Portugal went down 1-0 to a highly rated German side on Saturday night in Arena Lviv in what was a low-key game despite the pre-match expectation.
Paulo Bento’s side set out their first-half performance to ensure things would remain level at half time, with many periods of play where all 11 of Portugal’s players sat behind the Germans, who passed the ball laterally to try and find an opening.
The Portuguese resilience in defence and utilising the speed and finishing they had up front in the form of Nani and Ronaldo on the counter-attack is not an uncommon concept and appears to be the best way to beat a team like Germany.
Bruno Alves and Pepe were strong at the back for Portugal – and as the Germans were forced into high crosses from the wings, the duo were comfortably able to head away the danger at many points. The goal from Mario Gomez admittedly came from a cross, but the header was more down to sublime placement more than poor defending.
Fabio Coentrao, at left-back, showed plenty of attacking intentions by pushing forward with a number of impressive runs and good link-up play with his Real Madrid counterpart, Cristiano Ronaldo. Yet Germany’s best chances from crosses predominantly came from that side of the pitch, where Coentrao was perhaps too adventurous in going forward and neglecting his defensive duties. Against most teams this would be of little worry, but with Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil in the vicinity it was a big risk.
Portugal’s midfield would be seen as average in this competition, as there are no massively big names in the middle, but on Saturday they proved to be a good protective barrier for a strong Portuguese defence and ensured that the Germans would be frustrated for long periods of the game. Thus, ensuring the Germans were forced into playing the way that Portugal wanted them to by playing crosses into the box which, the majority of the time, were cleared well by the two centre-backs.
Helder Postiga was largely ineffective up front and Bento could and probably should have introduced wonder kid Nelson Oliveira far earlier as his introduction gave Portugal’s attack another dimension and created more space, shown by Valera’s last-gasp chance. Once again it was a frustrating night for Cristiano Ronaldo, who never fulfils his potential in a Portugal shirt but who looked troublesome at periods. Nani also looks to be regaining his form following an inconsistent season with Manchester United and his speed had the German defence worried.
Denmark await the Portuguese next, with the Danes fresh from a surprise victory against the Netherlands. Where do Paulo Bento’s side go from here, with another defeat being incomprehensible? It was not a bad performance by the Portugal side; they looked a solid defensive unit and one moment of class from Mario Gomez separated the sides who both squandered chances. Bento needs to take the positives into the next game and look to start with Oliviera, who has been subject of interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs and looked the part when he came on.
They will feel aggrieved not to have taken away a point from the game against a Germany side who were nowhere near full capability, but the best thing they can do is turn the frustration of an opening game defeat into motivation to defeat the Danes on Wednesday with the same game plan, but a few changes of personnel.
You can follow Kieran Buxton on Twitter.
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