Switzerland 2-0 Portugal

Two unanswered first-half goals from Embolo and Mehmedi gave Switzerland victory over Portugal in the opening Group B match of qualification for the Russia 2018 World Cup.

After a bright start the Seleção let down their guard and were hit by two goals in quick succession. Despite dominating possession for the rest of the game, Portugal found it difficult to create clear-cut chances against a well-marshalled Swiss defence.

The setback sees Portugal playing catch-up from the off, with only the group winners guaranteed a berth at the tournament in Russia. As Fernando Santos said post-match: "There is only one thing to do now. That is to win, win and win again until the end of qualification."

Both teams were without their injured star men, Shaqiri out for the hosts, and captain Cristiano Ronaldo missing for Portugal. Fernando Santos surprised many by selecting Bernardo Silva and Eder in the starting line-up, leaving João Mário and Ricardo Quaresma on the bench.

Early chances 

The tactics initially seemed to work as the Seleção caused the hosts plenty of problems in the opening minutes. João Moutinho slipped a trademark through-ball into Eder's path, the powerful striker sprinted forward but took a touch on the ball that left him at an awkward angle and he could not get his shot on target.

A neat passing move then had Swiss defenders chasing shadows, with Bernardo Silva volleying towards the net but straight at goalkeeper Sommer. There followed a moment of controversy when Lichtensteiner blasted a clearance against the outstretched arm of his team-mate Djourou in the box, but the referee ignored the penalty claims of Portugal's players.

Next Guerreiro had a shooting opportunity with a free kick on the edge of the box, but he hit his effort into the wall.

The Swiss had rarely threatened in the opening 20 minutes, save the odd run forward from the impressive left-back Rodriguez, but out of nothing the home side took the lead midway through the half. Rodriguez smashed a free-kick from 25 yards out at goal, Rui Patrício parried the ball forward, and Embolo reacted quickest to head the loose ball into the net.

It soon got worse for Portugal as a rapid counter-attack led to Seferovic cutting the ball back into the box where Mehmedi was left criminally unmarked. He had time to control the ball and pick his spot, giving Patrício no chance with his shot into the roof of the net.

The lively Raphael Guerreiro, just like at Euro 2016, was lending good support to the attack, and the Borussia Dortmund left-back was close to cutting the deficit on two occasions after combining well with the hard-working Nani, his first shot charged down and his second deflected agonisingly past the post with Sommer beaten.

Santos rings the changes

Santos changed things at half time, bringing on João Mário and André Silva for William Carvalho and Eder. Switzerland retreated ever more into their shell, inviting Portugal to come at them, but for all their pressure Portugal could not fashion goal-scoring opportunities and were mainly restricted to shooting from range, and almost always over the bar.

Only when Ricardo Quaresma came on for João Moutinho in the 68th minute did Portugal begin to have some joy. A delightful cross by Quaresma onto Nani's head seemed certain to result in a goal, but the Portugal captain did not make a clean connection and ball capriciously bounced onto the post and out.

José Fonte, João Mário and Quaresma himself were all close to scoring but a last-ditch Swiss leg was always in the way. The best chances for another goal actually fell to the home team in the closing minutes as Portugal committed bodies forward and inevitably left gaps at the back.

But no further goals were scored and it is Switzerland who sit on top of the group after the first round of matches, with Hungary surprisingly held in their trip to the Faroe Islands. If Portugal need inspiration in their coming matches they need only look at Euro 2016. That qualifying campaign began with a defeat to Albania, and we all know how the tournament ended...

by Tom Kundert

 

Switzerland: Sommer, Lichtsteiner (Widmer, 69’), Schär, Djourou, Rodriguez;,Behrami, Xhaka, Embolo, Dzemaili (Fernandes, 88’), Mehmedi, Seferovic (Derdiyok, 78’)

Portugal: Rui Patricio, Cédric, Pepe, José Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, William Carvalho (João Mario, 46’), João Moutinho (Quaresma, 67’), Adrien Silva, Bernardo Silva, Eder (André Silva, 46’), Nani

Goals:

[1-0] Embolo, 23’

[2-0] Mehmedi, 30’

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  • Guest - Hélder

    Unfortunate, but it was to be expected. Winners of a tournament usually start off on the wrong foot in the next qualifing campaign. Can't wait for the October WCQ matchs, with a full strength squad.

    from New York, NY, USA
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  • Guest - Portuguese Joe, Montreal (Canada)

    what else is new?....Euro champs already behind the eight-balll in what may be the weakest group....if this squad thinks all they need to do is step out on the pitch to win, they're in for a surprise....

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  • Guest - Tony Lima

    I have been posting since the early days of the Web site from California. Extremely happy and overjoyed with Euro 2016!

    Now to qualify for the WC. Not all is lost. We can still qualify and we should be able to win out this group IMO. We are better than any of these sides. Typical past lapses and school yard defending cost us. First goal, poor clearance from Rafael prior to the free kick, and second goal William too slow and then ball watching from three players.

    What we did learn is that maybe we need to go back to our 4-4-2 unless Andre Silva is ready to be a national team striker. Sorry but I didn't see what the hype is about B Silva, makes a few good passes but NO end product. He does not produce against quality competition. Joao Mario is a nice player but makes no impact on game, he may do well well in Italy in a slow pace game but no penetration or creativity from him. William is a bit too slow and if you are going with today's formation Danilo is better suited.

    Now go back and fix the problems, get Renato S and CR7 healthy, tighten up on a few areas and play with better concentration. Think seriously if B Silva is really a solution for the future or just another fancy wonder kid with no end product. This group is still one we can win if we play tighter.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    The Portugal team came out over confident while the Swiss were motivated to take down the Euro Champs. Eder showed too many poor touches, and William was guilty of stalling with the ball too much. He plays like an advanced center back. We need more creativity in that position. Portugal would've liked the same chances they gave up. Switzerland defended better than us. The high crosses never work when they're jamming the box like that. We're better off taking hard low shots hoping it generates a pinball effect that can lead to a favorable rebound.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well here we go again with a slow start to yet another qualifying campaign, deja vu feeling! We just wouldn't be Portuguese if we didn't always have to do things the hard way when it comes to futebol lol!!! Something in our mentality means we have to get our backs against the wall to really start performing. Whenever Portugal feel they can relax (i.e at the beginning of a qualifying campaign) they will go into super relax mode, this is really one of our main weaknesses. There just wasn't enough intensity and drive in our play, and I thought Adrien, William, Cedric and Eder were particularly poor. We need Ronaldo, Renato and Andre Gomes straight back into the first team as soon as possible, imo.

    We actually started the match well and should have scored the first goal in those opening 20 mins, but wastefulness in front of goal is another of our weaknesses as everyone knows. Then the Swiss opened the scoring (Patricio should have done a lot better) and we reacted very poorly to it, looked all over the place for a few minutes afterwards and the Swiss took full advantage. Very disappointing result, the Swiss may be the toughest opponent in the group but nevertheless they are an average team really and we really should have been able to secure at least a draw against them. It's only the opening match, but the problem is we only play Switzerland again at home in the very last match, so they will likely lead the table for most of this campaign. As Santos says, we just have to win win win now, and we will have to be patient as winning the group might only be possible right at the end. Of course we can still do it, this was only the first match and we are by far the strongest team in this group. We just have to go prove it now, and play every match like it's a final.

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  • Guest - Jon

    Listening to the announcers they were completely right. On attack, Portugal was predictable and slow. They needed to make runs in behind the defensive line and make the defenders play facing goal. Hopefully we can chalk up the defensive lapses to rust but they need to address their attack

    from Toronto, ON, Canada
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  • No need to over react over one game. What matters is how the team responds from this. Really enjoyed watching Bernardo Silva.

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  • Guest - Rosario

    "Well here we go again with a slow start to yet another qualifying campaign, deja vu feeling! We just wouldn't be Portuguese if we didn't always have to do things the hard way when it comes to futebol lol!!! Something in our mentality means we have to get our backs against the wall to really start performing. Whenever Portugal feel they can relax (i.e at the beginning of a qualifying campaign) they will go into super relax mode, this is really one of our main weaknesses. There just wasn't enough intensity and drive in our play, and I thought Adrien, William, Cedric and Eder were particularly poor. We need Ronaldo, Renato and Andre Gomes straight back into the first team as soon as possible, imo."
    THIS!

    I understand this is just 1 game out of 10 and there are plenty of opponents in this group that we could steamroll. And we all know that Euro 2016 qualifying started disastrous as well but the way I look at it Portugal aren't taking their Euro 2016 win as a platform for change. Even without CR7 and RS we still should have been able to beat the Swiss, even if just with a meager 1-0 win. The lack of a striker problem continues but what pissed me off was the lack of proper defending. The only thing in this match that reminded me of anything to Portugal's Euro 2016 campaign, were the many shots on goal without scoring any. But at least against Austria we didn't gift them goals. We've debated the pragmatic Euro 2016 style but I'll take that "boring form" over this kinda of shapelessness any day. When both offense AND defence are messing things up... Bah

    I know, I know. It's not the end of the world but I am wary of thinking that starting future qualifying campaigns with losses will lead to winning tournaments. I'd much rather see a change in that "backs-against-the-wall" motivation Portugal seems to be so dependant on, as Andre said. We now face a string of minnows but I wonder how Portugal will fare against them all the same. Teams like Andorra, Faroe Islands and Latvia should be trashed by scores of 8-0 / 9-0 and nothing less when facing teams of Portugal's caliber, wanna bet we won't get more than "just" 3-0 wins out of those? A win is a win but Portugal have the capacity to often get double the scoreline than the one they end up winning with. I REALLY hope they will fully unleash that potenial in the future.

    More aggression! More domination! Who are the Champions Of Europe? Not Germany, not France, not Spain, PORTUGAL are the Champions! Show it!

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  • Guest - Portuguese Joe

    the last team Portugal should drop points to is Switzerland, the only other team that could compete for top spot in the group.... even if Portugal goes on to win the next eight, no reason to think the Swiss can't do the same and then it comes down to Portugal having to win the finale against their main opposition.... all the Swiss need to do then is park the bus and, voila, Portugal is off to a home and home against another second place finisher, who knows maybe it could turn out to be Spain or Italy....
    Portugal were given a possible berth to Russia on a silver platter and instead the reigning Euro champs decide to take the difficult path to get there....

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