Portugal v Poland - Tactical Report

Both teams lined up in a 4-4-2 but the Polish side had more width on offer while Portugal played a narrow diamond. Jakub Błaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki have been influential on the wings for Poland, especially with star man Robert Lewandowski shooting blanks.

Portugal reached its fourth semifinal in five tournaments as it beat Poland 5-3 in a penalty shootout.

Both teams lined up in a 4-4-2 but the Polish side had more width on offer while Portugal played a narrow diamond. Jakub Błaszczykowski and Kamil Grosicki have been influential on the wings for Poland, especially with star man Robert Lewandowski shooting blanks.

And the Polish got off to a flier, taking the lead in the second minute through the goal-shy Lewandowski. Grosicki received a cross-field ball on the left flank, scampered forwards and pulled the ball back to Lewandowski. On the penalty spot, the Bayern striker made no mistake, firing home a powerful side-footer.

The early goal was an ‘Albatross off the neck’ for the striker but it was his future teammate who will go on to dominate proceedings. All of only 18 years of age, Portugal’s Renato Sanches led the fight back, pulling strings from midfield. Playing right behind Ronaldo and Nani, the midfielder announced himself to the world in the best way possible.

Receiving a flick-back from Nani on the right flank, Sanches shifted to his left foot and let rip a thunderbolt from just outside the box (see picture) to restore parity in the game. The 32-minute strike did take a deflection of Krychowiak, which left Fabianski rooted, rendering him helpless as the ball disturbed the corner of the net.

The goal seemed to have inflated the teenager’s confidence as he started dominating proceedings from the middle, displaying a maturity far beyond his age. This was in stark contrast to Cristiano Ronaldo, who was busy slapping his thigh and shouting towards the clouds in despair when things didn’t go his way.

Despite the bright start, Poland couldn’t capitalise with Milik and Lewandowski guilty of missing easy chances. The attackers could offer precious little and the team was relying on its rock-solid defence to take it through to the last four.

Portugal wasn’t any more of threat either. Its narrow formation coupled with Ronaldo’s reluctance to chase the ball when not in possession put massive pressure on midfielders William Carvalho and Sanches. However, they embraced the workload, especially Sanches, who regularly dribbled past the Polish, causing trouble in his free role behind the strikers.

However, the final third proved to be a hurdle for Portugal, with Ronaldo guilty of squandering two sitters. With bodies tiring, both sides settled for a penalty shootout.

By a cruel twist of fate, Poland’s best player this tournament Jakub Blaszczykowski missed his penalty that proved fatal for his side as Quaresma's cool spotkick put Portugal through to the semis.

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