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Why Portugal should have very little concerns despite struggling against Azerbaijan

Portugal beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in the World Cup qualifiers
Portugal beat Azerbaijan 1-0 in the World Cup qualifiers
ANALYST
Modified 27 Mar 2021
Feature

Portugal made a winning start to the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers after recording a narrow 1-0 victory against minnows Azerbaijan.

While many tipped the Selecao to beat their opponents by a huge margin, only a single goal separated the two sides after 90 minutes at the Allianz Stadium in Turin.

Fernando Santos named an attacking line-up which included the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva.

However, none of the attacking talents could get on the score sheet. Rather, it was an own goal from Azerbaijan’s Maksim Medvedev that settled the game.

Portugal's struggles against Azerbaijan

Portugal had their breakthrough in the 36th minute but struggled to find the net afterwards. Although they made lots of attacking incursions, they were sloppy in the final third. Not even the introduction of Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix in the second half changed the situation.

Santos admitted in his post-match press conference that the game was difficult. The Portugal boss believes his side could've been better in attack but was delighted that they managed to win. He said (as quoted by Besoccer):

"We won, which was the most important thing. These games can be difficult. I expected to win more comfortably, but we must not draw conclusions.”
“We can see what went well and didn't. In the first half, we controlled things, though sometimes we could have built attacks better
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"I think that in the first half Azerbaijan didn't even pass the midfield mark. The team was well organised, compact, reacted well to losing the ball. The game was controlled, but we lacked when it came to creating certain chances.”

The positives for Portugal

Despite struggling to break down Azerbaijan, there were some positives from the game for Portugal.

Santos oversaw his 50th win as coach of the Selecao in just 80 games. The team also showed enough quality and character despite their lack of ruthlessness.

While the lack of ambition is a challenge that the coach will need to solve, they could have scored at least five goals against Azerbaijan on another day.

A team can be regarded as not good enough when it struggles to create chances. This Portugal team, though, created lots of chances against the minnows and finished the game with 15 shots on target.

From the above statistic, it is obvious that Portugal do not have much to be concerned about, despite not living up to expectations against Azerbaijan. And it's likely that they will improve in the next games.

Published 27 Mar 2021, 12:08 IST
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