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Euro 2016: Poland 1-1 Portugal (AET; 3-5 Penalties) - 5 talking points

Portugal celebrate
Portugal won the penalty shootout

Portugal booked their place in the semi-finals of Euro 2016 with a hard fought victory over Poland which saw both sides endure extra time and penalties.

Goals from Robert Lewandowski and Renato Sanches in normal time injected some real excitement into proceedings but the crowd were forced to wait the maximum amount of time possible before seeing a victor emerge.

After over 120 minutes of action, fans were forced to ride out the emotional rollercoaster that are spot kicks as Ricardo Quaresma hit the winning penalty for the Portuguese while Jakub Blaszczykowski had his effort saved by Rui Patricio to secure a 5-3 win after open play had ended 1-1.

Let’s take a look at five main talking points from the match.

1) Ronaldo was wasteful too often

Cristiano ronaldo
Ronaldo had another poor game

Everybody knows just how brilliant a player Cristiano Ronaldo has been down through the years but he was far too wasteful and inefficient against Poland.

He possesses the capacity to produce the sublime, but he seemed to forget his bag of tricks when faced with the white shirts in their last eight encounter and at times cut the figure of a petulant kid in a sweet shop. Waving his arms at his team-mates if the service wasn’t up to his standard, he did his usual amount of staring in disbelief – and then some.

It’s not as if he didn’t get any good balls in to him in great positions. In fact, it was Ronaldo who was the one fluffing his lines, and not his team-mates.

Arguably Portugal’s best chance at a second goal (which could well have won them the game and spared them a grueling extra 30 minutes) arrived when Joao Moutinho played an inch-perfect lofted pass in to him following the restart only for the Real Madrid star to completely miscue the shot.

Overall, he looked out of sorts and that won't inspire confidence for the nex match and whoever they wind up facing, despite the fact that he hammered home his penalty with authority. He might only be 31 years of age and just two more victories away from capturing his first major international honour but this could be his last real chance at doing so. He’ll be 33 at the next World Cup in Russia, and 35 when the next Euros takes place – if he can’t fire on all cylinders now, he might never do it for

2) Poland will see this as a missed opportunity

Poland celebrate
Poland were unlucky in front of goal

Simply put, this is a match Poland could have won and that is something which will haunt them for a while.

Sure, they should take great pride in the way they managed to reach the quarter-finals of a European Championship for the first time in their history but Adam Nawalka’s men could have made their debut in the semi-finals of a major tournament, too.

They mustered five shots on target (the same as Portugal), enjoyed a marginally greater share of possession and were effective at shutting down nearly every threat which came their way at the back. Their defensive strength is not a new development either because they had only conceded just once before that in this competition when Xherdan Shaqiri netted his wonder goal in their last 16 clash.

Having taken such an early lead through Lewandowski’s second-minute goal, they will certainly be devastated to have conceded after the half hour mark before going on to lose on penalties because they were arguably the better side. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite have the invention or the bravery to take the tie by the scruff of the neck and will have to content themselves with making history instead of making their opponents pay.

Much like Blaszczykowski’s penalty, then, this was a missed opportunity.

3) Portugal were too one-dimensional

Portugal win
Portugal will have to play better if they are to win Euro 2016

Let’s face it, Portugal are not the best team any of us have seen at Euro 2016 this summer and at the risk of attracting the ire of their fans, it seems clear that they are not going to win this competition – especially of Fernando Santos’ charges keep playing without the necessary incision.

There are plenty of teams better than them left in this competition, and it is no coincidence that they have not been able to put away any opponent in normal time so far. If they come up against a team fresher, better rested and more clinical, they are likely to go home empty-handed yet again.

In terms of creating chances, they have been very poor and that is going to cause them problems. Too often they looked to find Ronaldo when the pass wasn’t on, had to be inch-perfect to work or when there were better options available. It was almost as if getting the former Ballon d’Or winner on the ball was their go-to gameplan, and they looked confused and impotent when that failed to work – which it did most of the time.

Overall, they have been far too defensive, seemingly playing for added time and spot kicks when they should be looking to be more adventurous with their approach play. Their supporters will say ‘if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it’ but they are sure to need to conjure more assured tactics when they eventually square up to a real tournament specialist if they want to take home the Henri Delaunay trophy on July 10.

They’re not good enough to rely on defence and will be feeling the effects of two periods of extra time. It’s going to catch up with them.

4) Sanches emerges as genuine star

Renato Sanches
Sanches impressed once again

It has been really fun watching Sanches’ career flourish ever since his senior club debut with Benfica in November last.

Going from strength to strength from one week to the next, the 18-year-old became a teenage sensation, Portuguese title winner and multi-million pound signing for Bayern Munich almost overnight and now he is bringing his brilliance to the national set-up and looks set to build a foundation that should see him make the final few steps towards transforming from a next generation hero to a present day embodiment of what football means to the young professionals just like him trying to make it.

Against Biale Orly, he cut the figure of an experienced veteran in the prime of his career.

Not only did he score their only goal, but he also stuck away his kick from 12 yards in the shootout with incredible audacity and confidence. Moreover, he was charging around the field with unrivaled enthusiasm, hassled his markers whenever he was unfortunate enough to lose possession and generally did his utmost to fashion chances, openings and opportunities whenever he could.

He was a bit of a victim of their single-minded system but when he was bold enough to snatch the momentum and do something intuitive and inventive, he brought the contest briefly to life. If they are to snap out of their lull-inducing style, they will need to give him more licence to put his stamp on proceedings.

They need a leader, and even though he’s only a youngster it might be worth affording him a greater role in their creative movements.

5) Nani enjoyed another good game

Nani
Nani did have a decent game for Portugal

One more assist will see Nani join Luis Figo as the country’s top assist provider in Euros history.

Not too long ago, Nani looked as though he had reached the end of his best days after he was sent to Sporting Lisbon, but he's experiencing une renaissance francaise these days with Fenerbahce – and he’s not doing too shabbily with Portugal either.

In fact, the 29-year-old winger has been one of their best players on show in France, and he has the numbers to back it up, too:

Whether or not he’ll be able to maintain his impressive displays against superior opponents remains to be seen because he has often had a torrid time trying to answer his critics when the chips have been down.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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