Portugal 2-3 Sweden
Cristiano Ronaldo scored one and helped create another as Portugal let a 2-0 half-time lead slip and fell to defeat against Sweden in an international friendly at the Estádio dos Barreiros.
In stark contrast to the game against the Hungarians on Saturday evening, Portugal were incoherent and were deservedly beaten by an inexperienced Swedish side, with coach Fernando Santos making no attempt to hide his anger at the end of the ninety minutes.
The early exchanges began in a very friendly-like manner. Portugal possessed the ball comfortably and with confidence, but lacked any real attacking threat - instead opting to knock the ball around, highlighting the disjointedness amongst the unfamiliar eleven.
Despite the Scandinavians’ lack of possession in the opening 15 minutes, it was they who looked the more threatening side as they found gaps in the Seleção’s alarmingly open defence. Portugal’s first effort on goal fell to Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches, who seized upon a loose ball and unleashed a ferocious effort from all of 30 yards out which fizzed past the upright.
Sweden, though, continued to look the more dangerous of the two outfits, with Claesson in particular causing the Portuguese defence no end of issues.
However, against the run of play the European Champions scored the opener at the Estádio dos Barreiros 18 minutes in. The ball found its way out wide on the right-hand side to Sporting prodigy Gelson Martins, who proceeded the terrorise the Swedish defence and produce an exquisite cross with the outside of his right boot which Ronaldo, expertly ghosting in between his markers, neatly guided past the helpless Johnsson.
Minutes later Sweden found themselves in behind the Portuguese defence again. A clever through ball released Krafth down the right-hand side and his cross was met by Nyman, but the Eintracht Braunschweig forward was unable to direct his effort on target and the chance went begging.
The Seleção then began to dominate possession and move the ball around with confidence, and their efforts gradually wore down a resolute Swedish defence. In the 34th minute, the ball found its way to the feet of Sporting’s “wonderkid” Martins once more, who combined neatly with Ronaldo in the area before the former’s cross-shot was deflected into the net by a combination of the outstretched Granqvist and Sweden’s goalkeeper.
Portugal went into the break leading 2-0, but could consider themselves lucky to do so and the score could have been very different if it wasn’t for Sweden’s lack of composure in front of goal.
The second half saw a flurry of substitutions from both outfits which inevitably disrupted the tempo and flow of the game. However, much like the first half, it was the Swedes who appeared to be the more menacing of the two sides. In the 57th minute, the away side got the goal they deserved through the impressive Viktor Claesson. The Swedes counter attacked tenaciously on the right-hand side, allowing Thelin to cut inside and unleash a vicious shot which was parried by Marafona, only to find the feet of Nyman who delicately played in Claesson, who in turn neatly lifted the ball over the advancing Marafona.
As more substitutions were made by Fernando Santos, it was clear the game was becoming the definition of a disjointed experimental team from Portugal. Stringing a few passes together was proving to be quite a task for the Seleção, and the visitors took advantage of this once again in the 76th minute. An inswinging corner from the right found Claesson who produced an excellent improvised finish to beat Marafona at his near post. Despite the quality of the finish from the Krasnodar midfielder, the defending from Portugal was mediocre at best.
As the clock ticked down Portugal began to pile on the pressure, mainly from Ricardo Quaresma who baffled the Swedish defenders with a series of exquisite pieces of trickery and crosses. However, Portugal failed to create any clear-cut chances and were punished again in the dying embers of the encounter. A flowing move saw Sweden get in behind the defence, where a fierce low ball across the six-yard area hit the unwitting Cancelo, before trickling over the line leaving the previously festive home crowd stunned.
The Seleção’s clear lack of depth at centre-back and left-back was laid bare this evening, and will undoubtedly be something Santos will want to address before announcing his squad for the Confederations Cup this summer in Russia.
Gelson and Sanches impress
Having said that, there were a number of positives to take from the game. Gelson Martins again shined on the big stage, furthering his tally of assists to 3 in 4 caps for his country. Renato Sanches appeared to be brimming with confidence despite his concerning lack of regular first team football, dictating the game by switching the ball from flank to flank frequently and using his impressive physique to maintain possession well. Ronaldo was Ronaldo.
Certainly, nobody likes to lose, as Fernardo Santos stated in the post-match interviews. “I’m annoyed. Losing is never good. We weren’t competent and the second half was not responsible,” said the visibly irritated coach.
Indeed, it’s clear there’s a lot of work to do in regards to improving the defence aside from the starters, but tonight’s performance should not be representative of where the Seleção are at, and Santos’s astonishingly strong record in competitive play suggest he will be able to fix the issues in time for the World Cup next summer.
By Marino Peixoto
Portugal: Marafona, João Cancelo, Bruno Alves, Neto, Eliseu (Nélson Semedo, 46′), Danilo (William Carvalho, 46′), João Moutinho (Pizzi, 46′), Renato Sanches, Gelson Martins (André Gomes, 79′), Bernardo Silva (Éder, 46′), Cristiano Ronaldo (Quaresma, 57′)
Sweden: Karl-Johan Johansson, Emil Krafth (Lustig, 70′), Filip Helander (Hiljemark, 90′), Andreas Granqvist (Pontus Jansson, 46′), Niklas Hult, Viktor Claesson, Sebastian Larsson, Jakob Johansson, Sam Larsson (Durmaz, 67′), Kiese Thelin, Christopher Nyman (Marcus Berg, 87′)
[1-0] Cristiano Ronaldo, 18′
[2-0] Johansson (o.g.), 34’
[2-1] Claesson, 57′
[2-2] Claesson, 76′
[2-3] João Cancelo (o.g.), 93′