Portugal made sure of a place in the Nations League Finals as they scraped a fortuitous 0-0 draw away to a dominant Italy on Saturday.
Fernando Santos’ side were outplayed throughout at San Siro, but the hosts wasted some presentable openings and were unable to make the most of their superiority, allowing Portugal to claim the point they needed to top League A Group 3.
Italy looked infinitely better than their visitors in the first half, with Marco Verratti and Jorginho in complete control, but the lead eluded them as Ciro Immobile spurned a couple of excellent opportunities.
While the pattern of the match remained much the same after the interval, the chances dried up for Italy and ultimately Portugal managed to cling on to the draw they needed, rendering their final fixture with Poland an irrelevance.
Italy played with intent from the start and should have taken the lead four minutes in, but Rui Patricio saved Lorenzo Insigne’s long-range strike and Immobile inexplicably put the rebound over.
Portugal simply could not get near Jorginho nor Verratti, and the latter crafted a golden chance with a defence-splitting pass in the 35th minute, only for Patricio to rush out and thwart Immobile.
Leonardo Bonucci then went agonisingly close soon after, heading just wide from a Verratti free-kick.
Another chance went begging just after the restart – Nicolo Barella squaring to Federico Chiesa in the danger zone and his first-time shot deflected past the left-hand post.
Opportunities soon became less frequent and Italy had to rely on Gianluigi Donnarumma 14 minutes from time to keep the score level, as the goalkeeper made a remarkable save from William Carvalho’s fierce 20-yard drive.
But Portugal still did enough to confirm their progression, as the Euro 2016 victors eye more silverware under Santos.
— Portugal (@selecaoportugal) November 17, 2018
What does it mean? Azzurri show real promise
While the result was not the one they desired, there was plenty to be impressed by in the Italy performance. They were excellent throughout in midfield and solid at the back – once they apply the finishing touch, they could be a real force again.
Verratti a cut above
No one was on the same level as Paris Saint-Germain’s Verratti on Saturday. Everything went through the crafty midfielder and he was at the heart of all that was good about Italy’s play.
Bernardo Silva fails to shine
The Manchester City star cannot be expected to do it all by himself in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence, but as arguably their most talented player, it is not unfair to demand more than he produced in Milan.
Italy face United States in Genk in a friendly on Tuesday, while Portugal round off their successful Nations League group phase at home to already relegated Poland in Guimaraes.
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