Saturday, December 15, 2018

Italy 0-0 Portugal: Three Things We Learned As Portugal Secures Berth UNL Finals

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Portugal and Italy played a scrappy match where neither side dominated. In fact, there weren’t many chances created for either side. But the home side got the job done, and Fernando Santos’ men clinched the top spot of Group 3 in League A. This 0-0 draw wasn’t pretty, but it has allowed Portugal to secure a spot in the final play-off round of the (highly successful) UEFA Nations League next summer.

Here are three things we learned from this game:

No Ronaldo, no problem for Portugal

Once again, Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t part of the Portugal NT since he didn’t get the call from Santos. However, and considering that a player of his status will always be missed, it didn’t seem as if Portugal needed him. The attacking trio of Bruma, Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva worked wonderfully, and they kept the opposing defence on their toes all game long.

That’s not to say that Ronaldo won’t be back with the team. Same for other experienced players such as Ricardo Quaresma or Nani, to mention two other attackers that haven’t played much of late. But during recent weeks, Portugal have not missed the Juventus star. And that is a positive sign going forward. They might not have scored here, but they scored in their previous four matches, including three in their past two. That’s a huge plus for the squad.

Italy continue to disappoint at home

Everything is smiles for the Portugal squad, but we can’t say the same for Italy. The Azzurra were one of the biggest disappointments during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, and that poor form has extended to the UEFA Nations League. They didn’t get relegated like another powerhouse that disappointed in the World Cup (Germany), but they were quite poor overall. Through four UNL matches, Italy compiled a W1, D2, L1 mark, with both draws coming at home. They also compiled a D1, L1 mark against Portugal.

This draw extended Italy’s poor run playing at home. Once a fortress, Gli Azzurri have won just one of their last six home outings (W1, D5) going back to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Play-Off tie against Sweden. Going undefeated is nice, but there’s no question the team should be performing at a high level. Especially considering the kind of players the management has at their disposal.

Things happened exactly as expected, and that should worry both teams

It’s not a secret that Italy have been struggling for quite a while. And despite the recent results, Portugal also struggle when Cristiano Ronaldo is not on the pitch. Therefore, this match was expected to be not as star-studded as it looked on paper. That’s not a problem, but the way both sides played should definitively be a concern going forward.

For Portugal, they NEED Ronaldo back for the final stages of the UNL. Especially considering they will play against quality sides such as (potentially) England, Spain, Croatia, Netherlands, France, Belgium or Switzerland. Potentially, we could have Portugal lining up against Croatia, Belgium and France… the top three sides in the 2018 FIFA World Cup earlier this year. Can Portugal compete with them if they don’t have CR7 leading the way?

As for Italy, they look in danger of falling into a second-tier of European sides. That’s not the ideal scenario for a team that has won the FIFA World Cup four times, the latter one as recently as 2006. Can they turn things around before it’s too late? The talent is there, but they must display it on the pitch. Otherwise, it won’t matter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juan Pablo Aravena


A freelance writer and sports analyst with almost five years of experience in the industry before joining SoccerNews, Juan Pablo Aravena is based in Chile and currently contributes to several publications and websites including SoccerNews, 12up, and Sports From The Basement, while also working as a fantasy beat writer for RotoWire, as a database editor for EA Sports, and as a football analyst for SmartOdds and InsideFutbol. His areas of focus are Serie A, Bundesliga, Premier League, LaLiga, and Ligue 1, but he has also written about MLS and South American football in the past.

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