Portugal moved to the top of Group A2 in the UEFA Nations League with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Thursday (9 June).
Joao Cancelo and Goncalo Guedes scored in quick succession in the first half as the wasteful visitors failed to make the most of their chances. Cristiano Ronaldo was included in the starting lineup but had a relatively quiet day at the officce at the Estádio José Alvalade.
The hosts were dominant from the get-go and enjoyed good spells of possession in the first half. The players looked well-drilled and were able to move the ball into the final third with ease.
Their efforts paid off in the 33rd minute as Cancelo scored from a narrow angle. After collecting a pass from Manchester City teammate Bernardo Silva, he beat two Czech defenders before finding the back of the net.
Silva was involved in the buildup for the second goal as well. This time he set up Guedes from a similar position on the right flank, who also scored from a difficult angle. With two goals scored just before half-time, the hosts looked confident ahead of the half-time break.
More goals were expected in the second half and the Czechs did put up a fight after the break. However, they didn't offer enough going forward, managing just one shot on target throughout the game. Fernando Santos' men pulled through with a 2-0 win in this match and secured top spot in their group, at least for now.
Here are the five talking points from this Nations League encounter:
#5 Fernando Santos marks 100th game for Portugal with a win
Fernando Santos, who has won two trophies at the helm of Portugal, managed his 100th game as head coach of the team in their game against the Czech Republic.
He marked the landmark occasion with a win and a clean sheet. After a 1-1 draw against Spain in their campaign opener, Santos has rallied his men well to return to winning ways.
They secured a 4-0 win over Switzerland on Sunday (June 5) and were also solid in this win. Aside from their own defensive efforts, some poor finishing from the visitors helped in keeping a clean sheet in the match against the Czechs.
Overall, in his 100 matches in charge, the Portuguese have picked up 63 wins, 21 draws and 16 losses. They have won the UEFA Euro 2016 and the Nations League title in 2019 during his reign.
Santos has been criticized for deploying a conservative style of play in the past. But in his landmark match, his team created plenty of chances and it might signal a change in his approach as he prepares his team for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
#4 Joao Cancelo's attacking output continues to be huge asset for Portugal
Joao Cancelo had a great 2021-22 season with Manchester City and has continued his fine form into the Nations League with Portugal as well. He scored a goal from a tight angle in this match, marking the second game in a row in which he has found the back of the net.
He also picked up an assist in the game against Spain last week. The marauding right-back displayed an impressive work rate throughout the game and had more touches than any other player on the pitch (115).
Cancelo also made more interceptions (four) than any other player on the pitch. This meant that although he was actively involved in the attack, he remained aware of his defensive duties.
#3 Portugal exploited Czech Republic's weak left flank
Portugal took full advantage of the Czech Republic's relative weakness on the left flank. Both their goals came from that side through right-back Cancelo and right-sided midfielder Guedes and in quick succession.
Milan Havel was the left wing-back for the visitors and was unable to deal with the pace and energy of Guedes and Cancelo. He was caught out of position in the buildup to the first goal and failed to track Cancelo's run.
Many of the home team's overall attacking moves came from the right flank. This might explain why Diogo Jota and Ronaldo had only a limited impact on the game.
#2 Czech Republic made to rue wastefulness in front of goal
There were a lot of chances in the game but the hosts created most of them and scored twice. The Czechs could only muster a solitary shot on target from their nine attempts.
Adam Hložek and Jan Kuchta went close in the first half but put their shots wide off target. Ultimately, the hosts scored through a couple of good finishes and if the Czech Republic had taken their chances, they may have been able to get back into the game.
#1 Bernardo Silva puts in an impressive display as he continues to add to his growing reputation
Bernardo Silva provided two assists in five first-half minutes as he put in a match-winning performance against the Czech Republic. The Manchester City midfielder recorded an impressive 93.6% pass accuracy throughout the game and had more key passes (four) than any player on the pitch.
He is now at the top of the playmaking charts in the 2022-23 Nations League with three assists in three matches. Silva's ball control was impressive in the match and he was able to exchange quick passes with his teammates on the right flank.
The 27-year-old promises to be a key piece in the Portugal team set to travel to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup later this year.
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