segunda-feira, 11 de julho de 2016
Portugal victory is a triumph of resilience and a well- drilled defensive unit
Portugal victory is a triumph of resilience and a well-
drilled defensive unit
Fernando Santos coached his side superbly but their win in the Euro 2016 final came from a piece of magic from an unexpected source in Éder
Monday 11 July 2016 10.00 BST
The defining feature of this tournament has been the number of teams lacking a discernible attacking plan and it seemed somehow appropriate that Portugal won the game in this manner. Before the tournament their coach, Fernando Santos, eschewed a traditional centre-forward in favour of playing two wingers, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, up front – yet Portugal played their best football here after introducing Éder, an old-school No9. Few would have predicted, however, that the striker would settle the game in such spectacular fashion.
This was a defensive, cagey match between two teams attempting to regain possession in deep positions and lacking the tools to create regular chances. It started at a good tempo, with Moussa Sissoko moving inside from the right flank to charge forward from central positions. Portugal looked to play on the counterattack, although through long passes rather than quick combinations and rapid transitions. Their first chance came when Nani sprinted on to a 60-yard ball from the right-back Cédric Soares before firing over. The approach was obvious: get the ball towards the front two immediately.
The tactical battle was essentially 4-4-2 versus 4-4-2. There were nuances to the systems: Portugal’s shape was arguably more of a diamond midfield, with Adrien Silva given licence to drift forward, leaving William Carvalho protecting the defence, but without the ball the diamond became a flat four. France had Antoine Griezmann dropping off into deeper roles behind Olivier Giroud, while Dimitri Payet drifted inside and Sissoko, the first half’s best player, was arguably an extra midfielder. For long spells, however, this match was about two sides failing to penetrate the opposition’s two banks of four.
Ronaldo’s injury significantly altered the plan: France, who had started brightly, lost momentum while Portugal lost their key man and were forced to change shape. Ricardo Quaresma was summoned but played wide on the right, with Nani becoming a lone striker and Portugal switching to a 4-3-3 system. Nani struggled to receive service but Santos’s side now looked more threatening down the flanks, particularly the left – where João Mário positioned himself intelligently to draw Bacary Sagna inside, opening up space for Raphaël Guerreiro to fly forward on the overlap.
There were few genuine scoring opportunities, although France were threatening down the left flank. This was partly because Soares stuck tight to his direct opponent, first Payet and then the substitute Kingsley Coman, which created space in the channel on the outside of Pepe, inviting Giroud and Griezmann to run on to good passes in that zone before forcing Rui Patrício into action. Portugal have looked poor in the right-back zone throughout this tournament, with notable mistakes in that position for their concessions against Iceland and Poland.
Coman’s introduction, meanwhile, provided the match with the attacking spark which had been desperately lacking, and his cross created a fine headed chance for Griezmann. Of the 15 passes France played which resulted in a shot, 11 were played from the left of the pitch, four were hit from deeper, central zones and none came down the right. It was a lopsided approach but France appeared the more likely to break the deadlock.
The introduction of a striker for either side, André-Pierre Gignac and Éder, would prove crucial. Gignac replaced Giroud and brought freshness and more dangerous runs into the channels while Éder proved efficient at holding up the ball and allowing Portugal to gain ground, particularly by winning free-kicks. Gignac came closest to opening the scoring in normal time with a quick spin and a scuffed shot which hit the post; Éder settled the contest with an extraordinary, out-of-character long-range drive.