Portugal – Belgium: Silvino's howler gifts Belgium a point
This was the table as of 15 February 1989:
Portugal team news
It is fair to say that Juca had failed in the team’s first qualifier, as Portugal beat Luxembourg by a mere goal at home. They had been looking unbalanced in their 4-2-4, and Juca now mixed up things by introducing a 4-3-3, that might also be classified as a lopsided 4-4-2. Holding midfielder Adelino Nunes now got company from Antonio Sousa and José Semedo in midfield. The three had made up Juca’s midfield trio in the friendly vs Greece in January, and he must have liked what he saw, as he gave them renewed confidence for this all-important qualifier. Sousa was of course a veteran from 1984 and 1986, while Semedo only made his debut in the Greece game. In fact, Juca’s line-up to face Belgium was identical to that friendly, the one exception being that star man Futre replaced Jordão. The latter had been abysmal against Luxembourg, and perhaps a good idea that he now was retired from international duties.
Belgium team news
Thys kept the 5-3-2 formation that he had used in Bratislava. In that match, Belgium had looked toothless when going forward, but Thys could have hope of improving that part of the game in Lisboa as he fielded both Jan Ceulemans and Marc Degryse as forwards. This should no doubt be an improvement compared to Christiaens and Veyt. Another interesting change was made in defence, where Thys picked Michel De Wolf instead of Philippe Albert. This was probably a choice made to suit the kind of opposition they would meet: quick players who were good on the ball.
There was also late drama in the Belgian team as libero Stéphane Demol first picked up an injury in a Serie A game for Bologna, making him uncertain for this qualifier, and then was stuck at the Linate airport, when he after all decided he was fit to take part, as his plane to Lisbon was severely delayed because of fog. Thys decided in the last minute to call Jean-François De Sart (the libero of FC Liège) up to the squad in Lisbon; De Sart arrived, but so did Demol in time, and De Sart remained outside of the match day squad.
|2 João Pinto (c)||27||Porto|
|3 António Oliveira||30||Marítimo|
|7 Vítor Paneira||sub 86′||22||Benfica|
|8 Rui Barros||23||Juventus|
|9 António Sousa||31||Porto|
|10 Paulo Futre||sub 61′||22||Atlético Madrid|
|11 José Semedo||23||Porto|
|12 Neno||27||Vitória Guimarães|
|14 Fernando Mendes||22||Sporting CP|
|15 António Pacheco||on 61′||30||Benfica|
|16 César Brito||on 86′||24||Portimonense|
|1 Michel Preud’homme||30||Mechelen|
|2 Éric Gerets||34||PSV Eindhoven|
|3 Georges Grün||27||Anderlecht|
|4 Michel De Wolf||31||Kortrijk|
|5 Bruno Versavel||21||Mechelen|
|6 Marc Emmers||22||Mechelen|
|7 Stéphane Demol||7′, sub 82′||22||Bologna|
|8 Franky Van der Elst||27||Club Brugge|
|9 Marc Degryse||23||Club Brugge|
|10 Enzo Scifo||22||Bordeaux|
|11 Jan Ceulemans (c)||31||Club Brugge|
|12 Gilbert Bodart||26||Standard Liège|
|13 Philippe Albert||21||Mechelen|
|14 Franky Vercauteren||32||Nantes|
|15 Danny Veyt||32||RFC Liège|
|16 Marc Van Der Linden||on 82′||25||Antwerp|
Match Report – 1st half
This was an interesting encounter with two teams much improving their performances compared to their last respective outings. Juca fielded a “new” and far more balanced side, combining work rate with flair; Guy Thys’ men did a far better away showing than they had done against Czechoslovakia’s long balls.
Portugal’s attacking 4-3-3 formation
It was Portugal’s second match in the qualification, and their team was now adopting the shape it would maintain for most of the remaining campaign. The Portuguese formation was an attacking 4-3-3, which when without the ball would closely resemble a 4-5-1 (with Paneira as a right sided midfielder and one of Barros and Futre joining the midfield line). With the ball, Futre, Rui Barros and V. Paneira formed the attack, with support from Sousa and Semedo and the two full-backs. Adelino Nunes was the holding midfielder, with Antonio Sousa just in front of him, distributing and dictating tempo. José Semedo would often seek the left side of midfield, and in that way appeared to bring some counter-balance to the very attacking minded V. Paneira on the opposite side of the pitch (if we imagine the formation as a lopsided 4-4-2, and not a 4-3-3).
Already on paper this side looked to be a lot more balanced than the one we witnessed in Portugal’s previous encounter, against Luxembourg (h), which – even though the opposition was mediocre – had an excess of attacking options. The unfolding of the present match would also tell Juca that he had probably found a good formula, and he would largely stick to it for the rest of the campaign (as we’ll see later on italia1990.com).
Portugal’s attacking initiatives largely stem from their attacking trio: They have three forwards that all are able to take on defenders and brilliant at driving forward with the ball glued to their feet. With a heavy machinery in midfield to feed them, they could largely expect Futre, Rui Barros and V. Paneira to be the creative force. The first half showed us how well this actually worked: Individual performances by the abovementioned trio caused Belgium quite a lot of trouble, as they had a hard time stopping them from running with the ball in dangerous areas.
Futre – Rui Barros – V. Paneira
In particular V. Paneira enjoyed a brilliant game, and was also very well supported on his right side by captain João Pinto. It was for example V. Paneira who created the first Portuguese opportunity, when he was fouled just outside the penalty box by Demol (a quite nasty challenge, warranting a booking) after one of his mazy runs with the ball at feet. The following free kick was nearly converted in a goal by Antonio Sousa, but Preud’homme just managed to get a hand on the tricky shot that bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Futre was as always a player to look out for, enjoying a free role in this match and being quite active. He would often attack from the deep, running forward from all areas of the pitch, but mostly from the left side. In that way he was occasionally the left winger in the team – as mentioned with José Semedo to support him and balance the team. But on the present night, he arguably wasn’t as successful as Paneira in his dribbling attempts (who, in contradisctinction, was very successful), although sometimes only being stopped at the last gasp.
Rui Barros, the third of the trio, was playing in a – to him – unusual role as an advanced forward. With three central defenders around him, and Michel De Wolf doing his man marking, he found himself in a congested area. Still, his good movement off the ball meant that he was regularly involved, although he was often restricted to playing with his back towards goal.
No presence in the box!
The best individual performance of the night was given by V. Paneira, who already seemed (in his 2nd cap) to have forged a very promising tandem down the right hand side with full-back João Pinto. The latter was eagerly supporting the Benfica man with some powerful, determined running – V. Paneira would usually take on a defender (or two), sometimes succeeding on his own, sometimes releasing João Pinto shuttling forward. Their efficient co-work meant that Belgium were overworked on that side, with Versavel at times desperate for help, and Scifo not always the best assistant.
So what did Portugal lack? They were able to work quite a number of crosses into the box, but this is where it all stopped. With too few players in that critical area, they were constantly underpowered in front of the opposition goal. Rui Barros was the most likely player to take his place in the box, but stood no chance at all against the three Belgian central defenders. There was a distinct lack of midfielders making runs into the penalty area, giving Belgium a far too easy task clearing the ball. All crosses were to no avail as long as there was nobody there to connect to the ball, and in the end all the promising moves came to very little.
Above: Juca and his staff. From right to left: João Silva, Juca, José Alberto Costa, João Barnabé, Paes do Amaral, Dr. Camacho Vieira, Fernando Mendes (player).
Portugal’s defence push forward – Belgium seek to find spaces behind their defence
As in Czechoslovakia, Belgium looked very cautious with the ball, relying on slow build-up play. They are certainly no strangers to rapid turnovers, but prefer to calm things down when they see that there is too much risk losing the ball again. Different to the game in Bratislava, they were able to assert themselves with this style of play and actually keep possession. Scifo was also allowed a lot more time on the ball than what had been the case in Bratislava, and alltogether had a much better performance this evening.
There was also a lot of creativity in the side next to Scifo this time, with both Ceulemans and Degryse playing. The two latter had a difficult first half, though. Portugal were compressing the space between defence and midfield, giving little space for Belgium’s creativity to express itself. While Scifo with the assistance of Van Der Elst often managed to establish possession, the area in front of them was just too congested. And this was not helped by the fact that Belgium played rather narrow in their 5-3-2WB formation.
Portugal’s back four did, however, leave a lot of space behind them, as they were standing rather high up the pitch, in their attempt to compress the distance between midfield and defence – in the process creating plenty of space to run into for any Belgian making a run from the deep. Belgium perceived this and some of the most interesting situations in this first half were created when they lifted the ball over the high Portuguese defence for some of their team mates to run onto it (Gerets, Emmers, Versavel usually, although the two wing backs rarely were in an advanced position that allowed them to make these runs). The four Portuguese defenders were often caught unaware and this made for some promising looking Belgian attacks.
This scenario made you think how much better this match would have suited Hans Christiaens, who had been all lost in Bratislava. His pace could have been very useful in these circumstances. Among the current team selection you would hope for maybe Degryse but in particular Emmers to make these runs, but the latter was not seen threatening this space in the 1st half too often, which may come as a disappointment. The high Portuguese line did well to compress space for Ceulemans and Degryse, and took the risk to leave much space behind them.
0-0 at HT
There was good tempo to this match, although we did not see too many goal scoring opportunities. For all their brilliant combinations and fluid movement, Portugal only had a couple of shots on goal, the best being that free kick from Antonio Sousa which Preud’homme in full stretch did well to save. Belgium were never close except a header from Grün following a free kick (again) that Silvino had to give to a corner. Still, one sensed that there would be goals here, as both teams fielded a farily attacking line-up. Portugal just needed to get more players inside the box and Belgium had to time their runs from behind better.
Match report – 2nd half
1-0: Created by Portugal’s attacking trio
The match really opened up from the beginning of the 2nd half.
Belgium’s main attacking prowess was of course provided by Scifo, Ceulemans and Degryse. One of Belgium’s “forgotten” attacking options is Bruno Versavel, who was employed as a left wing back in Thys’ 5-3-2WB formation. From the performances for his club team, KV Mechelen, he was however widely recognized as a left winger in a 4-3-3- formation. Thys’ hope must have been for him to join attack, but he had hardly dared to venture forward as Portugal were attacking with intent down the right hand side with V. Paneira and João Pinto. The second half did start, however, with a strong initiative from Versavel, running down the flank full of purpose, and cleverly played through by Degryse. From the edge of the penalty area Versavel delivered a cross that almost sailed into the far corner of Silvino’s goal. Hard to say if this was his intent, but it did almost produce a goal.
However, it was Portugal’s attacking trio that together found the first goal of the evening, with all three being heavily involved. They key to the situation was Rui Barros being able to swiftly turn away from two Belgians and face up the defence with the ball at feet – a perilious scenario for any team. Michel De Wolf, an aggressive but sometimes too rash defender, had failed in an attempt to tackle him, thus exposing the entire defence. Rui Barros tried to send Futre through on goal with a chip. The chip was averted by Van Der Elst, but his unfortunate header only presented V. Paneira with an even better opportunity, and the Benfica winger made no mistake alone with Preud’homme. In this case there were 6 Belgian defenders + goalkeeper inside the box, but they still didn’t manage to stop the Portugal trio from scoring.
Belgium trailing, but still find openings
It’s worth noting that the goal didn’t change anything to Juca’s strategy. Perhaps acknowledging that the strengths of his team were in the attacking department, he might have instructed his players to simply carry on if they were to take the lead, declining the opportunity to sit back and soak up pressure, and instead look for a second goal.
It is fair to say that Portugal’s defence at times experienced hardship during these qualifiers. The high defensive Portuguese line has been mentioned, and they continued to leave surprisingly much space behind the defenders even after taking the lead, not helped by some members finding it hard to set the offside line. Not long after the opening goal Emmers almost managed to exploit this big space behind the defence, as he, bursting forward, was very cleverly played through on goal by a Scifo back-heel. Emmers was virtually one on one with Silvino, but the goalkeeper managed to get a hand on the shot (which was more powerful than well placed). It should be said that Emmers was unfarily distracted in the situation, as Adelino Nunes cynically made a reckless, belated tackle from behind and managed to hit Emmers’ heel: Emmers clearly lost some of his momentum and was in pain after the miss. The referee spotted it and booked Adelino Nunes for what might have been a sending off in modern times (but strangely didn’t give a free kick, instead ordering a corner!).
This trend continued through the rest of the game, as Belgium surprisingly saw themselves given the occasional chance to break forward. Jan Ceulemans was released a couple of times running into the channels, with Portugal’s defence seemingly all over the place, but he just couldn’t find Degryse with the decisive ball.
Futre bizarrely substituted
The 62th minute saw Juca substituting the talismanic Futre and replacing him with Pacheco, who went straight into the rather free role Futre had enjoyed on the left flank. But what a strange decision this was: To be fair, Futre had been less successful in his dribbling attempts than we’re probably used to see him. Too often he lost the ball when taking on the Belgian defenders. But to substitute him just when Portugal could expect acres of space in front of them, as the opponents would push forward for an equalizer? It borders on the mysterious (with all respect due to Pacheco). There’s always the possibility that Futre was injured (as suggested by Roger Laboureur on the commentaries to RTV’s transmission), but nothing from the footage really indicates this. Most likely it was a decision made from Futre’s number of failed attempts.
With Futre substituted, it was now up to Rui Barros to lead the attack. As the second half progressed, and Belgium conceded more and more space, he would more often seek the flanks and attack from the deep, similar to how Futre had done. No surprise to see this suit him better than to play with the back towards the goal. He also orchestrated one of the best attacks of the night which saw him pick up a long kick by Silvino, play some quick, neat combinations and finally released through on goal by Sousa. But where was the finish? He skied the ball over the goal, and regrettably this was going to repeat itself later in the qualifiers: Rui Barros clearly lacked something in his finishing skills.
Belgium in possession
Portugal had congested the midfield, and Belgium seemed to run into their trap. Scifo, their playmaker, seemed to be in good form on the night, but generally looked bereft of (good) options. Part of the problem with how Thys’ 5-3-2WB formation worked, is that there was quite little exploitation of the flanks. Versavel and Gerets alone couldn’t do much, as they probably were aware of the threat posed by Portugal’s wide players. Especially Versavel, who at times had seen himself with little assistance against J. Pinto and V. Paneira, while their right hand side with Gerets was efficiently shut down by the defensive minded Semedo, who had a really good game. Portugal’s tactics was working good, Belgium’s not.
The question is why Degryse and Ceulemans not more often gave Belgium some options in their wide play. Also Emmers too often found himself in that congested centre area of the pitch. On the positive side, Belgium all through the match managed to have a momentum in central midfield, helped by the two defenders Grün and De Wolf, who in turns willingly crossed the half way line to support their dominance and to keep possession in the team. This was one of the more noteworthy features of Belgium’s play this evening, but one made possible by Portugal playing with one forward only. But wouldn’t it have been better if the two wing backs felt free to go forward, and not the central defenders?
Gerets was more willing (and able) to venture forward than Versavel, and also had a brilliant claim for penalty when he went down under a late challenge by Oliveira (who often seemed to be late in this game). He had sprinted down to the byline and was ready to put in a cross when Oliveira totally mistimed his tackle. Stone wall penalty, one should think, but Mr. Biguet (not for the first time this evening) was not interested.
Portugal’s midfield trio
For obvious reasons, the attacking trio Futre – Rui Barros – V. Paneira gave a lot of attacking excitement to the audience. Pacheco, as expected (except by Juca?) never managed to emulate the omnipresent activity of Futre, although he did make a few promising runs with and without the ball, as well as a good impression as a lookalike!
But we shouldn’t forget the machinery that gave these players the freedom to burst forward relentlessly in attack: the midfield trio consisting of Semedo, Sousa and Nunes. They did ever so well defensively, compressing the space in the midfield area. Nunes probably had his best match in these qualifiers, showing that he possesses a fair bit of athleticism and can be an efficient and aggressive tackler (although too rash at times, like De Wolf). Sousa also put in a decent shift in the defensive work, although this probably meant that he seldom managed to go forward as much as Portugal needed, cf. the abovementioned lack of presence in the box. Of these three, Semedo made the best performance. He shut off the threat from Belgium’s right hand side (Gerets and Emmers) together with Veloso, and also had some decent forward arrays, especially in the second half. He even came close to score when he connected to a free kick from Sousa; a powerful header from close range that gave Preud’homme some trouble.
Van Der Linden and 1-1
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Thys took off Demol (who had been carrying a small injury prior to this game) and sent on Marc Van Der Linden. Belgium consequently changed to a 4-3-3 formation, with Van Der Linden joining Degryse and Ceulemans up front. Belgium immediately looked more exposed at the back after this change. Perhaps by chance that this happened just when Demol was substituted, but there were 2-3 occasions where you were thinking that it was a matter of time before a Portuguese player would be put clean through.
Then it happened, the moment which would do so much to determine the campaign for either of the two teams. 5 minutes before full time, Belgium rewon possession deep inside their own half and there was an unexpected chance to counter-attack once more. Scifo, driving the team forward as always, picked out Van Der Linden on the right flank. It was an awful attempt of a cross from near the touchline, no power, no direction, and as simple as it could get for a goalkeeper to handle. Still, Silvino let it slide beneath his body in an attempt to clutch it, and could only turn his head to confirm that he had conceded a goal. 1-1.
Irony is, that the goal came from the flank – an area Belgium hardly had explored in this game. There was controversy also, however, as Portugal clearly should have been awarded a free kick when Belgium won possession. Grün was nowhere near the ball as he tackled Sousa, and the referee, despite having a clear view to the incident, couldn’t spot it. Still, what people will remember from this night was not Mr. Biguet’s mistake, but Silvino’s.
Portugal never managed to stage a comeback. They had conceded and simultaneously had to replace V. Paneira, who appears to have picked up an injury in the same minute. His replacement was César Brito. Thys also mixed things up as he moved Ceulemans down to midfield, playing a 4-4-2 with Scifo and Emmers in the wide positions.
This was a much improved performance by Juca’s side, who suddenly looked to have found shape after that uninspired win against Luxembourg. The attacking trio always looked like scoring, somehow, and were supported by a solid midfield trio, perfectly balanced. The only thing missing was a target in the box and the defence also looked vulnerable at times, although it deed succeed in reducing space for Belgium’s creative forces. Thys’ 5-3-2WB did much better than in Bratislava and enjoyed possession for long spells, but although they had a surplus in the centre of midfield, there was a lack of options in wide play. Ironically, Van Der Linden somehow scored from the touch line to save a point for Belgium!
1 Silvino 6.3
2 Joâo Pinto 7.5
3 Sobrinho 7.0
4 Oliveira 6.5
5 Veloso 6.8
6 Nunes 7.0
7 V. Paneira 8.1
(16 César Brito –)
8 Rui Barros 7.2
9 Antonio Sousa 6.7
10 Futre 6.7
(15 Pacheco 6.7)
11 Semedo 7.1
1 Preud’homme 7.1
2 Gerets 7.3
3 Grün 7.0
4 De Wolf 6.8
5 Versavel 6.6
6 Emmers 6.8
7 Demol 6.5
(16 Van Der Linden –)
8 Van Der Elst 6.9
9 Degryse 6.6
10 Scifo 7.0
11 Ceulemans 6.4
Full match (youtube)