Portugal into last 16 as Silva and Fernandes sink Turkey

On a clammy, boisterous afternoon in Dortmund Portugal ensured they will now top Group F with a disarmingly low pulse rate 3-0 defeat of an outmatched Turkey. This was a statement victory for Portugal, not because of what they did, but because of what they didn’t have to. At times it felt a bit like watching a team of grown-ups strolling past the local primary school XI. The biggest obstacle Roberto Martínez’s team experienced here was an excessive number of spectators (five of them) running on to take stolen selfies with Cristiano Ronaldo.

If Portugal were able to play in battery-saver mode it is tribute to the coherence of the-set up here, a 4-3-3 with strength in every position and a beautifully fluid sense of control in the centre. Many English pundits seem to be convinced England’s hand of talent is the envy of the world. Portugal have a stronger team man for man, a more natural balance, a Portuguese way of playing that everyone comes in understanding.

BVB Stadion Dortmund was a strange spectacle at kick off, turned red on all sides. It is the most industrial looking of the Rhine–Ruhr grounds, with a jagged metallic roof like the bow doors of a crash-landed spaceship.

There were, reportedly, an additional 200,000 people in Dortmund for this game, chiefly from the German-Turk demographic. Germany has generally been a little cool around this tournament. At times in the cities it has felt as though Turkey are in fact the host nation.

Turkey goalkeeper Altay Bayindir and defender Zeki Celik fail to prevent Samet Akaydin’s own goal. Photograph: Ozan Köse/AFP/Getty Images

Vincenzo Montella made four changes, the most notable Altay Bayındir in goal (injury driven) and the omission of the supercharged teenager Arda Guler due to “tiredness”. And Turkey were hungry early on, using the flanks as their attacking lanes. At which point Portugal just took over.

Montella had said Turkey would try to frustrate Portugal by stopping them having possession. Good luck with that. Because Portugal can simply take the ball away, as they did here. Vitinha is a classic wispy conductor of the old school. Bernardo Silva was once again a kind of footballing WD40, easing every part of the team.

Ronaldo was busy early on. He had a shot at goal. He dropped back and pressed. At times he even played the old hits. With 14 mintues gone Ronaldo found himself by the touchline facing Turkey’s right-back Zeki Celik. A stopover, a feint and a switch of feet and Celik was on his backside, the cross already gone.

Portugal’s opener on 21 minutes was in its own way a perfect Portugal goal, in that came from a long spell of possession set up by a violent full body slide-reducer from Pepe that left his man writhing and waving an arm limply.

The ball was processed out to the left. Rafael Leão carried it, waited for Nuno Mendes to hare on outside him, then laid the ball into his stride. The cross was perfectly arced for the run of Bernardo Silva, who had time to smash it with precision into the near corner.

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A pitch invader takes a selfie with Cristiano Ronaldo. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

With 27 minutes gone Portugal had a second, again a deeply Portugal kind of goal, and not just because it featured Ronaldo having a needless arm-waving hissy-fit as João Cancelo made a loose forward pass. Samet Akaydin, without looking, laid the stray ball casually back toward his goalkeeper, who had unfortunately come pounding out to take it. The ball trickled past him into the Turkish goal.

Turkey came out with a little more aggression, but struggled to keep the ball, or to make any kind of inroads against that super absorbent Portuguese defence.

By now Vitinha basically had this game in his pocket, tucked away, wrapped in a neat little handkerchief. And Bruno Fernandes got the third on 56 minutes, made by a simple pass over the top to meet Ronaldo’s run, and a wonky Turkish defensive line that left Fernandes and Ronaldo onside.

Ronaldo produced a profound act of deception, not shooting at goal, but squaring it to the unmarked Fernandes to slide the ball into the net.

Little wonder Ayindir looked confused. Portugal celebrated in the kind of extended bobbing huddle that deflates an opponent, that says, yes we will now keep the ball until the sun disappears, because this game is basically done.

The Guardian