Portugal 4-2 Macedonia

Portugal’s U21 squad gave it a good effort but a 4-2 victory against a stubborn Macedonian side in Gdynia, Poland on Friday night was not enough to remain in contention for a semi-final berth.

After the defeat to Spain earlier this week, Rui Jorge’s squad knew heading into their final group match that only a resounding victory by three or more goals, in addition to scoring four, was needed to overtake Slovakia as the best 2nd place finisher while awaiting results in Group C on Saturday.

In the end, Portugal fall in the group stage after just missing out on the title on penalties to Sweden in the final of this competition two years ago in the Czech Republic.

Perfect start

Rui Jorge signalled his intent to take the game to the Macedonians even before the opening whistle, going with a very attack-minded starting line-up. Without Ruben Semedo and Bruno Fernandes due to suspension, Jorge made a total of five changes from the squad that lost to Spain last time.

Portugal certainly got the start they needed. Just moments into the match, Edgar Ié was left all alone in the box and headed in a corner from a Iuri Medeiros cross to give Portugal the early lead.

However, it would become clear that their opponents were not going to roll over. The Macedonians responded well to the goal and almost caught Portuguese defenders on the break a few times in the opening minutes. But, the Portuguese kept up the pressure. In the 18th minute, Rebocho, making his first start of the tournament was replaced by Kevin Rodrigues.

Daniel Podence and Bruma were behind much of the Portuguese attacks in the early stages running at defenders. In the 22nd minute, Bruma received a pass from Rodrigues on the left, flat-footed a defender before delivering a brilliant right-footed strike past Damjan Shishkovski. It was his second goal in as many games and another contender for goal of the tournament.

Up 2-0 and not even a half-hour into the match, things looked good for the Portuguese. And they did not desist. Moments after scoring, Bruma found Podence in the box, but the diminutive Sporting winger could not find the net with his header.

With five minutes left before half-time, Macedonia’s Enis Bardhi found some room just outside the 18-yard box and put one past Bruno Varela. The goal did not mean much to the big picture. Portugal still needed two goals to move ahead of Slovakia.

Desperation time

The Macedonian goal seemed to take the wind out of Portugal. They seemed to lack the same intensity and cohesion in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Rui Jorge removed Renato Sanches and put in Ricardo Horta, making Ruben Neves the only true midfielder on the pitch for Portugal. Moments later, Iuri Medeiros found Podence in the box, who made it 3-1.

Portugal had just over a half-hour to score one more but things were about to take a turn. They struggled to create and Macedonia seemed to grow in confidence as the game went on. In the 80th minute came the heartbreak. With Portugal moving their players forward, Macedonia found their opportunity on the counter-attack. Kire Markoski scored to narrow the lead to one.

It was difficult to see Portugal scoring two at that point. And Rui Jorge’s reaction to the goal said it all. Bruma scored his second of the match in injury time raising Portugal’s hopes again.

However, just moments later Diogo Jota got tangled up with a Macedonian player and was given a questionable straight red card by Slovakian referee Ivan Kružliak which sealed their fate. Portugal’s efforts had just fallen short.

Rui Jorge responds

After the match, Portugal’s manager expressed his disappointment that they could not go further in this competition despite high expectations. “Obviously, we were not able to do enough to be among the top four teams. It does not feel like a victory,” Rui Jorge said.

“Scoring four goals in a tournament match is very difficult. We were able to do so but conceded one that we should not have and were punished for it. But, this team never gave up.”

By Rui Miguel Martins

Portugal: Varela; Cancelo, Edgar Ié, Tobias Figueiredo, Rebocho (Kevin Rodrigues, 18’); Rúben Neves, Renato Sanches (Ricardo Horta, 55'), Podence (Diogo Jota, 69’), Bruma, Iuri Medeiros; Gonçalo Paciência


[1-0] Edgar Ié, 2’

[2-0] Bruma, 22’

[2-1] Bardhi, 40’

[3-1] Podence, 57’

[3-2] Markoski, 80’

[4-2] Bruma, 90’+1


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Overall Rating (1)

3.5 out of 5 stars

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People in this conversation

  • Guest - Dave

    So many better players could have been called up for this tournament
    Rafa Soares, Helder Costa, Domingos Duarte, Fabio Cardoso, Rony Lopes, Gil Dias.

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  • Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars

    Forget the questionable Red Card, there was no question, the foul should have been on the Macedonia player. The ref was very biased, missed two fouls in the penalty area. Before I go on a long rant.....

    This game made me appreciate Fernando Santos and what he has brought to the team. I had almost forgotten how it felt watching a Portugal team full of talented individuals failing to win the "big" or "necessary" game. Portugal teams will look great and have a beautiful style... until that team comes along. The one that gets very physical, gets away with fouls as the ref refuses to see. Afterwards, the commentators saying Portugal isn't tough enough, on and on ....

    This current national team is structured to tough it out, case in point, Ronaldo(by far our best goal scorer) getting taken out in France. The team was tough enough all tournament to see the result through.

    Back to the game, if we didn't need the 3 goal differential, we surely would have beaten them by 4 or more. I just wish our teams could use some of this urgency to score(which they can do), with the control they have.

    Finally, one of the weaknesses we have a proven goal scorers. That is why Ronaldo is so important and Andre Silva needs to keep developing and building confidence. Bruma had some excellent goals, especially that volley against Spain.

    Speaking of confidence, I am sure Renato Sanches has lost his, he needs to leave Bayern. Not only is he not good enough for the Senior side now, he looked bad with the under 21's. Unless there is something physically wrong with him, I can't think of why he is a shadow of himself. I hope that doesn't happen to Andre.

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  • Meant to write, "Finally, one of the weaknesses we have is a lack of proven goal scorers(outside Ronaldo)."

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Portugal were by far the better side and had it not been for some poor finishing and some questionable officiating, they certainly could have won by 5-6 goals. At the end of the day, failing to make the semifinals with such a talented squad is a going to be a tough pill to swallow, but at the end of the day, they really only have themselves to blame.

    These were my biggest takeaways from the tournament:

    1. Renato Sanches has been a shadow of his former self since his move to Bayern. It was always going to be extremely difficult to make much of impact in his first season with so many elite midfielders ahead of him in the pecking order, but his lack of playing time and poor form have really seemed to have shattered his confidence. He definitely needs to make a move to a quality club where he is guaranteed playing time.

    2. Edgar Ie has genuine potential. I was actually pretty impressed with Ie when I watched him play for Belenenses a handful of times this season, but he has completely blown me away at the U21 Euros. He's athletic, strong in the tackle, tidy in possession, and his reading of the game has improved significantly over the past year or so. He certainly would have attracted some attention with his displays in Poland, so I have a very hard time seeing Belenenses holding on to him much longer. I actually wouldn't mind if Benfica made an offer for him. Lindelof is gone and neither Ruben Dias nor Kalaica look ready to make the step up to the senior side.

    3. Bruma and Ruben Neves have elite potential. Neves was superb in all three matches, and while he may lack Danilo's sheer physicality, I would argue that he is a better all-around #6. Bruma always had world-class pace and dribbling ability, but now it looks like his adding a consistent end-product to his game. I look forward to seeing how he fares in the Bundesliga and the Champions League with RB Leipzig.

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  • Guest - Michael

    Disappointment. That's all you can really say.

    Cancelo, Ié, Neves, Podence, Guedes, and Bruma were the most impressive imo. I hope they all have break through seasons especially Bruma.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    So Portugal is trying to overtake Slovakia to qualify as the best runner-up and they assign a referee from Slovakia to this match? What gives? I 100% agree Paulo. At least one very clear penalty that was missed and that red card was just abhorrent. I'm not even sure that was a foul at all? This obviously corrupt trash bag almost made the referees at the 2002 South Korea world cup look competent with that call. It's a shame because the way our team played.. to go home this early is upsetting. They could've beaten Spain on another day but nevertheless they cannot be conceding 2 goals to Macedonia.

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