Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Portugal in the 21st Century – The Cost of Gold

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The European Championships this summer were a lesson in team play, for both the robust attacking outfits and the overly conservative. Disregarding his country’s catenaccio history, Roberto Mancini looked to dominate play even against the brilliant Spanish, the summer’s premier ball-hoggers, and Italy were crowned eventual tournament winners on the back of brilliant team goals. Roberto Martinez’s Belgium set up with three defenders and focused heavily on attacking play, as did a somewhat lackluster Germany. On the flipside, France were unable to repeat their 2018 triumph with Didier Deschamps sticking to a pragmatic tactical setup. Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions similarly played deep and found few moments of true attacking promise, but their cohesiveness worked wonders.

And then there was Portugal. They, like France and England, typically played deep, negative football, but their only respite came from one man, not their teamwork or cohesion. Ronaldo at 36 years old is still one of the world’s most prolific forwards and, by a distance, his country’s top player. Despite many of his goals this summer coming from the penalty spot, his movement in and around the box was the most threatening aspect of Portugal’s blunt attacking force. However, unlike England, whose success boiled down to Southgate’s pension for balancing defensive solidity with sporadic forward thrusts, Portugal were unenthusiastic whilst defending and despondent with the ball. The competition’s defending champions possessed no apparent gameplan once they had the ball, despite being a team flush with Premier League talent. This renewed Seleçao, a much more talented side than that in 2016, were somehow more lost and unenthusiastic than ever before. And with Ronaldo soon to retire, the Portuguese need a gameplan. Quickly.

I posit that any long-term strategy the Iberian country sets out to . . .

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