Fernando Santos’ star-studded Portugal squared off against Jaroslav Silhavy’s dogged Czech Republic in their third UEFA Nations League Group A2 commitment on Thursday night, June 9.
Having secured a commanding 4-0 win in their last Nations League clash against Switzerland, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. were eager to secure another positive result. That keenness shone through in their performance, with the Iberian nation thoroughly dominating proceedings en route to a 2-0 win at the Jose Alvalade Stadium in Lisbon.
Courtesy of the win, Portugal now find themselves atop Group A2 with seven points from three games. Spain, who registered a narrow 1-0 win over Switzerland in the group's other clash last night, are in second position with five points.
At the Jose Alvalade Stadium, the hosts started the game on the front foot and created their first opportunity inside the opening 10 minutes. Raphael Guerreiro superbly tracked Ruben Neves’ run and set him up for an outside-the-box effort.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers man struck it firmly, but his effort zipped narrowly wide. In the 15th minute, William Carvalho went for goal with a volley, but defender Ales Mateju deflected his effort behind for a corner.
In the 31st minute, Adam Hlozek barged into the Portuguese box, feeding Jan Kuchta with a clever offload. Kuchta’s effort was fierce, but Portuguese goalkeeper Diogo Costa was equal to the effort. A couple of minutes after the Czech’s first effort on target, Portugal pulled themselves ahead.
Bernardo Silva found his Manchester City teammate Joao Cancelo with a clever pass and the full-back made no mistake turning it home. Five minutes later, Silva doubled his assist tally, this time setting up Goncalo Guedes for Portugal’s second of the night.
The Czech Republic tried to play with more urgency in the second half, but their end product was less than satisfactory. Except for Vaclav Jurecka’s 60th-minute effort, which crashed against the side-netting, they failed to worry the Portuguese defense. The hosts, on the other hand, had more presentable opportunities, but their finishing let them down.
On that note, here are five Portuguese players who impressed in their comfortable 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Thursday night:
With another authoritative display on Thursday night, Pepe, 39, once again proved that age is only a number for him.
He was quick to react to dangerous developments, came out on top in every one-on-one situation, and was excellent with his distribution as well.
Against the Czech Republic, Pepe won all three of his ground and two aerial duels, made two clearances, blocked a shot, and attained 90.9 percent passing accuracy (70 completed passes).
He also made an interception and accurately delivered three long balls.
#4 Goncalo Guedes
Courtesy of Portugal’s deep and talented squad, Goncalo Guedes has struggled to establish himself as a regular in the first team.
Last night, on his 30th appearance for Os Navegadores, he bolstered his claim to be an important member of the team’s first team at the Qatar World Cup. He worked tirelessly, stretched the opposition and, most importantly, scored an excellent goal.
In the 38th minute, Silva played Guedes through on goal, but he still had to shake off Mateju, who was breathing down his neck. Under pressure, the 25-year-old carried the ball deep into the box and dispatched a low shot towards the far post. It was not firmly struck, but ended up beating Jindrich Stanek nonetheless.
The Valencia forward also won two duels, made two interceptions and drew two fouls, capping off an impressive outing. He was subsituted in place of Joao Palhinha in the 88th minute.
#3 Raphael Guerreiro
Raphael Guerreiro was a live wire down the left-hand side on Thursday night, always looking for opportunities to put the opposition under pressure.
His passing and free-kick deliveries were great, he rarely made a mistake at the back and held his ground in one-on-one situations.
On Thursday night, Guerreiro won six of seven ground duels, attempted four tackles, made an interception, played three key passes, and accurately delivered three crosses.
The Borussia Dortmund left-back also had a 86.8 percent passing accuracy (46 completed passes), drew two fouls and once cleared the ball away from danger.
#2 Joao Cancelo
Manchester City full-back Joao Cancelo has been Portugal’s best player in the 2022-23 Nations League campaign, producing one impressive performance after another.
He provided an assist in the 1-1 draw with Spain, scored in the 4-0 win against Switzerland and bagged another goal against the Czech Republic on Thursday.
In the 33rd minute, Cancelo latched on to Silva’s offload on the right, dashed past the defenders and applied a thumping finish.
His firmly-struck shot gave the keeper no chance, with him watching helplessly as it hit the back of his net.
Cancelo also made four interceptions, won five ground duels, accurately delivered four long balls and completed three dribbles.
#1 Bernardo Silva
Midfield maestro Bernardo Silva ran the show for Portugal on Thursday night. He dictated the tempo of the game, knocked the ball about with immaculate ease, and kept the opposition defenders on their toes all night long.
Silva was the mastermind behind both Portuguese goals, showing his positional awareness and ability to thread the needle.
In the 33rd minute, Silva took the ball to the right side of the pitch, drawing two defenders, thus freeing up space for Cancelo to run into. Upon spotting Cancelo’s dash, Silva cleverly placed the ball in his path and the right-back took care of the rest.
Silva’s second assist, in the 38th minute, came through a perfectly weighted pass to Guedes. The Valencia man did well to apply the finishing touch despite being under severe pressure.
The 27-year-old also played four key passes, accurately delivered both his long balls, completed four of five dribbles and won five ground duels.
Also Read: Portugal 2-0 Czech Republic: 5 talking points as Portugal go top of Group B with a comfortable win | 2022-23 UEFA Nations League
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