Portugal 2-1 Czechia (Jun 18, 2024) Game Analysis – ESPN – Football News

Portugal 2-1 Czechia (Jun 18, 2024) Game Analysis – ESPN

Francisco Conceição came off the bench to grab a stoppage-time winner as Portugal kick-started their Euro 2024 campaign with an edgy 2-1 Group F win over a dogged Czechia on Tuesday.

Portugal’s win came on a day when the nation hit two Euro milestones right from kickoff: Cristiano Ronaldo became the first to play in six European Championships and his teammate Pepê, 41, the oldest.

However, it was the 21-year-old Conceição who was the hero of the day, pouncing on a mistake from Robin Hranác to fire home from close range in the third minute of added time, moments after Portugal were left crestfallen when a Diogo Jota effort was chalked off by VAR for offside.

“Francisco Conceição is the ultimate example of earning it,” said Portugal manager Roberto Martinez. “He deserves to be here and he’s showing it to the group. Francisco is a very mature player. He plays vertically, he’s got a nose for danger in the box. For a national team coach, having a player who showed what he showed, this is very important.

“Francisco is doing what he’s been doing for the past four months in his club team, but this is not easy. He showed character and showed his worth because he was allowed to be here.”

The Czechs had stunned the Portuguese fans packed inside the Leipzig Stadium when they took the lead out of the blue in the 62nd minute as Lukás Provod’s superb curling effort threatened to cause an almighty upset.

Yet the unfortunate Hranac scored an own goal seven minutes later to set up a frantic finish that saw Portugal claim the three points to leave them level in the group with Turkey who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday.

After scoring his decisive goal, Porto attacker Conceição wheeled away in delight and was booked for taking off his jersey. His goal comes almost 24 years to the day since his father, Sérgio Conceição, scored a hat trick to knock defending champion Germany out of Euro 2000.

The Czech match was meant to be a walk in the park for highly fancied Portugal, who came into the tournament on the back of a flawless qualifying campaign in which they won all 10 matches, scoring 36 goals and conceding twice.

But as is so often the way in tournaments the script needed a hasty rewrite.

Francisco Conceição scored late to help Portugal start their Euros campaign with a win.

Portugal predictably dominated the ball as they set up camp in Czech territory early on, but they came up against some dogged resistance as Ivan Hasek’s disciplined side kept them largely at arm’s length.

For all their possession, Portugal’s chances were limited. Rafael Leão was their most creative outlet with his jinking runs down the left flank although one theatrical dive earned him a first-half booking.

Ronaldo was predictably at the centre of most of Portugal’s attacks, passing up their best chance of the first half when he was played through on goal by Bruno Fernandes only to be thwarted by keeper Jindrich Stanek who spread himself brilliantly to stop the striker’s effort.

Ronaldo had another shot beaten away by Stanek just before the break and a header deflected over shortly after the restart, but it wasn’t long before Portugal were hit with a hammer blow.

Out of absolutely nowhere the Czechs worked the ball down the pitch and Vladimír Coufal fed Provod who curled a stunning finish beyond the reach of keeper Diogo Costa into the net.

The advantage, however, was short-lived as Portugal drew level with more than little good fortune. A cross to the back post was headed towards goal by Nuno Mendes but Stanek’s save ricocheted off the knee of defender Hranac into his own net.

Portugal thought they had snatched victory when Ronaldo headed against the post and Jota was on hand to convert the rebound, but VAR swiftly ruled Ronaldo was a fraction offside.

It did not matter however as Hranac made a mess of his attempted clearance and Conceição nipped in to fire home, leaving Martinez to highlight the strength in depth his Portuguese side has.

“[Depth is] a strength and a weakness on its own. If you don’t use it well, you can become 26 individuals trying to show what they can do,” Martinez said. “What was important today is we played a very good game. If you look at the stats at the end of the game, it shows 70 percent possession. We had to defend very, very well.

“This Czech team, they only had one shot on target because we worked really hard. We had 13 corners, zero for Czechia. So, what pleases me the most is that we were a team. Yes of course it is made of 26 individualistic players but I think it shows the structure, the formation in Portugal. It is a country of 10 million but we have got a huge amount of players playing in the top five leagues.”

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