Portugal lost 2-3 to Sweden in a narrow contest where neither side looked all too convincing. Fernando Santos moved away from his preferred 4-4-2, in order to line his men up in a 4-3-3. It was clear that the manager didn’t really care about the result, as he used this opportunity to rotate, sitting Pepe on the bench, while bringing in second-string players like Bruno Alves, Danilo, and Gelson Martins.
Nevertheless, Portugal dominated possession in the first half, as Sweden was content to sit in a medium block at the halfway line and play counter-attacking football. While Sweden did execute a couple dangerous plays due to Portugal’s poor transitional defense, it was Portugal who went up by two goals in the first half thanks to Ronaldo and an own goal from Andreas Granqvist.
In an effort to salvage the game, Sweden came out with a high press in the second half, something that didn’t really trouble Portugal all too much. But the Selecção became overconfident and complacent, allowing Sweden to score in the 57th minute. Clearly not concentrating even after conceding a warning goal, Portugal allowed their opponents to equalize from a set-piece 22 minutes later.
Portugal seemed to wake up after that, with Ricardo Quaresma acting as the main protagonist, but it just wasn’t to be. In heart-breaking fashion, Portugal scored an own goal in literally the last action of the game.
Thus, Portugal suffered a poor collapse that will surely annoy Fernando Santos, even though this friendly match holds no importance at the end of the day.
Ronaldo had a quiet but efficient performance for Portugal. Unlike the last match, Cristiano showed little interest in helping his side in build-up. Instead, he stuck to primarily the final third and made very few movements to act as a passing connection for Eliseu. Renato Sanches attempted to solve this structural issue by essentially acting as a left midfielder, creating an asymmetric shape in possession.
But people should avoid trying to glean too much from Ronaldo’s positional indiscipline. The team as a whole was moving all over the place (Danilo looked like a 3rd center back in possession) and it seems like Santos hardly put any tactical work into this game (everyone was moving wherever they pleased). Additionally, the presence of Bernardo Silva (a diminutive CAM/winger) as Portugal’s center forward probably forced Ronaldo to move closer to the box to provide some sort of central presence.
But despite this weird shape that Ronaldo was partly causing, Portugal were undoubtedly better with him on the pitch. He was very neat and sharp with his touches when he received the ball in the final third and he was the only player making dangerous runs into the box.
He was also Portugal’s only goal scorer, as he made a beautiful blind-side run into the danger area to dispatch an even more beautiful cross from Gelson Martins.
He then pre-assisted the own goal after a clever run into the right channel and a smart cut-back to Gelson.
With the game looking secure at 2-1 in the 58th, Santos brought off Ronaldo to raucous applause.
That put an end to Ronaldo’s night and allowed him to leave the pitch having put on a solid, if unspectacular, display.
Cool Ronaldo Stats
Cristiano Ronaldo's 71st goal for Portugal (v Sweden tonight) puts him inside top 10 international scorers, all nations, ever— Nick Harris (@sportingintel) March 28, 2017
Ronaldo has now scored in 5 games in a row for Portugal. pic.twitter.com/Iw0qF2mPGF— O.Dembélé fanboy (@OmVArvind) March 28, 2017
Ronaldo has scored 10 goals in his last 5 games for Portugal.