed for an opening through Sweden’s well organised defence. Ricardo Esgaio became involved on the right flank as Portugal dominated possession with Sweden looking to hit on the counter attack. Simon Tibbling was given time and space with his shot from distance straight at Sá.
Ivan Cavaleiro was the main target for Portugal’s attacks but the Benfica attacker was repeatedly caught offside. Guerreiro won a free kick on the edge of the box with Sérgio Oliveira’s shot easily saved by Carlgren before Portugal fashioned their best chance of the half. João Mário released Esgaio into the box with the right-back cutting the ball back for the midfielder but his scuffed shot was way off target.
Tibbling continued to look dangerous as he drove into the box with his cross claimed by Sá. Guerreiro drove a shot from distance over the bar before Khalili repeated the trick at the other end for Sweden. Esgaio found more space on the right flank with his teasing cross unable to be met by a Portuguese attacker. Portugal finished the first half with 63% possession, outpassing Sweden 254-104.
Second half much of the same
Håkan Ericson changed things up in central defence with Joseph Baffo replacing Filip Helander as Portugal resumed their attack. A swift counter attack saw Bernardo Silva roll the ball across the box with Ricardo unable to turn it in. Sweden then produced their best chance of the game, Hiljemark’s ball into the box headed back by Thelin into the path of Guidetti who volleyed over the bar.
Sérgio Oliveira’s shot from distance went wide before Rui Jorge made a surprising move as he replaced the captain with Tozé. Bernardo Silva was trying hard to instigate matters as Jorge brought on Iuri Medeiros for Ivan Cavaleiro. Tozé had a dangerous effort which was fumbled by Carlgren before Carvalho released Medeiros, the Sporting CP winger cutting inside and swerving a left footed effort just wide of the post.
Quaison replaced Tibbling for Sweden before Jorge made his final substitution as Gonçalo Paciência replaced Ricardo. Portugal remained dominant with Swedish chances few and far between. Guidetti had a half chance inside the area but had his shot blocked by Ilori, Tozé and João Mário shooting over the bar at the other end.
Portuguese hearts were in mouths late on as Guidetti found himself one on one with Sá, the Marítimo keeper saving well as the Portuguese defence cleared the danger. Portugal threatened yet again late on but couldn’t find a winner as extra time beckoned.
Frustration continues in extra time
Khalili curled an effort just past the far post with Sá beaten before Paciência shot straight at Carlgren. Both sides appeared to be fatigued which was understandable after playing five games in 14 days. Khalili had another effort go wide as extra time reached the halfway stage.
Baffo fouled Medeiros on the edge of the area but Paciência was just unable to get his head onto Tozé’s free kick. The FC Porto striker then had a shot blocked before meeting Medeiros's cross with a header which was deflected away from goal.
Heartbreak in penalty shootout
The penalty shootout lottery began well for Guidetti, Paciência and Thelin and Toze’s effort bounced just over the line after he smashed the ball off the underside of the bar. Augustinsson scored but Esgaio’s penalty was well saved by Carlgren to give Sweden a 3-2 advantage. Khalili stepped up but his weak effort was saved by Sá as João Mário restored parity for Portugal.
Victor Nilsson-Lindelöf scored to put all the pressure on William Carvalho who saw his penalty saved by Carlgren as Sweden celebrated and Portuguese tears flowed. A heartbreaking way to lose any game of football, it is particularly difficult to take after dominating much of the encounter in a game of such magnitude.
Sweden were minutes away from losing the knockout qualification game against France and minutes away from failing to qualify from Group B but their resilience paid off as they claimed their first UEFA youth title. One shouldn’t forget they also produced a remarkable comeback against Italy in the group stage after being a goal and a man down in the first half.
Portugal’s disappointment has a similar feel to the U20 World Cup exit to Brazil in New Zealand where they also went out on penalties after dominating the match. Rui Jorge’s class of 2015 now has the unenviable comparison with Luís Figo’s team in 1994, which after winning the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship lost against Italy in the U21 European Championship final in extra time.
Portugal: José Sá, Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Ilori, Raphael Guerreiro, William, Sérgio Oliveira (Tozé 54), João Mário, Bernardo Silva, Ricardo Pereira (Gonçalo Paciência 70), Cavaleiro (Iuri Medeiros 61)
Sweden: Carlgren, Lindelof, Miloeevic, Helander (Baffo 46), Augustinsson, Tibbling (Quaison 65), Lewicki, Hiljemark, Khalili, Guidetti, Kiese Thelin
By Matthew Marshall