Portugal 1-1 United States

A young and inexperienced American side looking for hope following the disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign put Portugal to the test in their final match of the calendar year in Leiria.

Debutante Weston McKennie scored an impressive goal to give the visitors a deserved first half lead. 

Though Portugal improved in the 2nd half, it must be said that the outcome might have been different were it not for a howler by Ethan Horvath. Fernando Santos will have been given plenty to think about after watching his own experiment falter against the athleticism and physicality of the Americans.

Braga's Ricardo Ferreira was given his full debut and Santos opted for a speedy attacking trident with Gelson and Bruma complementing Gonçalo Guedes. Antunes took over for Kevin Rodrigues at left back while Sporting's Bruno Fernandes pulled the strings in central midfield. 

The visitors pressed high early on and forced several miscues that Portugal were a bit fortunate to escape from without incident. Both sides struggled for rhythm in the passing game with youthful exuberance all over the pitch yielding some lack of composure. 

Antunes' excellent cross from the left was cut out by Lichaj with Gelson lurking at the back post in the 7th minute. But Portugal were dealt a blow when Pepe sustained an injury to his right foot, forcing Santos to introduce Luis Neto in only the 10th minute.

Bruma mishit a presentable chance at the back-post set up by Danilo's cross while at the other end Juan Agudelo fired well wide of Beto's right hand post from long range. Beto smothered Adams' shot after good work by C.J. Sapong down the left as the Americans signaled their intent.

The opening goal quickly followed as Weston McKennie easily cut inside Ferreira to open his international account on his debut for the senior side with a routine finish. 

But Portugal equalized ten minutes later when the American keeper, Ethan Horvath, somehow let Antunes' cross squirm underneath him and into the back of the net. Manuel Fernandes was next to test the young shot-stopper with a dipping effort from 25 yards.

Horvath offered up another chance for Portugal in the 39th minute when Danilo seized onto his poor distribution, but his blushes were spared when the Porto midfielder directed his shot straight into the keeper's mitts.

The visitors probably should have taken the lead minutes before halftime when John Brooks arrived ahead of Beto to meet a corner, but the referee spotted a minor and unnecessary foul by Matt Miazga. Rather unlike the first half against Saudi Arabia four days prior, the Seleção were fortunate to still be on level terms at halftime. Tactically and physically Portugal were lacking.

Gonçalo Paciência made his Portugal debut after the break with Gelson making way. But Portugal made no discernible improvement in the early going and Beto made a spectacular flying save to deny a Tyler Adams header after Ferreira allowed a cross from the right to get beyond him.

Beto was called upon yet again minutes later to stop an outside of the boot shot from Eric Lichaj at his near post. The resulting corner kick was thudded against the crossbar by Weston McKennie in a manic spell for Portugal.

As Portugal struggled for balance, Bruma gained a yard of space to fire in a shot that substitute keeper Hamid easily gathered in the 56th minute. Fernando Santos introduced Bernardo Silva and Ruben Neves minutes later to wrestle back control of midfield.

Steadily Portugal regained some composure and Paciência rattled the woodwork after being teed up by Bernardo Silva in the 69th minute. But Portugal still looked vulnerable on set pieces, and Beto produced a spectacular kick save to deny Carter-Vickers at point blank range to keep the score deadlocked at 1-1.

Antunes warmed the keeper's mitts with a drive from range as both sides worked hard for the winner. Rony Lopes was given his debut and very nearly laid one on a plate for João Mário in the 87th minute only for Hamid to gather at his feet.

But Portugal could not find the right combination of passes to overcome the visitor's determination and were perhaps lucky to come away with a draw in the end. Bernardo Silva's introduction elevated Portugal's threat considerably and Paciência probably should have at least hit the target with his lone chance of the game, but the result was inevitable as Portugal never found a consistent passing rhythm.

Ricardo Ferreira and Neto struggled at the heart of defence after Pepe's injury and Nelson Semedo, despite playing quite well for Barcelona, was caught out at crucial moments even while revealing his attacking threat on occasion. On this evidence, Santos' decision to not include a No9 in the first half will surely be considered a failure as Portugal's attacks lacked a focal point.

Meanwhile Beto made good use of his opportunity, showing his athleticism to hold the result for Portugal early in the second half when the defence was all at sea. 

With half of the season yet to play, Santos will certainly have time to patch up the holes and round out the World Cup squad, but it must be said the likes of Cédric, Ronaldo, William, and Adrien were greatly missed tonight. 


by Nathan Motz


Starting Lineups

Portugal: Beto, Antunes, Ferreira, Pepe (Neto, 10'), Nelson Semedo (, 62'), Danilo (Neves, 62'), Bruma (Bernardo, 62'), Gelson (Paciência, 46'), Manuel Fernandes (, 56'), Bruno Fernandes (João Mário, 46'), Gonçalo Guedes (Lopes, 81')

USA: Ethan Horvath, DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Miazga, Tyler Adams, John Brooks, Weston McKennie, Eric Lichaj, Juan Agudelo, C.J. Sapong, Danny Williams, Kelllyn Acosta



[0-1] Weston McKennie, 21'

[1-1] Antunes, 31'

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Overall Rating (3)

4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Guest - Ozzy solis

    Rated 4 out of 5 stars

    This is my World Cup squad
    Midfielders:Bernardo Silva, quaresma, bruma,Joao Mario, moutinho, carvalho, Danilo, Manuel fernandes, adrien Silva
    Defenders: Cedric, Ricardo, guerreiro, Antunes, Pepe, Edgar ie, Jose fonte, Ruben semedo
    Gk: Patricio, lopes, Beto

    from Concord, CA, USA
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  • Guest - joe

    Not concerned about the result and I dont think Santoa was either. He was tring new players again and more interestingly and somewhat unsuccessfully different formations than we usually see and what you saw against the Saudis. I think the combo of that amd so many changes again made for a disconjointed display where passing interplay was poor....the other was that once Pepe went off we looked disorganized at the back and their goal was a result...had Pepe been on...no goal. Also and some have mentioned...the USA was far hungrier and worked harder which is why the one more 50/50 and why poor clearances silly errand passes resulted in really their only good chances. I was good for us to play against a direct and very athletic team.

    As far as the players that were being tried out...it would have been nice to see them in the 442 versus a new fornation as they looked out of sink. Bruma did good work and should his season go well...i would be suprised not to see him going. Antunes or rodrigues...a toss up really...both did well...edgar Ie certainly had a better outing than r.ferreira, wow he had a wobbler last night. Semedo was poor in first half and much better in 2nd half...he looks nervous and ferreira and the mids didnt help him to much by playing passes to him constantly with no out ball and them closing down....must have happened 10 times.
    I thought manuel fernandes did well again and was the only.mid to actually try to unlock.their press and again get forward into attacking positions...b. fernandes did not look good last night and for me was not in his position....he should have been further forward...I worry he might not make it because of moutinho, adrein or a.gomes...even though if played in his position has more to offer...but lets see.

    Neto as I have posted before is hit and miss and like someone posted...start looking for another CB...Pepe, Ie, fonte if fit and one more....??

    Alot of players are close but still young..neves is quality but 20..sanches is 20...rony lopes is 22...they will surely be apart of the next cycle but it might just be too soon for them and in Sanches case...unless he has an incredible rest of season...its the same.

    This is my list based on current form, qualifying and friendlies.

    Gks...Patricio, lopes, beto
    Defenders...Pepe, Ie, Fonte, Guerriero, semedo, perreira, cancelo, k. Rodrigues
    Midfielders...danilo, william, m.fernandes, b.fernandes, j.mario
    Forwards...b.silva, a.silva, ronaldo, quaresma, guedes, bruma, g.martins

    i put cancelo in becuade he can play right midfield as well as right back and he has been for valencia and now inter.
    He could be taken out for lets say moutinho or another central defender. I left cedric off becuase he didnt play and I still feel that between cancelo, perreira and semeso there i more qaulity. A.gomes or r.sanches could usurp b.fernandes depending on their seasons form and march friendlies.

    Attacking wise this selection seems obvious based on club and country and is very fluid as all of them can occupy several roles. I suppose Nani could make a claim of his season goes well but as of now....he just returned from injury and is not even a regular sub on a lazio team...you cont justify his selection and leave off g.martins and bruma.

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  • Guest - Paulo6

    I really hope Portugal wins the World Cup!.

    BUT...... I am going to make a bold prediction (I am not being big sarcastic at all.. ya right), the WC winner will be Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina ,or Spain.
    It makes me sick to my stomach to say that.
    BUT CMON does any one else ever win the WC.

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  • Paulo, I'll narrow that list down a bit further by saying that Argentina won't be anywhere near the winner's podium at this World Cup. In spite of Lionel Messi, that squad is way too disjointed and lacks solidarity/belief. They'll make the knockout rounds on talent alone, but they won't win.

    As for the rest of your list, you're probably right to say that those teams have the best chance but remember they all had to win for the first time. Even Spain never won a WC until their Golden Generation finally did in South Africa (2010). France also has just one lone victory courtesy of their Golden Generation led by Zidane.

    Now Portugal have a new Golden Generation coming of age. It remains to be seen whether we can go further than the old Golden Generation of Figo, Rui Costa, etc. But my point is that when the stars align just so, teams that never won before will have their chance. France took advantage of this, so did Spain, now I think we have to follow suit.

    If everyone stays healthy and with Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva, and Goncalo Guedes adding more firepower to the same basic squad that won Euro 2016, we have a real chance.

    As I've written before, this will probably be the best chance for Portugal to win a WC in my lifetime.

    from Louisiana, USA
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  • What was your prediction Paulo6 at Euro 2016.

    What is most important is how you play as a team and the determination to win it. C Ronaldo has the determination and charisma who can motivate the team and lift the world cup 2018.

    The two friendlies that were played was to find ways to strengthen the Portugal squad by Fernando Santos

    Fernando Santos squad for World Cup 2018 will be from the winning EURO 2016 leaving behind some few.

    C Ronaldo has nothing to loss but to win the WC 2018, to complete his achievements and that of the Portuguese fans.

    Pepe is an equally determined player who will play his best at the WC 2018 to lift the cup.

    Be Positive and support the team

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  • Guest - joe

    We have a strong and deep enough squad to compete with the favourites now with the new generation just starting to come of age, i.e. william, j.mario, b.silva,

    However, i have wrote before that these players along with cancelo, guerriero, andre silva, semedo, guedes, b.fernandes and then add neves and sanches who are all not even close to their prime yet...Russia will be good but 2020 euro and 2022 WC will be the stongest portugal squad ever seen as all these players will be in prime amd I am sure some outliers.

    Also, i always keep track of upcoming players and between u19 and u21 currently there is another squad full of real talent that are amazing and like neves and sanches especially in the u19 squad ready to be in the u21.

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  • Guest - Guest - Winnipeg

    Nice that Portugal will be a seeded team this year and avoid many of the top teams.

    However, Spain will be in POT #2 this year and will by default determine the Group of Death. Knowing our luck with these draws we may end up with Spain in our Group.

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  • It was good to have a motivated opponent like the USA who played a fast and physical kind of football. I don't mind about the results - even better like this, it keeps the team down to earth. regarding players choice, the two games delivered valuable info, of course state "today" - and things may change until next summer. But from what I have seen now, I would resume as follows.

    The players that strengthened their chance to have a spot in the World Cup squad:
    Beto - reliable, experienced, fit, and does not crack under pressure. My number 2 Goalkeeper, Anthony Lopes is No. 3 to me, because he tends to loose vision in hectic situations and is less capable of "impossible" saves.
    Antunes - sub for Guerreiro. Kicks Eliseu out of the team. To me, he had a really decent game against the US, while the rest of the defence was in deep trouble. I choose him over Coentrão, because the latter made of glass and that's not what you need in a tournament.
    Ricardo Pereira - not a sub, but an alternative to Cédric. Very dynamic and defensively stronger than Semedo. Semedo is defintely out of the squad to me. He just does NOT look like the finished product - But Cédric and Perreira do. Pecking order right back: Cédric - Perreira - Cancelo - Semedo.
    Manuel Fernandes - Definitely an alternative in midfield despite his age. He's well versed technically and suited well especially against the Saudis. I would clearly choose him over Bruno Fernandes who missed to impress.
    Gonçalo Guedes - not much to say about him. If he's fit, he will be on the plane to Russia, no doubt. I am keen to see his development at Valencia. Will he further improve, keep the level or decrease? Guess I am not the only one who sees him as the natural successor of Cristiano Ronaldo. Would like to see him together with Ronaldo in a 442 - Besides his pace and technical skills, Guedes is currently showing glimpses of absolutely worldclass decision making. Could finally be a partner for Ronaldo who thinks as fast as his idol. But Guedes is not the player to play with the back to the net, therefore the team would mainly benefit from his exceptionalk vision and creativity and ability to play the deadly assist (towards Ronaldo or André Silva...)

    The players who left question marks, but still have the chance to get a spot:
    Edgar Ié - Due to lack of alternatives it might be him to bring in fresh blood at the CB position. It was a pitty not to see him against the US. because the Saudis weren't a real touch-stone offensively. Ferreira was really a nightmare and will probably never wear the seleçao shirt again.
    João Cancelo - He's very versatile but looked weaker than Pereira from Porto. But still better than Semedo.
    Bruma - Quite nice display, but his impact was not huge and he still lives a lack of consistency. Let's see how he develops at RB Leipzig.
    Gonçalo Paciencia - Personally I don't like him much. He does not have the technical abilities a Portugal NT striker should have. So he sometimes looks disjointed and egoistic. But he has a really high workrate, adn this have to be taken into consideration too.

    Players that had their chance and missed it:
    Ricardo Ferreira - nothing to add. Worst display ever seen from a Portuguese CB
    Nelson Semedo - He is not ready for the NT - despite his qhality displays at Barcelona. But I don't give to much on that. When you are called up for the seleçao you have to deliver. And he missed that constantly at various occasions.
    Bruno Fernandes - no influence, unfortunate, does not add value so far. Others have simply pore impact

    All in all good to have good depth. It is a good thing to have a clear plan (guaranteed with Santos), a core of experienced players who guarantee continuits (this we have - Joao Mario and bernardo Silva can already counted to that circle too) and depth in players selection (this we have except at CB at the moment). If you have these prerequisites fulfilled, the manager can pick the players who show best fitness and form when defining the squad for the tournament. This is what long term successful nations do - the Germans are the best example for this philosophy. I am confident that the chance is there for Portugal that Euro 2016 was just the beginning and they could establish a dynasty. But chemistry must be good - not only in the team, it needs cohesion between federation, coach, team and extended team (eligible players No. 15 - 26 or so).

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  • Rolf Gerber
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars


    Really gives you an appreciation for Fernando Santos and how he put the team together. He isn't perfect and makes mistakes but he has always corrected them and never is motivated through stubbornness or pride, unlike most of his predecessors.

    These friendlies should really highlight how well prepared Portugal are and were at the Euro and how Santos handles players of new and old regulars and superstars. He gets everyone together and has a clear plan and vision and he is able to get the players to buy into it so when Ronaldo goes down, they march onto Euro glory regardless.

    Semedo has all the talent on the planet but Cedric is the better choice for Portugal. Joao Mario has been given a lot of grief by fans here but he has always been a stud for Portugal. Moutinho still gets grief but the guy is still playing at a very high level especially at his position. I agree with Supremo above, disregarding Moutinho is foolish.

    Ricardo Fereira is the poster child for all the fans yelling for Santos to try this guy and try that guy with no thoughts about preparation, confidence, chemistry and mentality. The national side is not a rec league where you throw out a thousand formations and see which sticks. Look what happened to Italy thanks to garbage coaching and trying a millions plans.

    Anyhow, great post and lets enjoy our coach for as long as we have him because statistically when Santos retires, we will get another Bento-Box, Queiroz or some other dolt and we can all start to cry again. Lol


    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - Paulo6



    First off, truly a fantastic website I have followed for a LONG time and enjoybiyvalot, and love your analysis. Thank you!

    Valid points!, I can't argue any of them. I only lumped Argentina in, as they are Past WC winners.
    I do indeed hope that they get absolutely thumped, and that they are in a absolute mambolic state come the WC.
    Have always disliked them as they are ignorant and cocky, BUT the boiling point for me was when I think it was the U20's (?) played Portugal and they were laughing and imitating crying and then Portugal won in PK's that was EPIC!

    With Santos I am confident that Portugal will come in stress free, relaxed and focussed!.
    Also I truly believe that this "Golden Generation" is far better then the last, let's be honest the last didn't do much in my opinion other that Euro 2004, and WC 2006, and lest us forget about the 2002 DISASTER, 0 common sense what so ever all around! Pathetic.
    That all said they never won at senior level so all a waste (in my opinion). I don't care about participation ribbons, first place or nothing. FACT.

    Neville: For EURO 2016, I actually had Portugal winning. BUT this is the WC, and it just makes me sick and frustrated that always it's the same ol' team winning it!
    That said Forca Portugal!.

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