Portugal 3-0 Saudi Arabia

No Cristiano, no problem.

Portugal exercised superb command of midfield from start to finish at the Estádio do Fontelo in a match benefitting those affected by the recent and devastating wildfires.

Gonçalo Guedes' searing pace, Danilo's passing control, and Bernardo Silva's vertical runs through midfield carried the Seleção to a dominant victory that the final scoreline did not wholly reflect.

Santos focused the intent of his experimentation on back-up options for left-back and goalkeeper by including debutante Kevin Rodrigues and Anthony Lopes respectively. Elsewhere, Gonçalo Guedes was rewarded for his blistering start to the La Liga campaign with Valencia, and Manuel Fernandes assumed the role of playmaker usually occupied by João Moutinho, his first start for Portugal since 2012.

Portugal immediately assumed control of midfield with Bernardo Silva and Danilo working diligently in possession. Manuel Fernandes marked his return to the squad with the first shot of the match, a powerful effort over the bar.

João Mário's deflected shot hit the woodwork minutes later after he had drifted inside from the left wing. Manuel Fernandes then had a close range effort blocked at the last second after good work from Bernardo Silva on the counter opened up space behind the Saudi defence.

Guedes really should have scored in the 15th minute after a corner found its way through the Saudi defence, but the Valencia winger misplaced his header just wide of the left upright. Guedes let another chance go begging minutes later when played clean through by André Silva, but he lost his footing at the critical moment.

Bernardo Silva orchestrated another brilliant move with João Mário that ended with a blocked shot from Manuel Fernandes as Portugal continued to look for an opening. The breakthrough inevitably came in the 32nd minute after Guedes showed brilliant chest control to bring down an excellent long ball from Danilo on the right wing. Having missed several chances himself, Guedes turned provider for Manuel Fernandes to score only his 3rd ever goal for Portugal.

João Cancelo forced a diving save from Al Owais in the 40th minute as the Seleçao closed out the first half well on top of proceedings.

Ricardo Pereira came on for João Cancelo to start the second half, and Portugal resumed their dominance. Guedes missed a fabulous chance to score just minutes into the half after a mazy run through midfield. His layoff for João Mário was returned but Guedes' eventual shot was placed just the wrong side of the post. 

Bernardo Silva was next to test Al Owais, who kick-saved the Manchester City midfielder's shot after good work by André Silva. The ex-Porto striker then fired a looping effort just over after displaying some exceptional footwork to keep the ball from two defenders. 

The next goal followed minutes later when Ricardo Pereira combined brilliantly with Bernardo Silva down the right wing. The Porto fullback eventually found Gonçalo Guedes for the routine finish, a deserved goal for the 20 year old and his first for the senior side. 

Bruno Fernandes warmed the keeper's mitts with a swerving effort from 25 yards soon after coming on as a substitute. André Silva then mishit a decent opportunity to score when set up by Guedes in the 67th minute as the match tempo became more disjointed as a result of substitutions. 

Bruma forced Al Owais to keep out a piledriver from 25 yards in the 80th minute with practically his first touch of the match. Though not at his electric best, João Mário capped a fine night's work from Portugal with a crisp strike into the bottom left corner from outside the box. 

Portugal's starting midfield quartet so effectively controlled the match that it was difficult to evaluate the performance of Anthony Lopes or the backline as the Saudis only recorded a handful of blocked shots all evening. Ricardo Pereira made his substitute cameo count as his effervescent pursuit of the ball and overlapping runs kept the right side of Portugal's formation wide open.

André Silva struggled without Cristiano Ronaldo alongside him even as Guedes ran riot through the Saudi defence on multiple occasions. Despite having had little time to develop chemistry with the squad, Manuel Fernandes' forward presence in midfield will certainly have complicated matters even further for Santos, who will be forced to choose which of Portugal's midfield playmakers to leave behind next summer.

The Seleção will play their final match of the calendar year against the United States on Tuesday in Leiria. 

  

by Nathan Motz

 

Starting Lineups

Portugal: Anthony Lopes, Kevin Rodrigues, Neto, Pepe (Ié, 56'), Cancelo (Pereira, 46'), Danilo (Neves, 75'), João Mário, Bernardo Silva (Gelson, 56'), Manuel Fernandes (Bruno Fernandes, 56'), André Silva, Gonçalo Guedes (Bruma, 75')

Saudi Arabia: Al Owais, Omar Hawsawi, Al Shahrani, Al Burayk, Ateef, Al Khaibri, Motaz Hawsawi, Al Hazaa, Al Dawsari, Al Shehri 

  

Goals:

[1-0] Manuel Fernandes, 32'

[2-0] Gonçalo Guedes, 52'

[3-0] João Mário, 90'

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    While it was just a friendly, it's hard not to be excited after watching such a strong performance against a decent Saudi Arabia side. Apart from the usual quality performances from more established names like Bernardo, Joao Mario, and Danilo, I was really impressed with Guedes, Manuel Fernandes, and Ricardo.

    It was always going to be difficult for Manuel Fernandes to earn a spot on the squad given the competition in the 8 position, but if he continues to play well in Russia, he may have an outside shot of making the tournament -- especially when you consider the lack of playing time/poor form of some of our other options in that position (Adrien, Andre Gomes, Renato Sanches, etc).

    I also wouldn't mind seeing Guedes start alongside Ronaldo up top in one of our pre-tournament friendlies. Andre Silva has done well alongside Ronaldo against the really weak, defense-minded teams in our qualification group, but I feel Guedes could offer a bit more dynamism against quality opposition, especially on the counter.

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  • It was a really impressive performance from Portugal. I love the way the team came out and played with some urgency, which is at least partially attributable to the combination of regulars not playing as much as they'd like for their clubs and new faces looking to earn a spot for next summer. Just about the only negative was Andre Silva because, man, he really needs more playing time for AC Milan and you can see his lack of form.

    As the match was about to end 2-0 before the final goal, I couldn't help but think of how much that scoreline would flatter Saudi Arabia, and I think even 3-0 was a bit flattering to them. Portugal thoroughly outclassed them throughout.

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  • Guest - Tomas Sheehan

    my god its like the Portuguese goverment this site , tryn to place a comment , very DIFFICULT....

    jota guys jota
    should have been called up no dought in my mind , seems milee better than silva in my opinion , hes doing in a very good league week in week out...

    manuel Fernandez was veey good tonday happy to see him back but yer right guys alot of options fpr number 8 id like to see nevez druma get bit more time against usa ...

    neto played well , think fonte is past it, alvez hmm ok pepe still a rock all in all we havr a good squad...

    guedes gelson bruma all seem very good...

    joao mario not sure why inter dont play him hes a rock...

    from Australia
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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    A dominant performance by the Selecao and we really should have scored a few more, against a Saudi Arabia side who were better than what I had expected. They defended well for the most part and were better on the ball than I thought they'd be (the gap in international football is decreasing all the time and it's so much more of an even playing field than European club football where it's increasingly becoming all about who has the most $$$$$!). Even still, the Selecao were thoroughly dominant even with an experimental squad and this just shows the amount of quality we have at the moment.

    Guedes was very impressive throughout. He reminds me a lot of the young CR7 and is showing signs that he has what it takes to be Ronaldo's long term successor in the national team. Full of energy and pace and skill. If he can only improve his finishing and end product then he could really turn out to be a truly world class player. Surely a guaranteed spot for Guedes in the WC squad! Manuel Fernandes also did well, especially considering how long he'd been away from the national team. As others have pointed out, he could have an outside chance of making the WC squad due to the current dodgy situation of a few of our CMs (i.e Adrien, Renato, Andre Gomes). But it's only an outside chance because of the intense competition in CM and the fact that he's been out of the international picture for so long. But with Santos in charge, anyone has a chance to make it, and the more quality options there are, the better.

    I liked what I saw of Ricardo Pereira too. His versatility to play on either flank would be useful to the squad. Unless Coentrao can rediscover his old form by the end of the season, I think Ricardo Pereira should make the squad as the left back backup to Guereiro (but also as cover for right back). Gelson Martins again failed to really impress for the Selecao. He hasn't totally convinced me yet, I have to say. He's clearly got raw talent and great dribbling skills, but he has this casualness in his play which he really needs to improve on. He also tries to do too much a lot of the time and ends up losing possession of the ball too often. I don't think his place in the WC squad is guaranteed and he could be pipped by the likes of Bruma (looked good last night), Jota or even Nani.

    In any case, it was clear last night that we have an array of quality options across virtually all the positions and competition for places is hectic. Fernando Santos will have a real headache when the time comes around to select his final WC squad! Nevertheless, I'm confident that when the time comes he will select the best possible squad and that we will arrive in Russia with one of the strongest overall squads in the tournament, and with a decent chance of going all the way.

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  • Andre Silva is too lethargic, needs improvement on his physic and running ability. At his age (22) he needs to be active and running all around. He cannot hoodwink defenders from a 52 ranked country.
    Fernando Santos needs to give Eder more playing time in Selacao or bring some players who can run between oponent defenders. I have seen Diego Jota who has a good ability harassing opponent defenders being a winger and could be used in the center ( a try) at times.

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  • I agree bringing in Jota, very talented player that plays with good pace, agree with Andre Silva fitness looking suspect, I don't think he's got good instincts, or at least not yet, loses the ball a bit too easy, can't do that when you're a stricker, all in all the team looks good!

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  • Guest - joe

    Very good game and the players all merited the possibility of being in russia.

    The question is obvious for some players who will not make it for a number of reasons, be it age, or just having to much depth in one position or Russia just being a bit too soon. For example, one of the keepers will make for our no1 Patricio, thats obvious, Ronaldo, quaresma, carvalho and guerreiro are all on the plane if fit and their quality is all world class...but its players like moutinho, gomes, fonte, alves, cedric thats you could make arguments for not being on the plane despite their service to the seleccao but this is about winning not favours and I would say that there are new and more exciting alternatives.

    M.fernandes and bruno fernandes offer far more creativity and penchant for something special and tactically given they can play no10 role than moutinho and gomes...also league form for both thus far is superior to that of the latter two...just my opionion but leaving b
    Fernandes at home would be a mistake...he can pick a pass ala rui costa like I havent seen well sonce rui costa and his shooting from range is fantastic...in my opinion he ahould be getting more opportunities. M.fernandes scored on his long awaited return and did something i havent seen since maniche and that is a midfielder wanting to score in the box. He isnt any older than moutinho which also provides experience. Just my thoughts.

    As much as i love the reliability of cedric, you cant ignore the fact that semedo, cancelo and as we saw perreira offer that and so much more. I bring semedo and perreira as my rbs and cancelo as an option becuase he is so adept as a winger as well.

    Neto for me is often to reckless and is prone to grand mistakes and should fonte get his form back would be my veteran pick but thats it, one or the other, Ie amd possibly another younger upcoming defender would make the plane as backup.

    As far as leftback, its guerreiro if fit and rodrigues looked good.

    neves is still young at 20 and has lots of time, he stays home. R. Sanches will probably stay home unless his second half of season is outstanding.

    My 23 as of todays date and if all players are fit amd on current form is this(very similiar to the team selection now.

    Gks
    Rui Patricio, Anthony Lopes, Jose Sa

    Defenders
    Kevin Rodrigues, Neto, Pepe, Ié, Pereira, Semedo, Cancelo and Guerreiro

    Midfielders
    Danilo, William, João Mário, Manuel Fernandes, Bruno Fernandes

    André Silva, Gonçalo Guedes, Bruma, B. Silva, Ronaldo, Gelson Martins, quaresma

    ***Cancelo is a right sided mid or attacking option but can also support defence and Ive listed him in defence...som attackers could have been placed in midfield section but is not so important.

    My alternatives should they stay fit and be playing regularly are j.moutinho, andre gomes, Eder, cedric and j.fonte but strongly believe they are not as good as what I have listed.

    And we dont need another striker as ronaldo and a.silva are out and out strikers for the seleccao. Ronaldo no longer is a winger. Also, guedes, b.fernandes, b.silva and even bruma all can play that role up front with one or the other strikers.

    I believe that once santos has his starting back line and central midfield pair established and clicking they will remain pretty constant throughout and having most options or the attacking front 4 is paramount while the list has players who can play multiple positions in midfield and attack

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  • Guest - Danny DaSilva

    Joe- I guarantee the guys that were left off the roster for these friendlies will be going to Russia. That means Moutinho will be going along with Ronaldo, Quaresma, Carvalho and Guerreiro. I don't get. Moutinho had his moment to shine back in Brazil and Veloso, Merieles, and he just weren't good enough. To me, he symbolizes that old guard, which lost in 2010, choked in 2012, and flopped in 2014.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    @Danny DaSilva

    Moutinho didn't even appear for Portugal in World Cup 2010. In 2012, Moutinho was the best midfielder Portugal had and we came inches to defeating Spain in the semi-final and in a likelihood would have gone on to win the cup. (Italy got pounded 4-0 in the final) 2014 was virtually the same squad of 2012 (thanks to Bento) Everyone was old and riddled with injuries including Cristiano. Veloso is too slow and Meireles was always a player of very average technical ability. Imagine the service Cristiano would of got without Moutinho during that era. Quite possibly the same as 2010 It was so bad, i don't even want to remember.

    Now we have a plethora of talent in that position.. and just because Moutinho was rested for these friendlies, by no means is Moutinho guaranteed to be on the plane to Russia. This is about giving the youth a run out and evaluating where they are in their career progress. Some we can say are ready to step into the national side. Guedes for example, I believe has an excellent shot at making it and Bruno Fernandes possibly given their club forms.But Moutinho's experience and continuity in the squad is valuable and gives him an edge that young players do not have. I think anyone would agree the recipe for World Cup winning teams is a blend of youth and experience. No reason to be disappointed if Moutinho is called upon when the final 23 are announced. He's our best previous generation player in his position and could be the balancing factor in a very young and dynamic midfield. Or can come off the bench to establish more ball control when Portugal are in a lead and struggling to close out matches.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    P.S - By now Eder's name has been written all over the history books. He is world–renowned albeit deservedly for the only meaningful and biggest ever contribution he made to the Portuguese national team in it's 103 years of existence. But how many out there remember off the top of their heads the man who provided assist to that euphoric goal that impacted many generations? Go back and see for yourself.

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