Greece – Portugal: Visitors deservedly win an at times open encounter
This fixture was a warm-up game which seemed to carry far greater importance to Portugal than it did to their Greek hosts: Three weeks later they were due to face Belgium at home in what was only their second qualifier ahead of the 1990 World Cup. They’d made surprisingly hard work of beating their group’s expected Prügelknabe, Luxembourg, by the game’s only goal on home soil in November, so they could do with a confidence boost ahead of their upcoming qualification match.
Greece, on the other hand, seemed to almost be out of qualification reckoning already, after accumulating a sole point from their opening two fixtures, something which had left them trailing group leaders Romania by three points. Four straight wins from their 1989 qualifiers would see them reach nine points, something which might just be good enough for qualification. Though how likely was that? They’d replaced manager Miltos Papapostoulou with Alekos Sofianidis, and this was the latter’s third fixture in charge. He’d got off to a flying start with a 3-0 win against Hungary, though they’d failed to beat Albania in last Wednesday’s away tie (1-1).
Greece team news
Unfortunately, we have only limited knowledge of the two matchday squads. As for the players whom manager Sofianidis had picked, at least 11 of the 15 who had been in action in Tirana the previous week were still around. The four players we have no record of on the day are midfielders Giorgos Papadopoulos, Kostas Lagonidis and Kostas Oikonomidis, as well as forward Aris Karasavvidis. Appearing in the squad on this occasion (one or more of them might of course have been unused substitutes in Albania for all that we are aware) were instead central defenders Stelios Manolas and Pagonis Vakalopoulos, as well as midfielder Spyros Maragkos and forward Giannis Samaras. Was this an improved squad? Difficult to say. A big absence was undoubtedly Panathinaikos forward Dimitris Saravakos, who had only lasted just beyond the half hour mark of his team’s 2-0 league win against Olympiakos Volos at the weekend.
The Greeks had opened their qualification with five across the back, with defensive midfield man Giotis Tsaloukhidis flexible enough to feature at the heart of the defence as an added bonus. They had been aggressive and collectively strong, and they’d made the Danish work really hard for the point. However, away from home in Bucharest they’d gone down heavily to what was so far the group leaders. How would they group against another supposedly stronger opponent, namely Portugal?
This was their first of no less than six home friendlies ahead of their next qualification fixture in April, so perhaps were they making an attempt at raising the profile of the national side? A meagre 1000 spectators had been present for the Hungary fixture, though Portugal might hold a stronger appeal to the locals in the Greek capital?
Portugal team news
The Portuguese had played just two matches in all of 1988, and so they remained something of an unknown quantity, having failed to truly put Luxembourg to the sword in their home qualifier in October. Just scoring once must have been a disappointment. This was manager Juca’s only opportunity to rectify any discontent he must have had with that performance.
Against Luxembourg, Portugal had almost been an all-out attacking force, something which left them somewhat imbalanced. With Luxembourg being a side that any top European nation was supposed to brush aside without too much discomfort, one could understand Juca’s attacking credentials for that fixture. However, as it had appeared to backfire slightly, would Juca be so daring again? Surely not when playing Greece away.
There were a couple of big attacking omissions in experienced striker Fernando Gomes, who had notched their goal against Luxembourg, and the exciting Paulo Futre. The latter was part of a three-pronged Atlético Madrid front line, where also Brazilian striker Baltazar and Spain international forward Manolo were features. Futre had played the full 90 minutes in the recent 0-0 league draw at home to Celta Vigo. He would complete their subsequent league game four days later, a 2-0 home win against Logroñés, so his club had most likely not wanted that he travelled.
With ageing midfield man António Sousa back in the mix, Portugal appeared to be stronger in the midfield compartment this time around. He was joined by 23 year old Porto man José Semedo, who was in line for his first ever cap. Vítor Paneira had featured in a very attacking wide right role, and the exciting 22 year old from Benfica appeared to be favourite for the right-sided slot again. Up top, 36 year old veteran Jordão remained a choice. The Vitória Setúbal man had remarkably made his bow on the international stage almost 17 years earlier! If he featured, he would make his 43rd international appearance.
At the back, a recall for the sturdy João Pinto made sure that the right-back position seemed in capable hands. Jaime Alves had deputised against Luxembourg. There was also no António Morato to be seen on this occasion, although the heart of their defence also seemed well equipped with António Oliveira back in the fold. He’d played their three matches during the ill-fated 1986 World Cup. A strong candidate for the left-back position was António Veloso, who would possibly step in for his Benfica team mate Álvaro, who had played in their opening qualifier.
Signore Lanese was making his third international appearance at the age of 42. He’d made his debut during a 1-1 friendly between Israel and Northern Ireland just shy of two years earlier, whilst the recent Group 3 qualifier between Austria and Turkey in Vienna had been his second assignment at this level.
This was the fifth head to head between the two countries since their inaugural clash back in 1968, when they’d met in qualification for the 1970 World Cup. Greece had triumphed 4-2 on home soil, while Portugal had managed a 2-2 draw in the return leg the following summer. This was the third 1980s friendly between the two, as Portugal had won 2-1 in Greece in ’82, and a 1987 encounter in Portalegre had ended one apiece. Defender Veloso and midfielder Adão were the two only Portuguese survivors since then, while the Greeks themselves also had two in Manolas and Samaras. In fact, Manolas had made his very international debut during that 2-1 home defeat against the Portuguese back in 1982, and he was the sole player left from that tie on either side.
Glimpses of a few of the spectators who were scattered around the vast stadium indicate that it was a chilly afternoon in the Greek capital. People were generally properly clad. ‘Blustery’ might be an appropriate term by the look of things.
|1 Spyros Oikonomopoulos||29||AEK|
|2 Stratos Apostolakis||24||Olympiakos|
|3 Iakovas Khatziathanasiou||39′||27||Panathinaikos|
|4 Stelios Manolas||sub h-t||28||AEK|
|5 Kostas Mavridis (c)||sub h-t||26||Panathinaikos|
|6 Panagiotis Tsaloukhidis||sub 78′||25||Olympiakos|
|7 Stefanos Borbokis||22||PAOK|
|8 Vangelis Kalogeropoulos||sub 74′||23||Panserraikos|
|9 Giannis Samaras||41′||27||Panathinaikos|
|10 Nikos Nioplias||24||OFI|
|11 Nikos Tsiantakis||25||Olympiakos|
|12 Dimosthenis Kavouras||on 74′||26||Levadiakos|
|13 Giorgos Koutoulas||on h-t||21||AEK|
|16 Pagonis Vakalopoulos||on h-t||24||Iraklis|
|17 Spyros Maragkos||on 78′||21||Panionios|
|2 João Pinto||27||Porto|
|3 António Oliveira||30||Marítimo|
|4 Luís Sobrinho||27||Belenenses|
|5 António Veloso||31||Benfica|
|6 Adelino Nunes||57′||28||Marítimo|
|7 Vítor Paneira||sub 81′||22||Benfica|
|8 Rui Barros||23||Juventus|
|9 José Semedo||23||Porto|
|10 António Sousa||31||Porto|
|11 Jordão (c)||sub 60′||36||Vitória Setúbal|
|x Neno||26||Vitória Guimarães|
|14 Adão||on 81′||28||Belenenses|
|15 Jorge Plácido||on 60′||24||Sporting Lisboa|
As both teams have lined up in order for the game to commence, it is almost as if you can feel the chill surrounding the vast and almost eerie stage which is made up by the largely empty Olympic Stadium. The few people who are scattered around have made sure to put on several layers of clothing, and in addition to what was surely far from temperatures which one usually associates with Greece and its vicinity, an element of wind down the length of the pitch in the direction which the hosts would be attacking in the first half would contribute to make it an unpleasant evening to those present. It was up to the footballers to warm them. Greece proceeded with the kick-off through captain and veteran Jordão and Italy based ace Rui Barros.
It is clear that not only the conditions, but also the state of the pitch will be playing their part in how this game will shape up. Early on, there’s plenty of hints that the unevenness of the surface causes players to take an extra touch rather than shifting the ball onwards first time. A bumpy surface may not necessarily speed up the pace of the proceedings. However, with both Greek and Portuguese players renown for having fairly sound technical ability levels, it is up to both sets of players to live up to their reputation.
Portugal set the tone
If there’s an early suggestion of who, if anyone, will dominate possession, then it is in favour of the visitors, who immediately appear to be the more accomplished in keeping the ball among their team. Greece had shown plenty of spirit but perhaps not an awful lot of skill in their two qualifiers hitherto, but their endeavour and work levels had made sure to give Denmark one heck of a fight in this very stadium just over three months earlier. If these opening sequences, in which Portugal with some confidence were keeping the ball among themselves, were anything to judge by, Greece would need to reproduce the same spirited performance which had won them a very fine point against the Scandinavians. However, would they be spurred on in surroundings like these? With the enormity of the stadium and so few people inside, the feeling of the game being of less importance must have amplified.
After a fine burst from central midfield, Portugal’s number 6, the tall, gangly and almost bald figure of Adelino Nunes, won a free-kick in a promising position outside the Greek penalty area, to the right of goal. Greece’ central defender Stelios Manolas had been the offender, and it would provide Portugal’s number 10, the shirt number indeed indicating António Sousa’s position in the shooting hierarchy among the visiting players, an opportunity to give his right boot air time. Sousa, a midfielder with Porto, was wearing country colours for the 24th time, and during the seven and a half years or so which had passed since he’d made his debut for his country, in a 1-1 April ’81 friendly against Bulgaria in his home city of Porto, he had only ever netted once: When he’d rounded off a fine move with a delicately placed finish over Luis Arconada’s head during Portugal and Spain’s 1-1 group stage meeting in the 1984 European Championships. Just shy of the two minute mark here in Athens, though, he is unable to add to his international tally, as his powerfully struck effort clears Spyros Oikonomopoulos’ crossbar by some margin.
Visitors strike early
The Portuguese midfielders demonstrate their intent of making runs on the ball in these early stages of the game, and while it had been Nunes provoking a foul from Manolas for the early free-kick, it would be his central midfield partner Sousa’s turn next time around. Already, the visitors had shown an appetite for committing men forward on the counter, trying to catch the Greeks with pace, and with the hosts appearing a tad slow in their transition phase from attack to defence, this appeared to be something which Portugal could possibly take advantage of. As Sousa had made his advance in almost the same area of the pitch from where Nunes had won his free-kick, it had taken a trip from big central defender Kostas Mavridis, also the Greek captain, to stop Sousa in his tracks. It had looked intentional, so if the referee had been aware of Mavridis’ desire to halt Sousa, then he might as well have wanted to produce a yellow card. However, the outcome will be of sufficient punishment, as Sousa elects to chip the ensuing kick into the area where Nunes has made a run. The ball flicks gently off Nunes’ head and makes its way into the bottom left corner, even if a desperate dive from goalkeeper Oikonomopoulos almost sees the Greek custodian get his right hand to it. It had been quick perception by Sousa, and Nunes had only been half-heartedly followed by Mavridis, who had been unable to challenge the goalscorer in the air once Sousa’s free-kick had been played in. 1-0 to the visitors, and it had been Adelino Nunes’ first goal for his country on his tenth appearance.
So, an early goal to contend with, and the dust’s not even settled since the opening kick-off. What kind of bearings would this have on the remaining 84 minutes? It would take the home side ten minutes just to get going. Until then, Portugal had been with majority of the possession, and the visitors had displayed a clear wish to be attacking down their right hand side, and why not? It was an area which contained players such as right-back João Pinto and exciting young right-sided midfielder Vítor Paneira. Representing Porto and Benfica respectively, the pair appeared to have a fine understanding already, even if this was just Paneira’s third ever international. Pinto was comfortable in possession, and he would so often chose to be constructive in his passing, usually looking for Paneira ahead of him, or for Sousa or even Rui Barros in more central positions. The 27 year old full-back, making his 25th appearance for his country, was also someone with decent ability in one on one defending. However, as a modern full-back in 1989, he was probably more renowned for his attacking contributions, and this is why it must have been a pleasure for Paneira to have someone like João Pinto assisting him from behind.
Hosts offer little up front
The Greek team seemed both sloppy and disinterested in the early proceedings: They were not always so responsible in backchecking, and they would display some disappointing lack of precision in their passing game. This is why it took them the best part of ten minutes to even maintain something akin to possession inside the opposition’s territory. They had two relatively robust strikers in Giannis Samaras and Vangelis Kalogeropoulos, but they did not appear to have a whole lot of idea for how to best make use of them. Should they hit the ball long and instruct one or the other either to hold it up or flick it on for someone making a run, or should they try to knock balls into space for either of them to chase? As it turned out, at least so far, they did neither. The Greek midfield prefered to keep hold of the ball rather than try to play a forward in, and with Portugal more disciplined when the opposition was in possession than what the hosts were, there was no way forward for Greece yet.
Still the visitors attack along the right
Portugal remain in control as the game approaches 20 minutes, and they keep wanting to attack down their right hand side. In fact, their left hand side had been left almost completely unassigned hitherto. In the centre, Nunes and Sousa were so far bossing the hosts, and the delightfully spirited Barros kept dropping back from his forward position, so eager to participate in build-up play. Often they would see João Pinto, Paneira, Barros and Sousa all engage themselves in little combinations, and invariably this would see them advance down the right hand side. So far, it meant that Greece left-back Iakovas Khatziathanasiou, usually an aggressive defender with a strong tackle and decent positional awareness, was often seriously outnumbered. Pinto had arrived at a couple of crossing opportunities, although nothing had come off it as yet, and when Paneira makes it almost to the byline before feeding Barros to the right inside the area, the Juventus ace skies it from 14 yards out, getting too much foot under the ball. It had been half an opportunity, and it demonstrated so far the difference in class between Greece and Portugal.
With the first half at its halfway stage and Greece unable to stamp any kind of authority on proceedings inside Portugal’s half, their manager Alekos Sofianidis is seen desperately trying to get them firing from the touchline. There had been a woefully hit right-foot shot by left-back Khatziathanasiou from 25 yards, out of balance, which had rolled harmlessly 15 yards wide to the left of Silvino’s goal on 19 minutes, but other than that, Greece had not even come close to any attempt goalwards. By now, though, it was quite clear to see how both teams had been shaping up, as it became evident that this was a battle between two sides in 4-4-2 formations.
Going through the Greek team
The hosts had a 29 year old from AEK between the sticks: Spyros Oikonomopoulos seemed to be a reliable goalkeeper with fine shot-stopping ability. He was making his only fourth international appearance, but it was worth noting that he’d played his part in all three of new boss Sofianidis’ matches thus far. Ilias Taliakridis had kept goal in their first two qualifiers, but the 3-0 defeat in Romania could’ve been his undoing.
In Greece’ 4-4-2 shape, they were working with a libero in big captain Kostas Mavridis. It was indeed the number 5’s first ever captaincy task whilst playing for his country. The 26 year old was potentially a very good defender, but he did also have it in him to switch off and be something of a liability. This had certainly happened when Sousa had found Nunes for the early goal, and Mavridis needed to up his game if he were to redeem himself. He did enjoy possession, and would from time to time be seen with transporting the ball into the opposition’s half of the pitch. Mavridis could also be useful at attacking set-pieces with his size, whilst a lack of pace could quickly be exploited by the opponent down the defensive end of the pitch. Like in Greece’ first two qualifiers, Mavridis was making up their central defence along with Stelios Manolas, who was playing slightly advanced of Mavridis, but not in a traditional man-marking capacity. Instead, Manolas, definitely somewhat quicker on his feet than Mavridis, would attend to either opposing forward, shifting from one side to another. It was not always so easy to spot a common thread in his defending, although this could obviously have more to do with instructions rather than tactical ineptitude on his behalf. In tandem, Mavridis and Manolas were sound, although they did have their weaknesses.
For the 1-1 draw with Denmark, Greece had even pulled the combative Giotis Tsaloukhidis, a 25 year old from Olympiakos here making his 15th international, into the centre of their defence. However, when appearing in a 4-4-2 rather than the 5-3-2 which they had made use of for their opening qualifier, Tsaloukhidis had instead been thrusted into a defensive central midfield position. He was capable of winning plenty of balls with his aggressive style of play, and even aerially he was an asset. However, like a few of his team mates, he could have concentration issues, and it is fair to say that he hardly appeared hugely inspired by the almost deserted Olympic Stadium. So far, he struggled to get into the game, and he had failed to provide space and time on the ball for their playmaker, Nikos Nioplias. The 24 year old of OFI from the island of Crete was of a relatively slender frame, and he was someone who would usually take an extra touch in order to accommodate his left foot to do the work. However, given time, he was definitely capable of stroking a precise pass 30-40 yards, but in the first 22-23 minutes or so of this tie, he’d not been able to dictate much.
In the two full-back positions, Greece had Stratos Apostolakis of Olympiakos and Iakovas Khatziathanasiou of Panathinaikos right and left respectively. The former was making his 22nd country appearance already at the age of 24, whilst Khatziathanasiou, three years his full-back colleague’s senior, was a feature for the seventh time. Apostolakis did seem limited; he would often pick a simple pass either inside or ahead. However, being aware of your limitations is also a skill. He did not appear to have a particular stand-out feat in his play. Perhaps luckily for him so far, he had not been tested defensively, as Portugal had almost exclusively wanted to attack down their right hand side. This was obviously Khatziathanasiou’s territory, and the aggressive Panathinaikos full-back seemed to relish the challenge, even if he was not always successful. This also had to do with the fact that the wide player assigned ahead of him, Stefanos Borbokis, did not backcheck much.
Borbokis was a 22 year old from PAOK of Thessaloniki, making his fourth appearance for Greece. He was equipped with a low centre of gravity and indeed some good close control, but it would appear that his enthusiasm off the ball was not great. This was evident in how he failed to assist Khatziathanasiou defensively along the left. Perhaps was it even a bit odd in the first place that Borbokis had been assigned as the left-sided midfielder, as he was a right-footed player? This oddity would be even more remarkable when taking into consideration that they had Nikos Tsiantakis along the opposite flank, usually a left-sided player. The 25 year old from Olympiakos, trailing his long hair and classic moustache, was also seen for the fourth time in a Greece jersey, and someone who was about as fleet-footed as playmaker Nioplias. Tsiantakis was not as speedy as his wing colleague Borbokis, but he could definitely still trick an opponent and deliever a ball into the centre. He also seemed to be a little stronger defensively, although there had been few opportunities so far to demonstrate this, with Portugal as yet almost reluctant to attack the Greek right hand side defensively.
The two strikers in their 4-4-2 formation were of fine physique: Both Giannis Samaras and Vangelis Kalogeropoulos could put themselves about, and they would look to make it an uncomfortable afternoon for the Portugal centre-halves. However, so far they’d not enjoyed much luck. Greece would need to up their game quite a lot if they were to make inroads into Portuguese territory. Samaras, 27 years of Panathinaikos, was on international duty for the sixth time, and he had so far failed to notch. Kalogeropoulos was contracted to less fashionable northern Greek club Panserraikos. This was only his second time playing at this level, as he’d come on in their previous friendly in Albania. He had hardly touched the ball thus far, although on one occasion he had attempted to play Samaras through, only for Portugal goalkeeper Silvino to intervene. It was difficult to say what his greatest assets were, but it did seem clear that they were a poorer attacking force with him in the eleven rather than Dimitrios Saravakos, who was out with injury.
Chances in both directions
Portugal came within a whisker of making it 2-0 on 25 minutes. It is true that they, like Greece, had so far been reluctant to hit the ball long, but with central defender Oliveira in possession deep inside his own half, this is precisely what he did. His aim was left-sided midfielder José Semedo, who had been tracked inside by Greece right-back Apostolakis, although the latter was no match for Semedo aerially. As the ball went up in the air, it came down into the path of Jordão, also almost invisible so far in the game, and the 36 year old flicked it through first time for Semedo to run on to. In doing so, Jordão had disposed of Mavridis, and there were no further defenders between Semedo and goalkeeper Oikonomopoulos. The Portugal number 9 could run more or less unopposed into the area, although Nioplias was making a dash for it. As Semedo arrived on 14 yards, he decided to shoot right footed to try and outsmart Oikonomopoulos, and the Portuguese debutant appeared odds on to score. However, a brilliant left hand reflex save saw the ‘keeper prevent a second goal for the visitors, and Manolas could eventually clear the lines from the rebound, with no visiting players following through.
Only 40 seconds later and Greece would arrive at their very first opportunity, when the advancing Khatziathanasiou, at times even an inspiration coming forward, spotted Samaras making a run ahead of him, without being properly followed by any defender. The Greece left-back appeared to weigh his pass accurately for Samaras to avoid running offside, and with only goalkeeper Silvino to beat, although admittedly coming into the area at a left-sided angle, the big centre-forward proceeded to chip his attempt a yard wide of the upright. It appeared to have been Portugal left-back Veloso preventing Samaras from being offside, and surely, had the striker managed to direct his finish on target, it would’ve counted. Silvino would resume play with a goalkick.
It is difficult to say exactly what acted as Greece’ spark, but fact is that they produced by far their best spell of the game in the wake of the switch of sides for their midfield wide players. Tsiantakis had moved across to the left, with Borbokis going the other way, and so far this had seemed to give them better balance. Or was it perhaps more a realization of theirs that the wide players were there to be made use of? The presence of Tsiantakis along the left hand side created space for both Khatziathanasiou to come forward from the back and, just as importantly, for Samaras to find space in between Portugal’s right-back Pinto and right-sided centre-half Sobrinho. Samaras found space for a cross from the left, looking for Borbokis, although it was cleared by the Portugal defence, and shortly after Tsiantakis would cut inside from his wide position and have a go with his right foot. His shot was a weak one, though, and easily gathered by Silvino. Yet, the signs were there that Greece were eating themselves into the contest.
Sussing out Portugal
In goal, the visitors had Silvino, the 29 year old Benfica ‘keeper. He’d been Juca’s pick since the failed qualification for the 1988 European Championships, when Vitória Setúbal goalkeeper Jesus had featured heavily. Silvino was a reliable custodian without a glaring need for attention, and he went about his tasks in a quiet but efficient manner. This was his fifth international overall, and quite remarkably he had yet to concede whilst playing for his country.
The four man in defence were from right to left: João Pinto – Luís Sobrinho – António Oliveira – António Veloso. Portugal appeared to be playing without a designated libero, as their backline seemed to maintain relatively square proportions. Both full-backs were substantially more internationally experienced than the two central defenders, although Oliveira had played all three of their matches in their ill-fated 1986 World Cup campaign. He was a tall, quite slender man, from a distance it was a distinct possibility to mistake him for midfielder Nunes. Oliveira was left-footed, and so naturally took place to the left among the two centre-halves. It could at times also appear that he wished to take out a little depth, although it would be pushing the definition of ‘libero’ to tag him as such. To his right he had Sobrinho, who at 27 was making his only second ever international. The Belenenses man had played also in the qualifier against Luxembourg, and on that occasion made up a partnership with António Morato. It was difficult to spot much in terms of different qualities between Sobrinho and Oliveira, although right and left footed respectively, they did appear to balance each other out comfortably enough. Benfica veteran Veloso was the left-back inclusion, coming into the eleven for his team mate at club level Álvaro since the qualifier. Veloso could make use of either foot, and he appeared just as confident when passing with his right as with his left boot. There was also something of a swagger about him which made him look stylish in his play, like he would not break sweat at all.
In midfield, Portugal had pretty much the same individual principles as was seen in the Greek eleven, with a defensive man in the centre as well as a playmaker, and with two wide players who were not shy in asking for the ball. However, 23 year old debutant José Semedo of Porto was not seeing much of it in the opening sequences of play. He was playing in the wide left position, and perhaps per instruction he would seek towards central left areas to compensate for a lack of time on the ball. In coming in field, he would participate in play to a greater extent, and be a further weapon against the home side, who were already facing trouble from the Portuguese right hand side, which had been their dominant feature hitherto. Semedo was quietly going about his work, and he would also gladly accept defensive duties, assisting Veloso along the left. Further up the field, he would at times combine with Jordão, who was at times orientating himself towards the left hand side of attack.
At the back of their midfield was the gangly Adelino Nunes, who was deep into his tenth international by now. His telescopic legs seemed perfect to attract the ball, and he was efficient in battle whenever the Greeks came through the centre. In particular Greece’ playmaker Nioplias would come into contact with the 28 year old Marítimo player, and Nunes was certainly winning that contest so far. He’d even had the audacity to pop up inside the hosts’ area to claim the only goal of the game until now, and his big presence also made sure to provide his midfield colleague António Sousa with plenty of space. This suited the Porto veteran, as he could concentrate on dictating their attacking play, often combining with their right hand side as well as forward Rui Barros. 31 year old Sousa was making his 24th international appearance, and had featured in the finals both in ’84 and in ’86. He was capable of picking a wonderful pass, as the precision from his right foot was typically sublime. He also possessed a decent shot. He’d already assisted for the visitors’ opening goal.
Wide to the right in the Portugal midfield was someone making his third international appearance: Benfica’s 22 year old starlet Vítor Paneira. He played with plenty of heart, and he relished being on the ball, often combining well with João Pinto behind him as well as with Sousa and Barros. He had great energy when in possession, and was well capable of making it past the opposition’s full-back and deliever a telling cross. So far, though, opening up for crosses from either flank had not been Portugal’s priorities, and so Paneira had been making use of other qualities instead, such as his technical ability, and in little triangles. He was a neat player.
Whether it could clearly be said of the visitors that they were employing a 4-4-2 formation, it should be added that their diminutive forward Rui Barros, the 23 year old plying his trade in Italy with Juventus, was assuming quite a defensive forward’s role. He would often come deep and play a major part in build-ups, and he was an asset with the ball at his feet, capable of advancing past a man or two. He was very difficult for the opponents to pick up, as he was often drifting from one position to another. This was just his fifth cap, but it was likely he would play a leading role for the national team for many years to come.
Up top, as in the most advanced striker’s position, was 36 year old super veteran Jordão, currently residing with Vitória of Setúbal. Clearly no longer with much pace, he was instead someone they would look to when they needed to hold the ball up. Since there was copious amounts of energy elsewhere in the side, Jordão would at times appear to be redundant. He would drift towards central left positions as the half wore on, and his only telling contribution so far had been when he had played Semedo in for that massive opportunity for 2-0. Still, he wore the captain’s armband, so his international know-how must have been something which the younger team mates were feeding off. His legs appeared to have gone, though. He was very staccato and one-paced.
Portugal mightily close to adding to their tally
Right on the half hour mark, there was yet another chance for the away side to add to their tally, when Semedo had won an aerial challenge with Apostolakis following Paneira’s ball into the centre from a deep wide right position. Semedo had headed towards Jordão, though Mavridis had triumphed in the air, only to head the ball as far as into the path of Nunes, who arrived just inside the 18 yard line to strike an attempt first time. Being in mid air, though, he could not connect cleanly, and ultimately it had been a comfortable save for Oikonomopoulos to make. Had Nunes perhaps worked with a greater level of cool, he could’ve taken a touch or two to steady himself for a better shooting opportunity. No one had been closing him down. Only a minute later, it would be João Pinto having a go, though his effort with the outside of the right boot went wide to the right of goal. Barros had laid the ball off for Pinto quite intelligently.
With 35 minutes gone, Portugal really ought to have been further ahead than just the one goal. They had perhaps not been dominating play as much in the last 12-13 minutes as they had done in the game until then, but they had been creating a number of fine goalscoring opportunities, and when Sousa fed Barros through for another one on one with Oikonomopoulos after a left-footed pass from inside his own half, it took yet another excellent stop from the goalkeeper to keep the scores down. The Greek defensive line was a complete shambles, and Apostolakis had been sitting deep, well out of sync with his central defenders, in order to accommodate for Barros to remain onside. Darting in on goal, Barros delayed too long before trying to finish, arriving too close to Oikonomopoulos, and the custodian managed to squander Barros’ chance as he stopped the shot by trapping the ball between his legs. The AEK ‘keeper certainly had earnt his salary by now.
Greece want a piece of the action, too
With Greece committing several men forward for their attacks, the second part of the first half is an open and highly entertaining affair. Whereas the visitors could and should have scored more than the solitary goal they’d accumulated until now, the hosts were also starting to think that they had it in them to carve out openings down the other end. Portugal had rarely been put to the test defensively, but conceding a free-kick deep inside their own territory, they switched off for a moment to allow Apostolakis to play Borbokis on the right edge of the penalty area. With no defender closing him down, he could take aim for the far side of the area, where Manolas would ultimately head wide to the left of goal, the ball kissing the side netting on its way behind. Silvino had been in control of the situation, though. Then, on 38 minutes, Tsiantakis, who was clearly more influental down the left than when he’d been playing on the opposite flank, again cut inside and could test the ‘keeper with his right foot. He tried to curl it into the far end, but Silvino threw himself to collect the ball well.
Barros tries to catch Oikonomopoulos napping
Rewatching games from 30 years ago can produce the odd moment where you ask yourself: “What the hell just happened?” Right after Silvino’s save from Tsiantakis, with the producer having focused on replaying the incident down the other end, the next sequence contains Barros again well in behind enemy lines, although we only see him as he attempts to lob Oikonomopoulos from around 30 yards. The Greek stopper got back to push the ball away for a right wing Portugal corner kick, as he yet again foiled the visitors. However, how the opportunity occured in the first place, and how Barros had escaped an offside position, I do not know. Immediately after, and prior to Paneira being allowed to proceed with the corner kick, there’s a booking for a Greek player. To me, it certainly seems to be left-back Khatziathanasiou whose name’s been taken, as he’s running away from the Italian referee, even if the opposite full-back, Apostolakis, had also been present. The yellow card could well have been a result of some dissent, as the Greek TV commentator also seems baffled that Barros had not been adjudged offside.
The first half concludes a minute and six seconds into time added on, though without further goalmouth action. Of that there had been plenty, particularly in the latter stages of the half, although a lot of blame should go to the Greek defence for their lack of composure. Also, it can not have been so easy when your supposed midfield anchor man (Tsaloukhidis) is not up for it. In fact, a few players should have a look at themselves and their first half performances. They had Oikonomopoulos to thank for not being further behind, and though Tsiantakis had testet Silvino, there had not been an awful lot of danger in front of the Portugal stopper.
There had been a second yellow card for a home player: Referee Lanese signalled for foul throw against Tsiantakis when Portugal had been slightly unbalanced, and this had seemed difficult to accept for the big striker, who kicked the ball away in frustration right in front of the official. He asked for a booking and he got it.
For the start of the second half, the home side had made two changes in that they had replaced both their centre-halves. They had played the first half with what appeared to be Greece’ first choice centre-back pairing around this time, though for the final 45 minutes, manager Sofianidis had replaced Mavridis and Manolas with Giorgos Koutoulas and Pagonis Vakalopoulos. This also brought about a change in captaincy, as Mavridis had led the team out for first half kick-off. Right-back Apostolakis would take over the armband for the second half.
It is fair to say that Greece were hardly solid through their core during the opening 45 minutes, although it does not necessarily mean that their main problems lie in central defence. They had also not been extremely coherent in central midfield, where playmaker Nioplias did not go through an awful amount of defensive work, something which left central defensive midfield man Tsaloukhidis with plenty of space to cover. It could appear as if this combination was hardly ideal, especially from a defensive point of view, although it should be added that Nioplias clearly had some ability on the ball and in the capacity of playmaking.
While Manolas had worked as a regular first half central defender, Mavridis had sweeped behind him, so let’s see how the order of appearance between Koutoulas and Vakalopoulos turn out.
In the Portuguese camp there had been no half-time substitutions, but would they tweak anything tactically for the start of the second half? Greece front two duo Kalogeropoulos and Samaras perform kick-off.
Greece to step up?
The first half had seen plenty of Portuguese opportunities in front of Oikonomopoulos, who had kept goal very well, and who had definitely been a major factor in the visitors just being a single goal to the good after the opening 45 minutes. The Greeks would need to show something else if they were to get anything out of this fixture. In fact, some of their players had perhaps appeared a little indifferently during the first half, and when you have an engine room which is not quite switched on, then you will encounter trouble. Portugal had found it so easy to break through in central areas, and this was definitely something which Greece needed to address.
It quickly became clear that it was Koutoulas who had taken over as libero since the departure of Mavridis, with Vakalopoulos attempting to do the ‘tidying-up’ ahead of him in central defence. Neither Mavridis nor Manolas had impressed a whole lot in the first period, though whether defensive security had increased with the introduction of the new central defensive pairing? I am not so sure. Koutoulas did not have Mavridis’ physique, although he did seem to have some of the identical qualities with the ball at his feet. He could break forward when he saw fit, although still not with quite the same splendour, if that is the correct term to use, as his predecessor. In fact, the same could be said for Vakalopoulos, who would also try to move inside the enemy’s territory with the ball at his feet. Also, we had seen Manolas attempt similarly, so this was not a recipe which in Greece was only reserved for the libero. Vakalopoulos, though, was far more erratic than Manolas, and he could be prone to a rush of blood to the head.
Visitors continue in the same vein
Portugal had not changed much, if anything, during the break, and even if they perhaps needed the first three or four minutes of the second half to find back to their rhythm from the opening half, they were once again soon in the ascendancy. As Greece were not sending anyone from their midfield positions through the middle, and with the home forwards relatively stationary, demand on the Portuguese centre-backs was not great. Both Sobrinho and Oliveira played with assuredness, although they were not tested a whole lot. The added fact that they had Nunes acting as a defensive midfield shield ahead of them also saw to that the pairing so far had a comfortable afternoon in the Greek capital.
The visitors’ full-backs were so far not playing with a great level of risk. Yes, João Pinto was more often coming across the halfway line than his counterpart Veloso, yet either full-back would only set off to assist inside the opposition’s half once any risk had been minimized. Greece were trying to set up their wide players, and so both the Portuguese flank defenders needed to be alert defensively. They continued to have the better of the hosts in midfield, where they were often a man to the good, with Rui Barros typically dropping so deep from his forward role that he acted as a third central midfielder. Sousa had played a fine first half, and Vítor Paneira was certainly also enjoying himself, even if he had been slightly less influental than the Porto man. Then there was Semedo, who seemed deceptively slow along his left hand flank, but who would prove efficient once he was on the ball and could challenge Apostolakis. The Porto debutant also carried out his defensive duties without any hesitation, and it did seem that the difference in the players’ mentality worked in favour of the visitors thus far.
Post to the Portuguese’s rescue
Whilst Portugal had had the first opportunity in the second half, when Rui Barros had skied an effort on half volley on 50 minutes, Greece would come agonisingly close to an equalizer four minutes later. They won a free-kick in a fine position wide left when João Pinto had unnecessarily held Tsiantakis back almost by the corner flag, and when the Greece wide left man swung the free-kick into the area, Samaras got up well to connect with a fine header. Unfortunately for the home side, his effort came back off the left hand post, and although Borbokis acted the quickest to get to the rebound, he first saw an effort blocked off the line by Nunes, before the right winger could only stab a second effort wide to the left of the post.
Greece fail to capitalize on any momentum after their grandiose opportunity for an equalizer, and the second half is in fact something of a disappointment in the opening 15 minutes after the eventful first 45. Sousa, the Portugal midfield star, seemed less inspired than he had been before the break, and without him to spread passes right, left and centre, Portugal were more of a predictable proposition. Still, there was Rui Barros, who would continue to harass, yet he was not efficient to the same extent as he had been before the break. Perhaps were the visitors sitting slightly deeper now? It could be that this had been decided by the manager in order to protect their lead, and that they would now rather try to catch the Greeks on the counter. In fact, of counter-attacking opportunities, there had been few so far.
There had been a third booking of the game when Nunes saw yellow on 57 minutes, although it seemed a very harsh decision by the Italian referee. The Portugal midfield man barely touched Khatziathanasiou, so why Lanese felt like he wanted to make an example of Nunes was odd. A few minutes later, it was clear that Portugal captain Jordão was no longer considered useful. Juca withdrew his 36 year old striker and brought on 24 year old Jorge Plácido of Sporting Lisbon in his place. Yes, Jordão had probably seemed a little out of place in a team which enjoyed playing a quick passing game, and posterity would indeed show that the Vitória Setúbal man had played internationally for the final time. João Pinto took over as captain.
Proceedings seem to be quickly speeding up right after Portugal’s introduction of Plácido for the striker’s third international. Not because of him, but because Greece seem to find moments of inspiration, though who knows from where. Central midfielder Nioplias has not had a stand-out game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is his short pass towards the left hand side inside the Portuguese penalty area which finds the innovative Tsiantakis. Shielding the ball from newly appointed visiting captain João Pinto, Tsiantakis turns back and shifts the ball onto his right foot, and then shoots towards the right hand angle of post and crossbar. It takes a big leap from Silvino to fist the ball away to a Greece right wing corner with his left hand. Then, less than two minutes later, the hosts are level when Borbokis makes a run into the area and gets his right boot to Samaras’ diagonal ball. The winger connects first time, and the ball sails elegantly over Silvino, whose initial idea had been to come out and get the ball. However, he had soon realized that there was no way he was going to get there in time, and he was left in no man’s land once Borbokis got to the ball first. Fine assist by Samaras, who had been so unfortunate earlier in hitting the post.
…though Portugal won’t accept not being in front
It would take less than three minutes for Portugal to regain their lead. When it happened, it did so because of a dreadful pass by Koutoulas in trying to find Nioplias in the centre of the pitch. It had been a high risk pass, as Nioplias in that moment had been the last line of defence. Partly due to the bumpy pitch, Koutoulas had failed to reach the central midfielder with the pass, with Rui Barros alert enough to steal in and nick the ball away from Nioplias. Vítor Paneira had also been a quick-thinker and raced off in the same instant as Barros had stolen in, and with the wide midfielder darting through on goal, he was left one on one with Oikonomopoulos. This had happened twice during the first half, with both Semedo and Rui Barros, and the ‘keeper had twice come out triumphant. On the third time of asking, though, Portugal were not to be denied, as Paneira placed the ball to the right of Oikonomopoulos before the recovering Koutoulas could get near enough to put a tackle in. Greece 1, Portugal 2.
Could Greece make a second comeback? They had seemed in fine fettle around the time of the equalizer, but their hopeless ability to switch off had again cost them dearly just minutes after. It was almost shocking how disorganised they were; in particular their defensive line was at fault. However, it has already been mentioned how Tsaloukhidis was having something of a stinker in the defensive midfield position, and he would soon again concede possession inside his own half and see Portugal substitute Plácido head towards the penalty area. There were a few other Greeks present defensively on this occasion, so there was no highway straight through, though the recent arrival managed to feed Rui Barros, who elected to lay the ball off for the on-storming Sousa, who hit a shot from 22 yards out just wide to the left of Oikonomopoulos’ upright. The midfield ace had struck it sweetly, and it could’ve proved difficult for the ‘keeper to save had the effort been on target.
In Jorge Plácido, by the way, Portugal now had a much livelier option to make use of up top. Jordão had been so stationary, and he’d hardly justified his inclusion. It had been a third successive late ’88/early ’89 international in which the 36 year old had looked off the pace. Were options few just behind him in the ranks? Plácido, who was on now, was making his third appearance in Portugal colours, and he seemed a much more inspired striker, giving chase and running into positions, providing the visitors with yet another forward option. Had they been on song like in the second part of the first half, Portugal could’ve had goals galore here, but they were still only a goal ahead.
Any effort left in the hosts?
The clock was slowly making its way towards 75 minutes, and it did not look like Greece had plenty more to offer. It was as if they had shown all their cards to the Portuguese, who had responded well to the information. Collectively, they were a much more coherent outfit than their opponents, in particular defensively, where they rarely got dragged out of position, and where their players filled in for one another when there was a need for it. It could also be that Portugal’s players were individually of a higher calibre than those of Greece, where really only the two midfield wide men had shown glimpses of technical brilliance. Tsiantakis had done well since his switch across to the left hand side, whilst Borbokis had been a bit more reserved. However, he had earlier in the second half had a raid in which he dribbled past no less than four opponents before his run was brought to a halt by Veloso, and in all fairness, he had also got his name on the scoresheet.
Just prior to Portugal restoring their lead, Greece manager Sofianidis had told striker Dimos Kavouras to get ready for coming on. However, as another Portuguese goal so quickly after their own equalizer had not been part of the manager’s plan, Sofianidis had decided to let Kavouras sit back down again. Really, though, it was only a matter of time before something had to be done about Kalogeropoulos, who was hardly in the game all afternoon. He seemed to be one of the home players sabotaging any strategy laid by the management beforehand, as he was never bothered to give chase to Portugal’s defenders whenever they were in possession. Samaras was only slightly more interested, but altogether the Greek strike force were too unwilling to put a proper shift in. This had consequences in that their midfield and defence were so easily overrun by the visitors. On 74 minutes, Kalogeropoulos was put out of his misery and Levadiakos striker Kavouras came on for his third cap.
So, what could substitute Kavouras add which the Greeks had been missing thus far? Well, in earnest, they had been in need of plenty in order to improve on their display, so it was perhaps not too obvious what a like for like change up front could make. Perhaps could Kavouras add something in terms of giving chase when Portugal were in possession inside their own half, though? This had been desperately lacking in the home side’s repertoire hitherto. An answer would have to wait, as Greece conceded a counter-attacking opportunity which Portugal appeared to grasp with both hands. It had been Vítor Paneira who had led their charges from the right hand side, although it looked like it would come to nothing when Rui Barros took over and almost ran into trouble. Portugal would recoup the ball, with Semedo sending Plácido to the byline just inside the penalty area to the left. The substitute had spotted Rui Barros completely unmarked across the six yard box, and Plácido played a low, precise pass. With an open goal to aim at, Barros contrived to put the ball a couple of yards over the crossbar, as it had bounced up for him just as he was about to guide it into the back of the net. Koutoulas, the Greek defender nearest Barros, looked to be in disbelief at how the ball did not end up as a third Portugal strike. It was a shocking miss from the diminutive Serie A star, so he was still left wanting the goal which his display had possibly meritted.
The hosts would send on a debutant of their own in midfielder Spyros Maragkos, when he took to the field for defensive midfielder Tsaloukhidis twelve minutes from time. Tsaloukhidis had hardly improved his reputation with this display, although he did seem to be a firm favourite with whomever was in charge for the Greek national team in this era. And granted, he was a far better player than he’d shown on this occasion. The substitution was just about right, and perhaps could Maragkos bring something different to the team in their search for a late equalizer? It would appear that the 21 year old from Panionios would slot straight into the position left vacant by Tsaloukhidis, even if it quickly turned out that he’s a different brand of player: Not as competitive as Tsaloukhidis (usually is), and in fact more similar to the player just in front of him in central midfield, Nioplias. Both were left-footed, and they both liked to take an extra touch on the ball to steady themselves and make sure that they could let their very much favoured foot contemplate the next move.
With ten minutes to go, it is the visitors who make their second change of the afternoon, when Juca takes off exciting winger Vítor Paneira, who had risen to prominence whenever there was a counter-attacking opportunity for the visitors, and brought on wide midfielder Adão. The latter was a 28 year old from Belenenses, and he came on for his eleventh cap. He had featured prominently during the qualification for the 1988 European Championships, when he’d been involved in no less than seven of their eight qualifiers. He would slot in to the left in midfield, with Semedo switching across to the right to take over where Vítor Paneira had been.
Through to full time
A final push fails to materialize. The Greeks simply do not possess the quality to put the Portuguese to the sword in the final few minutes, and there is little drama through to the full time whistle. If anything, the visitors are closer to adding to their tally, as Rui Barros, a menace to the hosts all night, has a pop with his right foot from just outside the area, and though he is almost squeezed between Khatziathanasiou and Koutoulas, he gets away an effort which only clears the upright by a yard, and with Oikonomopoulos rooted to his spot. Later, the small forward will also have a header sliced wide from Plácido’s right wing cross.
As for the substitutes, there’s more to both of Portugal’s replacements than either of the four who came on for the hosts. Kavouras, did he even have a touch after coming on for Kalogeropoulos? I think this performance shows exactly how much they depend on Saravakos, because without him they are clearly less dangerous as an attacking force. Samaras had his moments, but he did not seem to gel well with either of Kalogeropoulos or Kavouras. At the back, they were sloppy almost throughout, and had the visitors taken at least a couple of the many chances which they were presented with this afternoon, they’d have run out very comfortable winners in the end. The Greeks will be pleased to know that they still have plenty of friendlies to correct their wrongdoings until their next qualifier. As for Portugal, they should be in fine spirits ahead of the home clash with Belgium shortly following this fine display in Athens.
It does not take long for the visitors to make their superior quality count, as midfielder Nunes heads home his very first goal at international level inside six minutes. Portugal will demonstrate throughout the game that they are individually and collectively a better team than Greece, who suffer from a number of players being below par. In fact, it appears as if some of their players are almost indifferent to the game. The second part of the first half is a very open affair, and there’s a big number of opportunities created, most of which are dented by home ‘keeper Oikonomopoulos, who is saving the Greeks from an embarrassment. The visitors continue to be the better side in the second half, barring a short period around the time when Borbokis connects with a Samaras cross for the equalizer. However, normal order is resumed when Barros nips in ahead of Nioplias to feed Vítor Paneira through for a one on one finish with the home goalkeeper for 2-1 to Portugal. This is how it ends, though it is a mystery how Barros failed to add to the tally when he side-footed over from four yards later on.
1 Oikonomopoulos 7.5
needs to save twice in one on one situations during the first half, when he also spectacularly keeps out a long distance effort from Barros. Leaves a solid impression throughout, even if he’s operating behind a shaky defensive line
2 Apostolakis 6.3
one-dimensional in his play, and both passing and positioning leave plenty to be desired. Not in sync with his central defenders in either half
3 Khatziathanasiou 7.1
easily the better Greek defender on the occasion with his sheer will and tenacity, and also keen to contribute in going forward. Works well once Tsiantakis arrives along his side. Outnumbered on a few occasions during the first half, but stands up tall to the threat of Paneira and Pinto from his side
4 Manolas 6.8
Does some mopping up right and left ahead of his libero, and seems slightly more focused, but his dragging out into the channels can be interpreted as a lack in discipline, exposing the centre at times
(16 Vakalopoulos 6.7
untidy, and you always expect a mistake from him on an uneven surface, yet he did alright, even if the mobile Plácido provided a greater threat than Jordão)
5 Mavridis 6.5
does little to promote a sense of security through the centre with some sloppy positioning, and his passing is not always precise. Not much inspired to come forward
(13 Koutoulas 6.6
not highly convincing, and it was his poor pass in field which led to the visitors’ second goal. Other than that did sufficient to suggest he can be a useful alternative as libero)
6 Tsaloukhidis 6.2
far from his best. Looks uninspired, sloppy in possession, poor distribution, and does not enter challenges like he does when he’s up for it. Fails to provide a shield in front of his central defenders
(17 Maragkos –
comes on in central midfield with a wish to make things happen, but apart from a right wing cross he fails to provide much in the short time he’s on the pitch)
7 Borbokis 6.8
drifts out of the game for long spells, but when he’s tuned in he’s a threat. Immense close control sees him make advance along the right, and arrives to get his foot to Samaras’ cross for the equalizer
8 Kalogeropoulos 5.9
simply does not possess the quality to impose himself on the Portuguese defence, even if his frame would suggest that he could put himself about. Contained right through to his substitution
(12 Kavouras –
apart from winning a solitary header he did little to promote his chances for a place in the side. No improvement on the man he’d replaced)
9 Samaras 6.9
another who was a bit on and off, but easily the more capable forward, especially with his aerial presence, which saw him head against the post early in the second half. Delicate ball into the area for Borbokis’ equalizer
10 Nioplias 7.0
saw plenty of the ball in and around the centre circle, and clearly has good vision and even ability to hit a pass into the path of a wideman, but too easily bundled off the ball when in battle
11 Tsiantakis 7.1
inefficient wide right from kick-off, but once moved across to the left he was a big threat to the visitors with his neat control and quick turns. Drew a terrific save from Silvino after the break, and delievered a few decent crosses. Little pace, but sound in combination with Khatziathanasiou
1 Silvino 7.1
perhaps should’ve stayed on the line for the equalizer, but apart from that left a fine impression. Not the biggest frame for a ‘keeper, but came decisively when he went for crosses, and punched well
2 João Pinto 6.9
part of a coherent right hand side, which was more effective going forward than when defending, as particularly Tsiantakis gave him a bit of a tricky afternoon defensively. Also had to see Samaras orientate himself towards his territory at times. Crossing not quite up to expected standard
3 Oliveira 6.8
sat back and concentrated on defending throughout, though he would typically leave most of the direct confrontations to his central defensive partner
4 Sobrinho 7.1
saw plenty of challenges, and whilst he contained both Kalogeropoulos and Kavouras, he found Samaras a handful in the air. Good positioning saw him through
5 Veloso 6.9
a fairly pragmatic display in which his defensive work came to the fore. Saw in Borbokis a threat in one on one situations, but his sound in positioning himself, and collaborated well with the central defenders
6 Nunes 7.2
totally committed, and covered a lot of space in front of his stoppers. Glanced home early header and could even have scored another in the first half, whilst he dropped very deep, almost back as a third central defender, once Portugal had gone 2-1 up. Won plenty in the air
7 Vítor Paneira 7.4
shows plenty of appetite along his right hand side, where he combines well with several team mates. Runs through and scores a fine winning goal. Important with his calmness on the ball for second half counter-attacks
(14 Adão –
came on and displayed a sweet left foot late on)
8 Rui Barros 7.5
always a threat with his constant movement, and almost impossible for the Greek defence to close down as he found space in between their midfield and back four. Made a nuisance of himself in combination with Paneira and Sousa, and inexplicably failed to convert Plácido’s low cross in front of an empty net
9 Semedo 7.3
big work rate, very dutiful, and even showed some fine control in possession. Stuck to his task along the left until the final ten minutes, when he was switched across to the right, from where he got into position for two decent crosses. Solid debut!
10 Sousa 7.4
the Portugal playmaker demanded the ball, and he made good use of it, often combining with others on one or two touches, and also posing a threat himself. Assisted for Nunes’ goal, and had a couple of efforts at goal
11 Jordão 6.0
departs for the final time after a static performance in which he failed to capitalize on a faulty Greek defensive line. Did not have the legs to do the striker’s job efficiently, and failed to make an impression, although his flick through saw Semedo one on one with the ‘keeper
(15 Plácido –
perhaps not always the best first touch, yet his mobility made sure that he was a big step up from Jordão, and he came close to assisting for a third goal when he played Rui Barros in for an empty net miss)
Written by: kaltz