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Ronaldo’s Portugal held by Mexico at Confed Cup

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo brushed off speculation about his Real Madrid future, although Portugal conceded a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Mexico at the Confederations Cup on Sunday.

Mexico

Ronaldo teed up Ricardo Quaresma to fire Portugal ahead in the first half in Kazan, but the goal was cancelled out before the break by Mexico striker Javier Hernandez’s bullet header.

Cedric Soares restored Portugal’s lead on 86 minutes, but Hector Moreno’s stoppage-time header salvaged a point for Mexico in their Group A opener.

“We could have killed off the match but it didn’t happen. The draw is a fair result without doubt,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, whose side wore black armbands in honour of the victims of a deadly forest fire back home.

“I would like to say something on behalf of my players. People are very sad in Portugal and the players are thinking of all those who are suffering from what’s happened.”

Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said his team deserved their point but admitted there was work to be done going forward.

“Hector Moreno’s goal handed Mexican football a huge result,” he said.

“We still need to work on our finishing, we’re not efficient enough in the final third of the pitch.

“The next match will be very tough because New Zealand will give it their all.”

Ronaldo, 32, is reportedly furious over a tax probe into the off-shore accounts dealing with his image rights, and has reportedly vowed to leave Spain.

According to Spanish paper Marca on Sunday, Real Madrid’s coach Zinedine Zidane even broke off his holiday to call Ronaldo to try to persuade his star not to quit the club.

But Portugal’s talisman was at his best in an action-packed first half in his team’s opening match, with hosts Russia and New Zealand still to come in the group.

Ronaldo’s superb volley looked to have helped Portugal take the lead, but the video assistant referee came to Mexico’s rescue after Nani had put the ball in the net.

When Ronaldo’s volley thumped the crossbar, Nani pounced on the rebound, but the video ref spotted that four players were offside.

However, Portugal, and Ronaldo, were not to be denied.

The Euro 2016 winners took the lead on 34 minutes when Ronaldo sprinted into the box and his beautifully-timed pass found Quaresma unmarked in the area.

The Besiktas winger drew Mexico’s goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and tapped home the opening goal.

But Mexico responded with Hernandez testing Portugal keeper Rui Patricio, before putting his side level.

Mexico’s all-time top scorer grabbed his 48th international goal from 93 appearances after some dreadful defending by Portugal.

Borussia Dortmund midfielder Raphael Guerreiro failed to deal with a cross into the box and Carlos Vela teed up Hernandez, who met the cross with a diving header.

After an explosive opening period, the second was a much tamer affair as both teams squandered half chances as the tempo dropped.

With time running out, Southampton right-back Cedric pounced on a loose ball and slammed home Portugal’s second goal.

But with the 90 minutes up, Mexican defender Moreno rose highest from the final corner of the game to head in the equaliser.

Dutch suffer World Cup shock, Ronaldo in 70-goal landmark

March 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Netherlands’ hopes of reaching the World Cup finals suffered a major setback on Saturday when the three-time runners-up slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat to Bulgaria.

Robben

The loss left the Dutch six points behind Group A leaders France, who beat Luxembourg 3-1, and down in fourth spot, three back from Sweden and two off Bulgaria with just the group winners guaranteed a place in the 2018 finals in Russia.

“What can I tell you? We came here with good intentions, but it has become a nightmare,” Dutch skipper Arjen Robben said.

Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo took his international tally to 70 goals as European champions Portugal beat Hungary 3-0 to stay in second spot behind Switzerland in Group B.

Belgium needed a goal two minutes from time by Romelu Lukaku to salvage a 1-1 draw against nine-man Greece as they stayed two points clear in Group H, although Roberto Martinez’s team lost their 100 percent record in the process.

In Sofia, Bulgaria stunned the Dutch with two goals in the first 20 minutes, both coming from Spas Delev.

Delev pounced on a mistake by 17-year-old Matthijs De Ligt, Holland’s youngest debutant since 1931, who misjudged a pass and allowed the striker to slot the ball past Jeroen Zoet.

Delev then made it 2-0 when he unleashed a stinging right-foot drive past Zoet.

The Dutch dominated large parts of the rest of the game but were thwarted by a solid Bulgarian defence while goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov pulled off a super save in the second period to deny Davy Klaassen.

Group A table-toppers France, the 1998 champions and last year’s Euro 2016 runners-up, saw Olivier Giroud open the scoring in Luxembourg just before the half-hour mark.

Luxembourg levelled after 34 minutes thanks to Aurelien Joachim’s penalty, his country’s first goal against France in 39 years.

But the minnows’ joy was short-lived as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann restored France’s lead, also from the spot, just four minutes later.

Arsenal star Giroud scored his second of the evening after 77 minutes after being set up by Benjamin Mendy.

“With us, Olivier often scores goals even if he is having a difficult time with his club. We gave him the crosses and he was very efficient,” said France coach Didier Deschamps.

In Lisbon, Portugal saw off Hungary, a team they shared six goals with at Euro 2016.

The win kept Portugal in second place in Group B, three points behind Switzerland, who earlier preserved their 100 percent record with a fifth win in five games, a 1-0 home victory against Latvia.

Porto striker Andre Silva opened the scoring after 30 minutes, converting a pass from Raphael Guerreiro for his fifth goal in six games for Portugal.

Six minutes later, skipper Ronaldo doubled the lead with a superb left-footed finish and the Real Madrid superstar made it 3-0 on 65 minutes with a clever free-kick for his 70th international goal.

“We want to go the World Cup so we have to win our next five matches, they are all finals,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

Belgium stayed top of Group H but only after struggling to a 1-1 draw with Greece.

Missing the injured Eden Hazard, Belgium lacked a creative spark in Brussels and they were made to pay when Greece grabbed the lead just 20 seconds into the second period when Benfica striker Kostas Mitroglou latched on to a long ball to fire home his third goal of the qualifying campaign.

Greece were reduced to 10 men after 65 minutes when Panagiotis Tachtsidis was red carded for a crude lunge on defender Toby Alderweireld.

Everton striker Lukaku drove home from close range in the 89th minute to grab a share of the spoils before Georgios Tzavelas was sent-off in injury time.

“I feel a lot of frustration. With the amount of individual talent we have at our disposal, we have to show more,” said Martinez.

Earlier on Saturday, Sweden crushed Belarus 4-0 to move to 10 points in Group A, three behind France, with Emil Forsberg scoring twice.

In Group H, Bosnia-Herzegovina also went on a goal spree with a 5-0 win over minnows Gibraltar, who have now conceded 22 goals in five games.

Four-goal Ronaldo targets perfect run-in to Russia

October 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo marked his international return with four goals in a 6-0 mauling of hapless Andorra on Friday and then demanded eight more wins to guarantee Portugal a place in the 2018 World Cup.

Portugal

The Real Madrid superstar took his Portugal career tally to 65 goals in 134 games but his team, the European champions, are only third in Group B, a point behind minnows Faroe Islands and three back from leaders Switzerland.

Only the group winners are certain of making the finals in Russia.

On Friday, the Swiss followed their opening 2-0 win over the Portuguese with a last-gasp 3-2 triumph at Hungary while the Faroes beat Latvia 2-0 in Riga.

“We know that Switzerland and the Faroes won tonight and it will be necessary for us to beat them during qualification,” said Ronaldo.

“There are eight games left and we want to win them all to reach the World Cup finals.”

Ronaldo, 31, was making his first appearance for Portugal since he was stretchered off injured and in tears from the final of Euro 2016, where his country beat France.

He wasted no time in making up for his three-month absence from international football, getting off the mark after just 73 seconds.

He was on target again two minutes later while adding two more after the interval.

“I know that I am an important player and I have always done my best since I started my international career. I scored four goals tonight and obviously I am very happy to have come back after my serious injury in the Euros final,” he said.

“We knew that the first goal tonight would be very important because they are a team who defend with 11 players.

“Things went well. We scored twice in the first five minutes and the match became a lot easier.”

Portugal will be in action again on Monday when they travel to the Faroes.

Portugal stunned by Swiss in World Cup qualifier

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Switzerland struck twice in quick succession to stun Euro 2016 champions Portugal 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and hand them a first competitive defeat in two years under coach Fernando Santos.

Football Soccer - Switzerland v Portugal - 2018 World Cup Qualifier - St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland - 6/9/16. Switzerland's goalkeeper Yann Sommer, Gelson Fernandes, Johan Djourou and Fabian Schaer celebrate after defeating Portugal. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Ninteeen-year-old Breel Embolo headed Switzerland ahead in the 23rd minute and Admir Mehmedi doubled the lead six minutes later as Portugal’s defence, almost impregnable in France in June, dramatically unravelled.

Portugal, missing talismanic forward and record scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, regained their composure and dominated the rest of the game but were hopelessly ineffective in attack.

Nani was the biggest culprit when he headed Ricardo Quaresma’s cross against the post from close range in the 82nd minute.

The Portuguese had 27 attempts on goal to Switzerland’s eight but only four were on target. They had 12 efforts blocked and 11 went wide while they also won 11 corners to one for the hosts.

Santos was appointed coach in September 2014 and had not lost in 14 competitive games, seven in Euro 2016 qualifiers and seven in the tournament itself.

Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka was sent off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time as tempers flared.

“In the first 20 minutes, the Swiss were completely over-run but they scored a goal and from then on, used the tactics that Portugal often use and defended well,” Santos told reporters.

“Our opponents were more pragmatic and more efficient.”

“I am sure we will start winning and winning and winning… and I’m convinced we will be at the World Cup.”

In addition to Ronaldo, still recovering from the injury he suffered in the Euro 2106 final, Portugal were missing key midfielder Renato Sanches while the Swiss were without their top forward, Xherdan Shaqiri.

The visitors looked comfortable until Switzerland won a free kick in the 23rd minute.

Ricardo Rodriguez produced a fierce effort which goalkeeper Rui Patricio could only parry and Cameroon-born Embolo nipped in to score from the rebound.

Portugal were still recovering from that shock when Haris Seferovic got free on the right six minutes later and cut the ball back into the middle of the area where Mehmedi, unmarked, placed his shot into the far corner.

Portugal brought on Joao Mario and Andre Silva at halftime and continued to press forward but a series of shots went either over the bar and were fired at Swiss defenders.

Bernardo Silva had a scuffed shot easily saved by Yann Sommer and Raphael Guerreiro sent another over.

Portugal continued to dominate until the end when Quaresma had a shot deflected over the crossbar and Joao Mario fired into the side netting.

Portugal stun France with late Eder strike in Euro final

July 11, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal found an unlikely hero as Eder’s thunderous finish deep into extra time secured their first European Championship title after they overcame the early loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to snatch a 1-0 victory over hosts France on Sunday.

Football Soccer - Portugal v France - EURO 2016 - Final - Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France - 10/7/16 Portugal celebrates with the trophy after winning Euro 2016 REUTERS/Darren Staples Livepic

The substitute picked the perfect time to score his first competitive goal for his country, marauding forward before letting fly with a bullet shot from 25 metres in the 109th minute.

It was a magic moment for the 28-year-old who plays for French club Lille and delivered a devastating knockout blow to decide a tight and cagey encounter.

“It was amazing,” the striker told reporters. “We fought with immense strength, we were amazing. I think we deserve this title due to the work we put in, all the players and the staff.”

It was a cruel outcome for Didier Deschamps’ side, who had dominated the match and squandered a number of chances, in front of their devastated home support, who arrived at the Stade de France hoping to celebrate a third European crown.

The trophy was lifted triumphantly by Ronaldo, who broke down in tears at the final whistle after his own game had come to a frustrating end with 24 minutes on the clock when he cried as he was carried off the pitch on a stretcher with a knee injury.

So much of the build-up had focused on Ronaldo and his hopes of crowning a glittering career with the only achievement missing from his CV, a piece of international silverware.

The script had been written for him to produce a performance to match his status as one of the game’s truly great talents, but he had to settle for a back-stage role after Dimitri Payet’s challenge left him in a heap on the floor.

It was not how he would have envisaged his evening panning out, but having been part of the Portugal side that were stunned in the final as hosts by Greece in 2004, he celebrated wildly with his team mates as ticker tape rained down from the rafters.

For France it was a debilitating defeat after they had come into the match as heavy favourites and hoping to lift the spirits of a nation still recovering from last November’s attacks in Paris.

“We missed a chance, maybe not a unique chance, but a great chance to become European champions,” Deschamps said.

“Our disappointment is immense and will take time to digest. We won together, we suffered together and we lost together. It would have been magnificent to offer this trophy to our supporters, here at home.”

For the much of the match, there had looked like being only one winner as France began with early attacking intent, fuelled by the bullish presence and charging runs of Moussa Sissoko in midfield.

His 34th-minute shot was well-parried by Portugal keeper Rui Patricio, but by that point the match had settled into a pattern of France probing and pushing but struggling to break down their more defensively-minded opponents.

Without Ronaldo, Portugal seemed in no hurry to rush the ball forward, happy to see the game descend into a cagey, tactical battle.

They had a scare, however, in the 67th minute when Kingsley Coman’s cross found Antoine Griezmann unmarked six metres from goal, only for the tournament’s top scorer to head a golden opportunity over.

Minutes later, Olivier Giroud, fed by sprightly substitute Coman, forced a diving save from Patricio, who then parried away a pile-driver from Sissoko as France turned the screw.

France’s best chance of the night arrived in stoppage time when substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned his marker inside out before scuffing a shot past the keeper and against the post, with the ball bouncing across the face of goal and then out of harm’s way.

While Portugal continued to sit back in extra time, they had the better chances with Eder’s header parried by Hugo Lloris and Raphael Guerreiro striking the crossbar with a free kick before Eder’s moment of magic.

French people needed ‘an escape’ – Lloris

July 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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France’s run to the Euro 2016 final on home soil has given the country “an escape” after the horror of last November’s Paris attacks, captain Hugo Lloris said on Saturday.

Lloris France

The rolling attacks on the French capital, claimed by the Islamic State group, left 130 people dead and led to calls for the tournament to be cancelled.

The France team also experienced pre-competition problems, with striker Karim Benzema dropped over a blackmail plot involving team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, but they have managed to reach Sunday’s final against Portugal.

“Of course we’ve had some very difficult times this year, both with those tragic events, but also with events that have gone on off the field,” Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Lloris told a press conference at Stade de France.

“But we’re even prouder to be on the pitch, to feel the entire French population behind us, to feel this happiness which is shared between the players and the French people.

“That gives us strength and is lovely to see. But we still have that final step to take to finish this competition in the best possible fashion.

“The French people really needed to escape via this competition, and sport has this strength: to unite people.

“We are currently experiencing that. We still have one step to take, the hardest one, but one that’s worth it.”

France will tackle Portugal at their national stadium after overcoming Germany 2-0 in the semi-finals courtesy of a brace from tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann.

As well as diverting attention from the November attacks, France’s vibrant displays have helped to obscure the memory of the squad’s shameful antics at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The players refused to train at their Knysna training base in protest at striker Nicolas Anelka’s expulsion from the squad for insulting coach Raymond Domenech and the team were eliminated in the first round.

There are only five survivors from that campaign in current coach Didier Deschamps’s squad: Lloris, Bacary Sagna, Patrice Evra, Steve Mandanda and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

Reflecting on how the squad’s image has improved since 2010, Manchester City full-back Sagna said: “Knysna is one of the events that marked French football.

“We made a mistake, clearly. We brought French football to its lowest point. We showed a very, very bad image.

“We had to put in a lot of effort and a lot of work to restore our reputation. We’re just getting there six years later.

“We want to give French people something to smile about, to show a completely different image. We can’t change the past, but we can build a better future.”

Griezmann v Ronaldo — duel of the magnificent sevens

July 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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With France’s baby-faced poster boy Antoine Griezmann going up against preening Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, the Euro 2016 final will feature a duel between two very different number sevens.

Ronaldo v Griezmann

Griezmann, 25, is the tournament’s top scorer and is bidding to deliver success for the home nation in his first major international final.

Ronaldo wept teenage tears after Portugal’s 1-0 loss to Greece in the Euro 2004 final and at 31, he knows he may not get a better chance of success with his country.

“Euro 2004 was special — I was just 19 and it was my first tournament,” Ronaldo said after scoring a magnificent header in Portugal’s 2-0 semi-final win over Wales.

“Now we are in the final again and we hope we will win it. I hope that we’ll be smiling and that it will be tears of joy in the end.”

Griezmann has already had a tearful tournament exit, having cried on the pitch at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana after France lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals.

He appeared close to tears again six weeks ago following Atletico Madrid’s Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, in which he blasted a second-half penalty against the bar.

He atoned, partially, in the penalty shootout, but Ronaldo had the last laugh, tucking away the fifth and final spot-kick to secure his third European title.

It is Griezmann, however, who has captured imaginations at the Euro and he provided another exhibition of his talents with a brace in the 2-0 semi-final win over Germany.

“He’s a great player,” said France coach Didier Deschamps. “In this Euro, he’s been decisive for us. He can score and he can help others score.”

Disappointing in France’s opening 2-1 win over Romania, Griezmann came off the bench to head in a crucial late goal in the 2-0 defeat of Albania.

But having started the tournament on the right flank, it was only after being moved behind Olivier Giroud at half-time of the last 16 clash with the Republic of Ireland that his tournament sprang to life.

He scored twice in the second half, found the net again in the 5-2 last 16 defeat of Iceland and downed Germany almost single-handedly in Marseille on Thursday.

Paul Pogba went into the tournament as the heir apparent to Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane. But L’Equipe newspaper dubbed the team the “Griezmann Generation” following the defeat of Germany.

Griezmann is the first player to score six goals at a Euro since Platini, who netted nine times when France triumphed as hosts of the 1984 tournament.

Ronaldo’s goal against Wales saw him equal Platini’s record of nine goals at Euro finals, but whereas it took the Frenchman one tournament to set his mark, it has taken the Portugal captain four to equal it.

Like Griezmann, Ronaldo made a slow start to the tournament.

He was widely ridiculed for accusing Iceland — population 330,000 — of having a “small mentality” after the 1-1 draw between the teams and then slammed a penalty against the post as Portugal drew 0-0 with Austria.

But he scored twice in the 3-3 draw with Hungary that secured Portugal’s last 16 place and after two games without a goal, he settled the semi-final against Wales with a goal and an assist for Nani.

With his great rival Lionel Messi’s Argentina career up in the air — the Barcelona star announced his international retirement following a defeat on penalties by Chile in the Copa America final — Ronaldo has an extra incentive to win on Sunday.

Like Messi, he has never won a World Cup or continental tournament with his country.

Lead Portugal to a first major title, and a fourth Ballon d’Or — the prize he covets above almost all others — would swim tantalisingly into view.

Ronaldo has the opportunity to leave Messi in the shade

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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For so much of Cristiano Ronaldo’s majestic career, he has battled with Lionel Messi, often unsuccessfully, to be considered the greatest player in the world.

Ronaldo

If history ultimately judges the finest talents by their achievements on the international stage, where neither player has tasted success, then the Portuguese captain could use Sunday’s Euro 2016 final to land a haymaker blow in one of football’s great rivalries.

Ronaldo has overcome rumblings of discontent at the tournament, with his form and attitude subjected to microscopic analysis, to lead his side into a showpiece finale where they will face hosts France in Paris.

Should he end the occasion holding aloft the trophy, it would not only crown a remarkable career, it would perhaps settle once and for all a debate that has divided fans across the world.

Ronaldo and Messi have been jostling for the World Player of the Year title for years, often with little to separate them in the scoring charts or in their burgeoning trophy cabinets.

They have hoovered up eight Ballon D’Or titles between them (Messi five, Ronaldo three) and been the cause of innumerable arguments among fans and pundits who have picked over their various merits.

Yet neither has led their country to glory in a continental or World Cup tournament.

A rivalry that stretches back a decade and includes two of the world’s biggest clubs in Ronaldo’s Real Madrid and Messi’s Barcelona, could be about to witness a defining moment.

And timing is everything.

When Messi’s Argentina failed to beat Chile in last month’s Copa America final it proved too heavy a blow for the diminutive playmaker, who announced his international retirement in the aftermath.

A multiple trophy winner with Barcelona, the 29-year-old Messi had been part of four final defeats with the national team, three in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Fast forward a few weeks and Sunday’s final offers Ronaldo an opportunity to stamp his authority decisively on the debate. Victory against France would elevate him into a pantheon of former greats who have tasted international success.

Pele, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini all claimed international trophies to cement their standing as the best players of their generations.

It is a list that Ronaldo would no doubt like to join and he is coming into form right on cue.

The 31-year-old, who suffered disappointment in the 2004 final when his side were beaten by Greece, began Euro 2016 with his influence on the team under scrutiny.

As Portugal failed to win their first five games inside 90 minutes, Ronaldo was frequently pictured scowling at team mates and throwing up his arms in despair as passes went astray and chances went begging.

He threw a reporter’s microphone into a lake when he was asked a question during a team walk and was criticised for disparaging remarks he made about Iceland after Portugal drew 1-1 with the rank outsiders in their opening match.

Yet for all the theatrics, when the curtain rose on their biggest match of the tournament, he was the undoubted star of the show, scoring once with a magnificent header and setting up another goal in their 2-0 semi-final victory over Wales.

The current Portugal side are far from the most talented in their recent history and Sunday’s opponents France are heavy favourites but a Ronaldo-inspired victory would, for once, leave Messi firmly in his rival’s shadow.

Ronaldo delivers as Portugal end dream Wales run

July 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo scored one goal and inadvertently set up the other as Portugal ground out a 2-0 win over Wales on Wednesday to march into the Euro 2016 final.

Football Soccer - Portugal v Wales - EURO 2016 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 6/7/16 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo scores their first goal REUTERS/John Sibley

The Portuguese superstar, who has had to soak up a lot of criticism for a lacklustre tournament by his high standards, majestically powered in a 50th-minute header to put his side in front.

The goal, his third in the tournament, equalled Michel Platini’s record of nine in European Championship finals.

Ronaldo also saw his shot turned in by Nani for a second goal in the 53rd minute, ending Wales’ remarkable run at their first major finals since 1958.

Portugal, who had not won a single game in the tournament over 90 minutes, next meet hosts France or Germany who play their semi-final on Thursday.

“I hope that after the final we will be smiling and that it will be tears of joy in the end,” said Ronaldo who wept after his team lost to surprise packages Greece in the 2004 final.

“I have always said my dream was to win a trophy with Portugal. We are closer to doing it and I believe we will win,” he told reporters after coming out on top in his battle with Real Madrid team mate Gareth Bale.

Wales kept their opponents quiet in the first half but could not recover the two-goal deficit, ending a scintillating run that has captivated millions back home and turned their players into heroes.

The Welsh, with midfielder Aaron Ramsey suspended and replaced by Leicester City’s Premier League winner Andy King, had an early spell of possession but a tight Portugal defence kept them at bay.

Portugal, bidding to reach their first Euro final since losing on home soil 12 years ago, had their first chance after a quarter of an hour following a low drive by Joao Mario.

Wales responded as Joe Ledley found Bale with a low corner and the forward fired over the bar.

The Welsh, playing their first major tournament semi-final, did not suffer from stage fright with their back line, supported by midfielders Ledley and Joe Allen, disciplined and compact.

In a cagey first half Portugal struggled to find Ronaldo, opting for long crosses into the box that were easy pickings for central defender James Collins.

Portugal injected some urgency after the break, pressing high up the field.

It paid off instantly with a corner in the 50th minute that Raphael Guerreiro floated in towards the far post where Ronaldo climbed high above two defenders to score.

Portugal doubled the lead when Nani slid in to connect with Ronaldo’s mishit shot, netting his own third goal of Euro 2016.

Wales were lucky not to concede more goals late in the game as Portugal, now unbeaten in 13 competitive matches, continued to dream of a maiden top-notch trophy.

“We are massively disappointed obviously but we have given everything on and off the pitch,” said Wales talisman Bale. “We tried our hardest to get back in the game, they shut up shop well but we have no regrets.

“We are very proud. We will pick ourselves up. Nobody expected us to get this far but we did.”

Wales out to inflict more semi-final woe on Portugal

July 5, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

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It will be virgin territory for Wales when they face Portugal in the Euro 2016 semi-finals yet their opponents could be forgiven a sense of deja vu as they step on to the pitch in Lyon on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Russia v Wales - EURO 2016 - Group B - Stadium de Toulouse, Toulouse, France - 20/6/16 - Wales' Gareth Bale scores a goal against Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

This will be Portugal’s fourth semi-final in the last five editions of the competition stretching back to 2000, but for all their success in reaching the latter stages of the tournament, there has been little glory along the way.

Only once have they overcome the last-four hurdle and then they were beaten in the final by Greece as hosts at Euro 2004.

If you include their defeat in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and a loss at the Euros in 1984, they are becoming all too familiar with the pitfalls of this stage of major tournaments.

Portugal’s conquerors in their recent last-four clashes have included football powerhouses France, at Euro 2000 and the World Cup in 2006, and Spain at Euro 2012.

Should they lose to Wales, playing their first major tournament in 58 years and their first ever semi-final, it would be a devastating blow.

Yet Wales are arguably the form team coming into the match.

Chris Coleman’s side have revelled in their underdog status to win their group, which also included England, Russia and Slovakia, ease out British rivals Northern Ireland in the last 16 and sweep past heavy favourites Belgium in the quarters.

Portugal are yet to win a match at the tournament inside 90 minutes, having drawn all three group games, beaten Croatia in extra time and squeezed past Poland on penalties.

Things are yet to click for Portugal, and by extension for captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who has at times looked exasperated by his team mates’ attacking shortcomings.

Yet Portugal are unbeaten in 12 competitive internationals since Fernando Santos took over as coach at the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

With Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team mate Pepe marshalling an increasingly assured defence, they will be tough to break down.

Especially for a Wales side deprived of one of their most talented creative influences in midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will be suspended after picking up a booking in the win over Belgium.

While Gareth Bale has been Wales’s attacking talisman, scoring three times to lift them out of their group, Ramsey has been arguably their most influential player, scoring one and producing four assists in the run to the last four.

The match is likely to be billed as a contest between the two most expensive players in the world — Ronaldo, who will play a record third European Championship semi-final, and his Real Madrid team mate Bale.

Perhaps ominously for Wales, Ronaldo has netted twice in each of his last two games in Lyon for club and country.

Portugal beat Poland in shootout to reach semis

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal substitute Ricardo Quaresma, keeper Rui Patricio and 18-year-old midfield sensation Renato Sanches were the heroes as Portugal beat Poland 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals on Thursday.

Football Soccer - Poland v Portugal - EURO 2016 - Quarter Final - Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France - 30/6/16 Portugal's Rui Patricio saves from Poland's Jakub Blaszczykowski during the penalty shootout REUTERS/Yves Herman Livepic - RTX2J4XG

Patricio dived full length to block Jakub Blaszczykowski’s penalty, Poland’s fourth, allowing substitute Quaresma, whose goal late in extra-time beat Croatia in the round of 16, to bang in Portugal’s fifth in the shootout.

Two hours earlier Robert Lewandowski put Poland ahead with a second minute strike only for teenager Sanches to equalise with a superb shot 33 minutes into his first international start.

Precious little happened from then on but Portugal, beaten on penalties by Spain in the semi-finals four years ago, will not care as they advance to the last four at the Euros for the fourth time in five tournaments to face Belgium or Wales.

“(The goal) was an amazing moment. I’m happy to be man of the match again, but the individual comes after the team,” said Sanches, who also scored the second shootout penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who four years ago did not get to take his planned spot kick when he was fifth in line as Portugal lost to eventual winners Spain, went first this time.

Joao Moutinho and Nani also scored confidently from the spot before Patricio swung things Portugal’s way with his fine save and Quaresma applied the coup de grace.

Poland had converted all five of their penalties in knocking out Switzerland in the last round, also after a 1-1 draw, but could not repeat the feat.

“The players put a lot of heart into this match and played bravely throughout this tournament and this defeat hurts,” said Poland coach Adam Nawalka.

“We haven’t lost a match at the tournament – we were knocked out on penalties. We’ve moved forward – this tournament has proved that. We played some very good football but this defeat hurts.”

It was a somewhat strange encounter, with an all-action first half followed by 75 minutes of inaction.

Poland went ahead when Portugal defender Cedric’s misjudgement allowed a long ball to bounce over his head to Kamil Grosicki. He drove on down the left and squared for Lewandowski to guide the ball in.

It was the striker’s first goal of the tournament and, at one minute 40 seconds, the second-fastest in European Championship history after Dmitri Kirichenko’s for Russia against Greece after 65 seconds in 2004.

Poland looked the more confident team for the next 20 minutes but failed to press home their advantage as Portugal settled and began to make inroads.

The Portuguese levelled when Sanches, due to join Lewandowski at Bayern Munich after the Euros, played a neat 1-2 with Nani and found time to shift the ball onto his left foot at the edge of the box and smash it past Lukasz Fabianski.

Both sides came out for the second half seemingly under instruction to slow things down and the life bled from the game.

The only clear chance of the half came in the 85th when substitute Moutinho lobbed a clever pass for Ronaldo who, having taken the time to glance at the keeper’s positioning, failed to make any contact on the dropping ball with the goal gaping.

Little changed in the additional 30 minutes, with the near-64,000 crowd drugged into a drowsy-near silence, seemingly knowing what was afoot almost from the restart.

Portugal have failed to win any of their five games here in 90 minutes, having drawn three group matches and beaten Croatia in extra time but midfielder Sanches, on the greatest day of his fledgling career, was in no mood to apologise.

“It takes a lot of hard work to be this lucky,” he said. “People criticise us but we don’t care because in the end we are in the semis.”

Portugal sweating on injuries ahead of Poland clash

June 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal’s coach Fernando Santos will leave his final decision on team selection for the quarter-final clash against Poland until Thursday morning because of injuries to at least two players, he told reporters.

Football Soccer - EURO 2016 - Potrugal News Conference - Marseille, France 29/6/16 Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends a news conference REUTERS/UEFA/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS

Speaking on the eve of the game in Marseille, Santos also said he viewed the two sides as evenly matched which could result in a tight, defensive contest.

“There are some players who aren’t 100 percent fit so we’ll wait until tomorrow to ascertain whether they are entirely fit or not and if they can play or not,” Santos said.

“Sometimes the players can recover and we still have 24 hours to go.”

Defender Raphael Guerreiro and midfielder Andre Gomes have not trained since Monday and on Wednesday were again not on the pitch with the rest of the squad.

The two sides have met 10 times with their last encounter ending in a goalless draw in 2012 and the omens are that it could be another close game.

Apart from a stunning bicycle kick goal by Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri, the Polish defence has not been breached.

Portugal’s last five European Championship ties have ended in draws after 90 minutes, although they scraped through against Croatia in the last 16 with a 117th minute winner.

“I think it’s a 50-50 match. My players know that. They (Poland) are here on their own merit,” Santos said.

Asked if it could be similar to the Croatia clash, Santos lauded Poland’s defensive unity and collective spirit.

“Of course, it will be a game of a lot of strategy. Sometimes there is a Gordion Knot that you can’t untie,” he said, referring to the mythological legend used as a metaphor for a difficult problem.

“There will be a strong strategic component to this game, because if you concede four goals nobody can ensure you can score five,” he quipped.

Talisman Cristiano Ronaldo struggled against Croatia producing one shot, but Santos defended his “amazing” captain.

“We want to strike a balance, of course. We want Ronaldo to shoot on target 15 times and score 10 goals, but our opponents won’t let us and that’s part of the game,” Santos said.

There have also been concerns over the Stade Velodrome pitch, but Santos, whose country lost to France in the 1984 European Championship semi-final in Marseille, said it looked better than expected.

“We’ve thought about the match here in 1984, but we played against France so you can’t compare the two. It’s apples and oranges,” he said.

Portugal braced for series of finals, says Santos

June 24, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Having squeezed into the Euro 2016 knockout stages after three contrasting group stage draws, Portugal are ready to move up a gear when they face Croatia in their mouth-watering last-16 clash in Lens on Saturday, coach Fernando Santos said.

Football Soccer - Hungary v Portugal - EURO 2016 - Group F - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 22/6/16Portugal players pose for a team group photo before the game REUTERS/ROBERT PRATTALIVEPIC

While the Croatians romped into the tournament’s business end with a 2-1 win over holders Spain, the Portuguese came from behind three times in Wednesday’s rip-roaring 3-3 draw against Hungary at Parc OL.

Their talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, subdued in the 1-1 tie with Iceland and a goalless stalemate against Austria, rediscovered his scoring touch with two fine second-half goals which saved Portugal from an early exit.

Santos was confident that Ronaldo, who became the first player to score in four European championships, would thrive as Portugal aim to win “a series of finals” on the road to what would be their maiden title.

“Ronaldo is a scorer and a winner, he plays up front and feeds on goals,” Santos said after the Real Madrid hitman was voted man of the match against the Hungarians.

“I am sure this performance will boost his confidence in our bid to win the competition.

“Everything is different now because every game that follows is like a final, there is no room for error. We want to come out on top in all of them and go all the way.”

“We have to strike the right balance between defence and attack because when we come forward we leave too many gaps at the back, as our group stage results show.”

The Croatians, who came from behind to beat Spain with a makeshift team, left their coach Ante Cacic spoilt for choice after reserve striker Nikola Kalinic and several other fringe players shone.

Kalinic enjoyed a rare start instead of the towering Mario Mandzukic and repaid the faith with a sublime equaliser before Ivan Perisic netted a late winner.

“We could have done with easier opposition than Portugal in the last 16 but if we play like we did in the group stage, we have a great chance of progressing,” Kalinic told a news conference at Croatia’s Deauville base.

“We are one of the best teams here and if our midfield wins the battle in the centre of the pitch, we should win.”

“This is the present generation’s chance of a lifetime and we will only be remembered if we do something big here.”

Portugal and Hungary through after 3-3 thriller

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Hungary and Portugal reached the Euro 2016 knockout stages after a rip-roaring 3-3 draw in which Cristiano Ronaldo netted twice and became the first player to score in four European Championships on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Hungary v Portugal - EURO 2016 - Group F - Stade de Lyon, Lyon, France - 22/6/16 Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo in action with Hungary's Krisztian Nemeth REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach Livepic

Portugal came from behind three times as Ronaldo, who also set a tournament record of 17 appearances, finally rediscovered his touch to help them secure a third straight draw that left them third in Group F and set up a last-16 meeting with Croatia.

Hungary, appearing in a major tournament for the first time in 30 years, topped the group with seven points thanks in large part to their captain Balazs Dzsudzsak, who scored two deflected goals.

Iceland also qualified in second after a last-gasp goal in their 2-1 win over Austria dramatically changed the outcome of the group. Until then, Portugal had been heading for a last-16 tie against England.

Hungary will now play the Group E runners-up, which will be decided later on Wednesday between Belgium, Sweden and Ireland, while Iceland will face England.

After Zoltan Gera’s early strike was cancelled out by Nani just before the break, Dzsudzsak had twice put his side ahead soon after the break only for Ronaldo to respond each time with touches of his true mastery.

“The most important thing was to make it through to the next stage but we wanted to do it as the group winners,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos.

“That’s why we pressed on for a fourth goal although we knew we were taking risks. Three times we were out of the tournament and three times we came back; it shows character akin to only a few teams.”

While Portugal regularly reach the knockout stages of big tournaments, this is Hungary’s first since they made the last four of the European Championship in 1972 and the first time they have got through a group stage since the 1966 World Cup.

“I am not surprised by the performance or the result,” said Hungary coach Bernd Storck.

“We had a very good history in the 1950s and 60s but this is a bygone era and I want to talk about this team.

“We know Ronaldo is a world-class player and he cannot be stopped every time. But I am very happy how we played, we improved with each game in this tournament and are delighted to be in the last 16.”

As in their previous two matches against Iceland and Austria, Portugal enjoyed sterile possession in the early stages and it was Hungary who struck in the 19th minute as 37-year old Gera took a half-cleared corner into his stride and unleashed a fizzing low-half volley past Rui Patricio from 25 metres.

Ronaldo then released Nani with a defence-splitting pass and his strike partner beat Gabor Kiraly with a neat finish three minutes before the break.

The Hungarians were back in front in the 47th minute as Dzsudzsak beat Patricio with a free kick that took a big deflection.

After throwing a reporter’s microphone into a lake earlier in the day during a morning walkabout, Ronaldo, who had been struggling at Euro 2016, finally produced a touch of his finest work in the 50th, beating Kiraly with a clever back-heel after good work by Nani.

Hungary took the lead for the third time as Dzsudzsak seized a rebound in his stride on the edge of the area and fired a speculative shot which sailed past Patricio, again taking a deflection along the way.

Hungary’s joy was short-lived, however, as Ronaldo levelled with a thumping header after a superb cross by substitute Ricardo Quaresma.

With the score ensuring both teams would progress, both then seemed happy to keep it at 3-3, although Iceland’s winner did not delight the Portugal manager.

“Croatia are one of the sharks and we’ve been trying to avoid them,” said Santos. “But now they are standing in our way and we have to hunt them down.”

Penalty shocker won’t get Ronaldo down

June 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo promised to bounce back from missing from a penalty and the chance to break another goalscoring record at Euro 2016.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo hit the post from the spot with 11 minutes remaining in a 0-0 draw with Austria on Saturday when looking to become the first player to score in four separate European Championships.

Portugal now need to win against Hungary in their final Group F match on Wednesday to be assured of qualifying for the knockout stage.

“I missed some chances – a penalty and some other chances, but that’s part of football. We need to continue to believe,” said Ronaldo.

“The players, we need to think that it’s still possible; if we win, we qualify. And also the Portuguese people, the fans who love Portugal, they also have to believe in it.

“The bad won’t last forever, so we need to believe that things will go better.”

Ronaldo has now missed 19 penalties in his storied career on another frustrating night in front of goal after a 1-1 draw with Iceland in Portgual’s opening game.

The Real Madrid star slotted the best chance of the first-half wide and also saw a goal ruled out for offside as Portugal couldn’t turn their pressure and possession into goals.

However, it was a night of mixed emotions for the 31-year-old, as he broke Portugese legend Luis Figo’s appearances record by winning his 128th cap.

Ronaldo is already Portugal’s all-time top scorer with 59 international goals.

“It’s a reason to be proud, reaching 128 international matches and beating the legendary Figo,” added Ronaldo.

“I know deep down he is also proud of that. Obviously it was a goal to be the most capped international player, and also to be the national team’s top scorer

“But obviously I’m a bit sad, because this wasn’t the way I wanted to break this record. The most beautiful way would have been…to win, and we couldn’t. We drew. So it was not how I envisaged it.”

Despite his disappointment, Ronaldo managed to leave one happy fan crying tears of joy after taking a selfie with the three-time World Player of the Year.

After sneaking past the Parc des Princes security to get on the pitch, Ronaldo waited whilst the lucky spectator juggled with his phone to take the snap as security guards stood and watched.

Ronaldo’s former Manchester United teammate Nani also hit the post after scoring Portugal’s only goal of the tournament so far against Iceland.

However, the Fenerbahce winger insisted their confidence in Ronaldo has not been knocked despite an off colour start to the tournament for the world’s highest paid athlete.

“What player in football doesn’t make mistakes or miss chances,” said Nani.

“We are fully confident in him.”

Ronaldo’s Portugal, Belgium looking for spark

June 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will attempt to reignite their flagging Euro 2016 campaign against Austria on Saturday, while Belgium hope to breathe life into their title bid after a terrible start.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo was frustrated in his quest to become the first player to score in four European Championships as Portugal stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Iceland in their Group F opener.

The three-time World Player of the Year was then widely ridiculed for describing Iceland — a country with a population of just 330,000 — as having a “small mentality” after Portugal struggled to break down the Nordic island nation.

But Ronaldo will look to do the talking with his feet at the Parc des Princes this weekend in a crucial encounter with Austria.

“We didn’t get what we wanted against Iceland, but now we’re focused on tomorrow,” said goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

“Our confidence has not been shattered, we know the kind of quality we can put on the pitch and we’ll do everything to win.”

Tournament dark horses Austria arrive in Paris under heavy pressure after a shock 2-0 defeat to Hungary in their first match left them in danger of an early exit.

Marcel Koller’s side charged through qualifying, dropping just two points, but a second successive loss would all but spell the end for the likes of David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic.

The Austrians will also be without centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic against Portugal following his red card against Hungary, while Zlatko Junuzovic’s tournament looks to be over after he suffered ankle ligament damage.

Belgium, ranked second in the world behind Argentina, came unstuck against unfancied but experienced Group E rivals Italy as the 2012 finalists claimed an impressive 2-0 victory to hit back at their detractors.

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots is expected to ring the changes for Saturday’s game against the Republic of Ireland in Bordeaux.

Premier League stars Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku could drop to the bench for their second group game after Wilmots said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was the only player not at risk of being axed.

“We have to win our next two games now to make the knockout stages and that is what we’ll try to do,” added Wilmots.

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill has been forced into at least one change with striker Jon Walters ruled out with a lingering achilles problem, leaving James McClean in contention to start.

The Irish drew their first game 1-1 with Sweden, a result that favoured neither side, but O’Neill believes their performance at the Stade de France can serve as a springboard.

“I think from the way the team played (on Monday) they will draw great strength from that,” said O’Neill.

After marking their return to the big stage in style following a 30-year absence, Hungary can punch their ticket to the last 16 with victory over Iceland in Marseille.

“Expectations are high after the win, now everyone thinks that it will go like that, but that’s not how it goes. Nothing has changed because of the win, we have to forget about it and get back down to earth,” said Hungary coach Bernd Storck.

Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson sent out a similar message to his team-mates, calling on them not to get carried away after their Portugal heroics.

“We can’t afford to have our heads in the clouds after this result, we have to get our feet back on the ground and think of Hungary,” he said.

Sparkling Quaresma upstages two-goal Ronaldo in Estonia rout

June 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Mercurial forward Ricardo Quaresma scored twice and set up three more goals in a sparkling individual performance as Portugal demolished Estonia 7-0 in their final friendly before Euro 2016 on Wednesday.

Football Soccer - Portugal v Estonia- International Friendly - Lisbon, Portugal - 08/06/16. Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Estonia. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

The charismatic but erratic forward, given a chance to stake his place in the team for France when he replaced Nani in the starting line-up, even upstaged Cristiano Ronaldo who scored twice before being taken off at halftime.

Quaresma, whom critics say has failed to make the most of his talent in a career punctuated by tantrums, produced his full repertoire of tricks in one of the best international performances of his topsy-turvy career.

The 32-year-old opened the floodgates with two moments of brilliance just before halftime.

This first was a stunning “trivela”, an outswinging cross hit with the outside of his right foot, to pick out Ronaldo who got in front of his marker and scored with a bullet header at the far post in the 36th minute.

There was even better to come three minutes later when Quaresma put an extraordinary amount of spin on the ball as he dinked it over Estonia goalkeeper Pavel Londak from inside the penalty area.

Ronaldo, Portugal’s all-time leading scorer, exchanged passes with Joao Mario before scoring the third with a scuffed shot, taking his international tally to 58.

Not to be undone, Quaresma narrowly missed the goal with a rabona effort early in the second half, then provided the corner for Danilo to head the fourth.

Another Quaresma cross also led to the fifth goal when Londak punched the ball at team mate Karol Mets and it rebounded into the goal.

Quaresma turned in a Renato Sanches pass for the sixth and substitute Eder added the seventh in a rousing sending-off for the Euro 2012 semi-finalists.

Smalling smiling after England sink Portugal

June 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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England defender Chris Smalling headed the only goal with five minutes left as they beat 10-man Portugal 1-0 in a turgid Euro 2016 warm-up match at Wembley on Thursday.

Britain Football Soccer - England v Portugal - International Friendly - Wembley Stadium - 2/6/16 England's Chris Smalling scores their first goal Reuters / Hannah McKay

The Manchester United centre half nodded the ball home from substitute Raheem Sterling’s left-wing cross after the visitors failed to adequately clear a free kick by Kyle Walker.

The game offered precious little entertainment and even less goalmouth incident until Smalling struck.

Portugal, who rested talismanic striker Cristiano Ronaldo, had centre half Bruno Alves sent off for a reckless aerial challenge on Harry Kane in the 35th minute.

“It’s never easy to play against 10 men,” manager Roy Hodgson told ITV Sport after England collected their third friendly victory in 12 days.

“I thought in the second half we played some very good football and I thought especially in the last 30 minutes, after we made changes and brought on some fresh legs, that we looked good.”

The crowd, which included newly-appointed Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, had to wait until the 23rd minute for the first effort on goal, a tame header from England captain Wayne Rooney easily saved by Rui Patricio.

Twelve minutes later Alves received a straight red card after catching Kane with a dangerous blow on the side of the head from his flying boot.

There was no sign England were playing with a one-man advantage as Portugal completely dominated possession at the start of the second half.

Equally frustrating for the home fans was the sight of chief goal threat Kane taking the corners and set pieces until he was substituted in the 78th minute.

“Our composure throughout the game was good,” added Hodgson as he accentuated the positives. “As a preparatory game it would have been better if we had played against 10 men but I’m pleased we kept a clean sheet and never looked like conceding a goal.”

Portugal defender Jose Fonte said his team would benefit from their Wembley outing.

“We are disappointed obviously but we will come out of this stronger,” said the Southampton centre half. “I thought we were compact and defended well.

“They didn’t create many chances in the second half and we actually had two good chances to nick a goal.”

England have been drawn in Euro 2016 Group B along with Wales, Russia and Slovakia while Portugal will meet Iceland, Hungary and Austria in Group F.

The Euros in France start on June 10.

Portugal squad for European Championship

June 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal coach Fernando Santos has confirmed the following squad for the Euro 2016 finals in France:

Football Soccer - Portugal Training - FC Krasnodar Soccer Academy 13/11/15 Portugal's coach Fernando Santos attends a training session. REUTERS/MAXIM SHEMETOV

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyon), Eduardo (Dínamo Zagreb), Rui Patricio (Sporting)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Cedric (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Pepe (Real Madrid), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Vieirinha (VfL Wolfsburg).

Midfielders: Adrien Silva (Sporting), Joao Mario (Sporting), William Carvalho (Sporting), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Danilo Pereira (Porto), Renato Sanches (Benfica), Joao Moutinho (Monaco)

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lille), Nani (Fenerbahce), Rafa (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

Silva out, Sanches in as Portugal name Euro squad

May 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Portugal coach Fernando Santos left Bernardo Silva, one of the country’s brightest young players, out of his final 23-man Euro 2016 squad on Tuesday but included 18-year-old Renato Sanches.

Football Soccer - Benfica v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg - Estadio da Luz - 13/4/16 Renato Sanches in action Reuters / Rafael Marchante

Silva, 22, was excluded after suffering a thigh injury in his last game for Monaco, while full back Fabio Coentrao and forward Danny were also ruled out through injury.

Santos decided not to risk Atletico Madrid midfielder Tiago, who has just recovered after being sidelined for five months with a broken leg.

Silva’s absence opened the way for Sanches, who only made his professional debut in October and was sold from Benfica to Bayern Munich for 35 million euros ($40 million) earlier this month.

As expected, 37-year-old central defender Ricardo Carvalho, who fell out with Santos’ predecessor Paulo Bento, was included in the squad.

“It was difficult to leave out some players who were fundamental in the qualifying competition but decisions have to be taken so that we are finely-tuned in France, with everyone in peak condition,” Santos told reporters. “It’s a short and intense tournament.

“All the players were picked after a great amount of thinking,” said the former Greece coach. “The physical state of the players was one of the criteria and Bernando Silva has some restrictions.”

Santos also downplayed any concerns that Cristiano Ronaldo’s appearance in the Champions League final later this month could impact his performance in France.

Ronaldo, who will lead Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid in the final on May 28, was struggling with injury two years ago when he played in the final of Europe’s top club competition.

With little time to rest before the start of the 2014 World Cup, the three-times world player of the year was well below his best in Brazil and Portugal were knocked out in the group stage.

But Santos assured supporters that there would be no repeat.

“Cristiano Ronaldo will be on his best form and I am convinced that he is physically prepared to play the Champions League and the European championship,” he said. “He is very ambitious in relation to this competition.”

Santos added: “Portugal are not favourites, we don’t pretend to be so. But we are good enough to face any opponent on equal terms.”

Squad

Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Olympique Lyon), Eduardo (Dínamo Zagreb), Rui Patricio (Sporting)

Defenders – Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), Cedric (Southampton), Jose Fonte (Southampton), Eliseu (Benfica), Pepe (Real Madrid), Raphael Guerreiro (Lorient), Ricardo Carvalho (Monaco), Vieirinha (VfL Wolfsburg)

Midfielders – Adrien Silva (Sporting), Joao Mario (Sporting), William Carvalho (Sporting), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Danilo Pereira (Porto), Renato Sanches (Benfica), Joao Moutinho (Monaco)

Forwards – Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Eder (Lille), Nani (Fenerbahce), Rafa (Braga), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)

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