Latvia 0-3 Portugal

It was far from a vintage performance, but Portugal were too strong for Latvia in Riga this evening, winning 3-0 as they continue to chase down Switzerland in their quest for first place in Group B and automatic qualification for the Russia World Cup.

Two goals from captain Cristiano Ronaldo and another by André Silva continued their prolific partnership. Since being paired up front after Euro 2016, the duo have netted 17 goals between them in five World Cup qualifying matches.

Santos gave Gelson Martins a start on the right flank, with André Gomes joining William and Moutinho in midfield, while Bruno Alves came in for the injured Pepe. Manchester City’s new €50m man Bernardo Silva had to be content with a place on the bench.

The hosts surprised Portugal with a bright start, albeit without creating chances, but after Latvia’s burst of energy in the opening ten minutes, the Seleção began to hog possession. Nevertheless, the European champions laboured to fashion any clear chances, a series of crosses into the box proving easy pickings for the Latvian defence.

Inevitably, Portugal’s only moments of real danger came from the boot of Cristiano Ronaldo, two well struck shots from 25 yards bringing sharp saves out of Vanins.

Ronaldo breakthrough

It was third time lucky for the Real Madrid man as Portugal broke the deadlock shortly before half time. André Gomes chipped an inviting cross into the box where José Fonte rose well and thudded a header against the post, with Ronaldo diving to head in the rebound from point-blank range.

As in the first half, Latvia started well after coming out of the dressing room for the second 45 minutes, putting together a modicum of pressure. Patrício helped over a powerful free kick by Laizans, but Portugal soon resumed control.

Ronaldo continued his battle with Vanins forcing the goalkeeper to save low to his left, before William just failed to turn in a typically towering Bruno Alves header from a corner. Portugal’s nerves were settled in the 63rd minute as Ronaldo was again in the right place at the right time to head in a deflected cross by Ricardo Quaresma, on as a substitute for the ineffective Gelson Martins.

Silva strikes

It was soon 3-0 as André Silva showed tenacity to win the ball with a sliding tackle, knocking the ball back to William. A simple combination play saw the Sporting midfielder immediately provide a short pass to Ronaldo, who laid on a perfect assist for Silva to coolly slot into the net.

From that moment onwards you sensed Portugal were starting to think about their upcoming Confederations Cup participation, although there was still time for Ronaldo to twice come close to completing his hat-trick.

It was not the most memorable of games, but the Seleção remain on course for the 2018 World Cup and Santos adds to his incredible qualifying record that now reads 12 wins and 1 defeat in 13 matches.

 

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by Tom Kundert

Latvia: Vanins, Jagodinskis, Kolesovs, Gorkšs, Maksimenko, Laizans, Kazacoks (Vardanjans, 73’), Kluškins (Indrans, 62’), Solovjovs, Šabala, Ikaunieks (Rakels, 68’)

Portugal: Rui Patrício, Cedric Soares (Nelson Semedo, 72’), Fonte, Bruno Alves, Guerreiro, William, (Quaresma, 55’), Moutinho, André Gomes, André Silva (Nani, 79’), Ronaldo

Goals:

[0-1] Ronaldo, 41’

[0-2] Ronaldo, 63’

[0-3] André Silva, 67’

 

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Overall Rating (2)

5 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    It seems some people need to take a chill pill! Looking at some of the comments here, one would've tought we lost the match lol! Yes it wasn't a sparkling performance, but we comfortably won 3-0, away, in the 3rd most difficult away match of this group. After what Fernando Santos achieved last summer, I am not going to criticise him nor his selections, especially not while we keep winning matches. Sorry people, but after Santos made us European champions, he knows best about how to take us forward. He certainly knows better than a bunch of armchair Selecao fans dispersed across the globe, of what's best for our national team, that's for sure!

    For example, last summer he took a lot of criticism from various people (myself included) on this site and other sites for uncluding a certain Eder in his squad. Well we all know what happened next, don't we? Nuff said! Bernardo Silva is a very talented player with loads of potential, but he's still not a guaranteed starter for the national team. Very few players are, Ronaldo and just a few others. Andre Gomes seems to be the new Eliseu (aka a player everyone loves hating on, lol). But he possesses some allround CM qualities that few other current Portuguese CMs have, so I can see the logic in Santos playing him last night. While as for Bruno Alves, I've never been his biggest fan, but considering our lack of depth at CB, I do think his vast experience means he should continue to be included. He played in the Euro semi final last summer when Pepe was injured and put in a flawless performance to help us reach the final. People are calling for the likes of Paulo Oliveira and Ruben Semedo to oust him from the squad? Paulo Oliveira has started very few matches for Sporting over the last couple of seasons, so how is he the solution? Ruben Semedo has played, but look how many goals Sporting conceded last season (over a goal a game on average). He still has a lot to prove before he can just walk into the national team, and until someone else comes along who's genuinely better then I think Brunos Alves should still be in the squad.

    In short, we have a lot of quality players in most positions. Some players are better suited for certain formations and certain tactics for certain matches depending on our specific opponent. After the great success Santos brought to the Selecao last summer, we should trust in him to decide what are the best options to bring the team forward.

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  • Guest - Ricardo

    :) obviously Santos knows better than us. Portugal have good strikers for the first time since Eusebio (probably) and we can defend quite well if everyone is behind the ball. But, Portugal don't look good and with talent they have can look great.... without losing "balance" (word with lots of implications). Bernardo is practically unused by Portugal and is proven amazing. Santos should have a hard time explaining his absence if Portugal don't look good.

    And Andre Gomes. Safe player who looks to have ability to dominate but haven't seen him demonstrate this for club or country. He lacks attitude (and tats and Mohawks) but could see him be a Vidal or Nainggolan or Hamsik for Portugal.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I think that even though most of us were left a bit disappointed by yesterday's performance, I don't think anyone has completely lost faith in Fernando Santos. The man guided us to our first ever international trophy and his record in competitive matches speaks for itself.

    That being said, I do believe that this team's true attacking potential can only be reached with Bernardo Silva on the pitch. Bernardo is, without a doubt, a world-class play-maker, and in my opinion, he is the most talented player Portugal has produced since Ronaldo. Therefore, it is crucial that he finds a way to incorporate the classy #10 into our starting 11 without sacrificing our defensive discipline. I personally think Bernardo would be absolutely superb as a proper #10, but with Ronaldo and Andre Silva demonstrating such great chemistry of late, I highly doubt Fernando Santos is going to consider anything but his preferred 4-4-2. Bernardo lacks the characteristics to operate in the #8 role alongside William, so he would have to fight for a spot on either wing.

    Now Bernardo Silva is far from an orthodox winger, but that shouldn't be a problem given Santos' preference for outside midfielders who prefer to tuck inside. Fortunately, Bernardo Silva was absolutely brilliant as an inverted right winger for Monaco this past season, so I have no doubt that he can thrive in a similar role with the Seleccao. Gelson Martins has been really impressive when coming in off the bench in recent games, but he really struggled to impose himself when given his first ever start in a competitive game. Perhaps our two out-and-out wingers in the squad (Quaresma and Gelson) are better suited for substitute roles as they both seem to thrive when they're introduced late in the game against tired defenses.

    Andre Gomes, on the other hand, did not play poorly yesterday, but he didn't necessarily do enough to convince me that he should be an undisputed on the left side of our midfield in Joao Mario's absence. Pizzi, in my opinion, definitely has the characteristics to do just as well if not better than Gomes in that role, especially when you consider that he is for more comfortable operating on the wing than the Barcelona man. He's a technically gifted, intelligent, versatile midfielder with excellent offensive output in terms of goals and assists. The only thing holding him back is his lack of familiarity with Fernando Santos' system. Therefore, while I believe that he is better suited to playing on the left, Gomes' familiarity with Santos' tactics gives him the edge.

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  • Guest - George

    Since I'm obviously one of the "armchair Selecao fans" who's never managed Portugal before being targeted by a couple of other people on this thread for my opinion, I thought I'd clarify my position for those who, for whatever reason, are too dense to understand this line of reasoning.

    You see, there's this tournament happening next summer, it's a tournament Portugal's never won before - I think it's called the Cup of the World or something...? I don't know some of us are obviously too dumb to know anything about this sport - and, should we qualify, this might just present our best chance ever at winning it. I say "may" present our best chance at winning it because we are still a year away and a lot of that depends on personnel, form, tactics, opponents, etc. So, essentially, even though our participation isn't guaranteed yet, we've got a year to sort ourselves out and field the best team possible.

    It's with that timeline in mind that I, and I think many others, source the criticism from. So if, for example, we see two aging players with questionable, declining skill in Eliseu and Bruno Alves on the team and getting game time over emerging talents/players who've never been given an opportunity like Ricardo Pereira, Rafa Soares, Miguel Vitor, Paulo Oliveira, etc., yeah - some of us have got a really big problem with that.

    I'll repeat what I've said in other posts - this is (or at least should've been) an experimental summer for Portugal. The Confederations Cup is, by its very nature, an experimental, friendly tournament, and this is the perfect time to bleed in some of these novices to the national team so that our best players will have gotten used to each other by the real tournament next year. Sadly Santos has taken a different approach, and yes, I will criticize him for it UNLESS/UNTIL he proves me wrong.

    I want to make it clear that I'm not a Santos hater - he's easily the best Portuguese coach of my lifetime and possibly the best national team coach of all time - BUT... he's not above criticism. Father Time isn't on Ronaldo's side either yet he seems to constantly be the one to bail us out when we put together bad performances. Tell me, how much longer do you think that's going to continue? What if, God forbid, he gets injured or hits a wall and simply can't produce anymore? Do you have the same level of confidence in the squad and Santos that you do now? Because, when I see players like Bernardo on the bench against Latvia, I sure don't. That confidence takes a major hit.

    Now it COULD just be that Santos knew we had the Latvia game in the bag so he decided to rest Bernardo a little in anticipation of using him heavily in the Confederations Cup. IF that's the case, then I wholeheartedly say BRAVO SANTOS! I understand his strategy and what he's trying to accomplish - in fact I approve of his approach. BUT, if in a couple of weeks time, we see that Bernardo has continued to be used as a surplus to requirements, even in friendly tournament surroundings, that will be entirely unacceptable. He needs to start as many games as physically possible so that he can properly gel with the likes of Ronaldo and Andre Silva. That is an attacking trident (quadrant if you want to include Gelson as well) that has the potential to rival anything we've ever seen in football. It's Santos' responsibility to build and nurture that chemistry, and not screw that up.

    Ultimately, I just don't want to see what happened to us in 2014 happen to us in 2018. Paulo Bento fielded a bunch of out-of-form, aging, low on confidence cripples (the majority of the team was injured or coming off an injury) out of loyalty and because of their experience. We then proceeded to get our behinds handed to us in embarrassing fashion. If something like that happens again, at this point in time, it'll be the biggest failure in Portuguese football history.

    Yes, we won the Euro. Fantastic. I shed tears on that day that I'd never thought I'd have the privilege of shedding in my life. And a lot of that credit goes to our engineer Fernando Santos. BUT, we can't afford to fall into a familiar pattern of complacency and satisfaction. I have high hopes and high expectations and I believe everyone should. Not only are we capable of winning, but, if we get the details right, we're more than capable of winning in style. I, like many others, want to see us get as many details right as possible. Don't hold that against us and insult us just because your opinion is different. And that whole "you're not a coach so what do you know" mentality is pure elitist garbage. Pretty sure this website/community was established so that us regular folk around the world could share our opinion and debate each other - not the other way around.

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great comments and discussion.

    Postivies: Good forward play. Finally we have some capable center forwards, probably first time since Pauleta. I think Ronaldo will have a few more good years in the new role he is playing and Andre Silva will keep improving.

    Midfield has a lot of depth and talent. Need to find best combination that balances attack and defense.

    Liked having a speedy winger again in Gelson. Gomes lost confidence at Barca, started getting it back towards to end of season. But is still too hesitant and unnecessarily safe sometimes. Would prefer Bernardo could be worked in somehow, too much talent to wasted on bench. The long term future of the team would be much better if we could have an effective Bernardo playing. But maybe Santos is just trying to keep a steady, if unspectacular team chemistry going.

    Wing backs did well. Liked the pass from Nelson to Ronaldo, great vision.

    Negatives: Alves almost got burned bad twice. He had to slide tackle his way out of one of plays because he was too slow to run down the forward. Might be ok against Latvia forwards, but in the confederations cup, quite a few much better forwards will expose him.

    I do think the team was a little lackadaisical and could have gotten more goals, but I am happy they were in complete control of the game.

    I still remember supposed easy games that turned out to be difficult (2014 World Cup Qualifying):
    2-1 vs Luxembourg 9-7-2012;
    1-1 vs Northern Ireland(in Portugal) 10-16-2012;
    3-3 vs Israel 3-22-2013; 1-1 vs Israel 10-11-2013(in Portugal) ;

    These games came after a very good run in the 2012 Euro where we lost on pens to a very good Spain team. So putting out underwhelming performances against weak teams is nothing new. So 3-0, is not a bad performance, even though it could have been much better.

    from California, USA
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  • Guest - Boston

    Absolutely spot on George.
    All of us just want what's best for the selecao but pointing out what's wrong and needs to be fixed asap apparently means we're not behind the team. We all have eyes. We can see what the problems are. Assuming Ronaldo goes to the World Cup in 2022 he'll be 37 so this is his last real shot at winning this thing. And that requires everything to be as perfect as possible. Santos should rewatch our games from 2014 to show him what an embarrassment that was for us and to not repeat the same mistakes. That means no loyalty to players who are too old or past it just for the sake of it. Yes that means Bruno Alves. He should have retired right after that World Cup. He's too slow to catch up to players who will out run him which will inevitably cause him to hack down the player and get red carded. We don't need this in a World Cup. If Semedo and Oliveira aren't ready why not Carrico. Or use Danilo at cb. As I've said before. If we get the pieces right we can dream of winning but if Santos chooses the wrong players this can end up being another disaster of a tournament.

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  • Guest - James

    Now now George is that your Portuguese temper coming out? Thankfully Santos doesn't handle criticism like you lol

    Real quick remind me of the details of Portugal's form and chemistry going into last years Euros? Did you have high hopes of them winning that?

    Santos has proven time and again he will give youth a chance, so the fact that he isn't selecting those players might mean they don't have what you think they do.

    Trying to prepare for life without Ronaldo while Ronaldo is in the squad is next to impossible. Also, what is portugal's chance of winning the WC without Ronaldo? Regardless of preparations beforehand Portugal does not have the team at least right now to make a serious run without him, so let's not act like we do. They have as much chance of winning the WC as they did Euro.

    Llets not act like Silva has been electric when given a chance to play for Portugal. Pretty sure we won euro without him.

    lastly, is armchair coach really that insulting? People getting fired up over a game we won a year out from winning euro...you can't see why some may get annoyed?

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  • Hi, guys)) Woooaaahhhhh…

    I have been impressed with portugal men... Do you plan to visit Russia this summer?
    I mean Confederations cup

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  • Guest - Christopher

    Even though he has not been in the best of form lately, I don't understand why Santos does not give Coentrao a chance, he is miles better than Eliseu, and we can have Guerreiro in the midfield just like he's used in Borussia Dortmund. It will let us experiment with our midfield since some players la Joao Mario and Gomes have not been that impressive in general and also let us implement Bernardo Silva in the midfield as well. I would really love to see this as a starting 11.

    Patricio
    Cedric Fonte Pepe Coentrao
    Quaresma B.Silva William Guerreiro
    Silva C.Ronaldo

    from Montreal, QC, Canada
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  • Guest - George

    James, it's more of the sentiment of some of the commenters on the site than the actual "armchair" comment that's insulting. I thought that rang through loud and clear in my comment, but, I guess you were one of the few people who didn't read it that way... Actually, it looks like you're the only person who didn't read it that way... Oh dear... I guess we all have our days. It's alright. I'm sure your comprehension will improve moving forward! No need to lose a Portuguese temper over it...

    Spare me the condescension dude. I'm sure it isn't pleasant when someone speaks to you that way... You don't know me and I don't know you - and that was hardly me losing my "Portuguese temper". (Way to circulate the stereotype by the way - another genius move). Trust me, I've been here for years and I've gone off on much more vitriolic rants than that one. A few of us have. That's what watching Bruno Alves and Eliseu does to you... Sigh.

    Anyway, yeah - I don't like it when people try to put themselves on a pedestal and put others down as if they know more than anyone else. So sue me. There's no such thing as a professional fan - we're ALL armchair supporters. Is it so wrong to stand up for myself - and others by the way, because that mentality of criticism doesn't just affect me - in the comments? I don't think so. I think it's good for everybody. As harmless as the comments were, the moment we start slipping down that slope is the moment that Portugoal starts losing some of its magic. And, as different as we all are, I'm pretty sure no one on this site wants to see that happen.

    I've been on other sites/forums where the hate between posters was so real that lives were threatened and a couple of people were even "doxxed". It was crazy, and it all starts inconspicuously enough.

    I don't think I overreacted, but, if I did - that's the place where it was coming from. I know the people here are good and don't intentionally try to belittle or insult others, but, when we're all as passionate as we are, we can easily cross the line from time to time. Heck, I've probably done it myself though I can't off the top of my head remember. Like I said, no one is better than anyone else. Likewise, none of us are perfect.

    Back to the football now (pretty sure everybody is sick of the other stuff, lol) - although I agree that Santos has given opportunities to youth, I think he's been given a lot more credit than he probably deserves. That's a big one for debate for sure...

    Aren't the majority of our quality players at this point - youth players? Andre Silva at striker... Who else is he going to pick? Eder scored a huge goal for us last summer but, come on now, let's not let one goal cover up all the cracks of his game. Andre Silva started getting first team football for Porto, and thus, he was callled into the squad. No brainer. And yes, he could do better (hence why so many of us want Bernardo in the squad to create more), but, he's still, at this very young age, the best pure striker Portugal has to offer by miles. Does Santos deserve a lot of credit for playing him? I don't think so. SOME credit? Sure, of course. A LOT? Hmmm... not really.

    What about Raphael at LB? Again, who else is he going to play? Eliseu...? Don't get me started, lol. And Fabio Coentrao... as much as I love him... he seems to injure himself every time he sneezes. He's not reliable at this point. Does Santos deserve a lot of credit for Raphael? Me thinks not. In fact LB is one of my bones of contention with Santos because, if he was as incorporating of youth as some people say he is, he would've included younger/better LB options than Eliseu at this point. Just today I read that PSG, Tottenham, Bayern Munich, and Raphael's current club Borussia Dortmund are all interested in Ricardo Pereira... so you're telling me all those clubs can see the value of Ricardo and Santos can't find a spot for him as a backup LB? Again, I think he deserves more criticism than some are willing to give him on that point.

    At CB, Santos hasn't incorporated one new face to the squad. That could spell curtains for us moving forward. Luis Neto is not a new, young face - even Paulo Bento called him up. I view it as an unnecessary risk not to have called a quality, young CB as a backup option up to this point.

    What about RB? Does Santos deserve a ton of credit for playing Cedric? People seem to gloss over the fact that Santos was choosing Vieirinha ahead of him last summer and the only reason both Cedric and Jose Fonte both played against Croatia was because the game came only 3 days after that match vs Hungary. They were thrown into the mix because of fatigue and neither of them have looked back since. Was that a genius move by Santos, or did he, and the squad, get lucky with circumstance?

    Again, in the midfield, with Joao Mario and Andre Gomes... Did we not expect him to make changes to that aging World Cup squad that failed to make it out of the group in Brazil? Did people expect him to keep Raul Meireles in the team? If not, did they expect him to choose someone older? At DM, again, who else was there? William had already been capped by Bento when Santos arrived. Bento even started him in the WC against Ghana. Does Santos deserve a lot of credit for starting him now? Doesn't seem to be that much of a leap to me... You get my point.

    Again, I like Santos. I really do. I know it doesn't always seem that way with my posts but it's true. I just think people have given him more credit than he deserves. If we're honest, a lot of what happened last year came down to luck: finishing third in the group and escaping, finding ourselves in the easier half of the knockout table only having to face Croatia, Poland, and Wales to get to the final, winning in ET and penalties against Croatia and Poland, Portugal having a striker (Eder) actually score a goal out of nothing at a crucial time for once, etc. All our bad luck in the group stage balanced itself out in the knockout stage. If we gloss over that and don't correct our glaring issues, we most definitely will not be challenging for the WC next year.

    BUT, and this is the exciting part - a new generation of quality players is giving us the opportunity to do that. That is, again, IF Santos uses them correctly. Hence the passion and disagreement.

    Does Santos know better than us? Maybe. He did bring us our first championship after all. Or, maybe, it was just our turn to get lucky. Just because someone is a coach doesn't necessarily mean they know better. Did Paulo Bento know better than us at the World Cup? Nope. Jorge Jesus wanted to convert Bernardo Silva to a LB - was he smarter than the rest of us? Nope. Tony Adams has himself a job managing football clubs (somehow), does he know better? Hell no.

    Coaches make mistakes. Even Fernando Santos. Criticism is good. The last thing we need is for our manager to be surrounded by a bunch of yes men. If Santos has a couple of voices in his ear as critical as some of us, I think that can only bode well for the Selecao.

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