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In the first U21 Euros semi final, Portugal were simply phenomenal, carving apart a Germany side who had been widely tipped to go all the way in the tournament like they had before. It’s worth noting that this was a side that had been unbeaten for 14 games and had a treble-winning goalkeeper in their spine.
But immediately it was clear to see just why this Portugal side is being referred to as the ‘golden generation’. Their quality of play, maturity, aggression and incisiveness was too much for the Germans to handle and they sent out quite a statement.
Here’s Tactical Player Reports on the most impressive performers from the game.
First and foremost, we have to look at Bernardo Silva, who delivered the most wonderful individual performance and totally embarrassed Germany. Operating as a number ten, he displayed an excellent awareness of space and regularly pulled players out of position before instigating attacks. He was everywhere, roaming around and playing the role of a ‘playmaker’ perfectly. There was a real swagger about him, boasting a brilliant first touch and impeccable close control. He rarely ever lost possession and if he did, he had the fight to regain the ball for his side.
Back in 1994, Portugal had a side that included the mercurial talents of Luis Figo and Rui Costa – Silva reached that sort of level not just in this game but in the tournament thus far. He has left the football world in awe of his supreme talents.
Inventive with an end product, he and his incredible left foot tormented Germany and after such an impactful display, he was replaced minutes into the second half after a dazzling display in which he grabbed the opener, assisted the second and was instrumental in Portugal’s demolition of their opposition. Expect Monaco to be receive a bundle of offers for the youngster in the summer and watch him grow into one of the most sensational attacking talents.
You can read a detailed Scout Report on Bernardo Silva here.
Similarly, another Portugal player who has well and truly shone in this tournament has been William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon. In the game against Germany, Portugal completely and utterly controlled the midfield and Carvalho played a central role at the base of the midfield diamond deployed by Coach Rui Jorge. The 23-year old has already tasted action in the Portugal senior side and he looked head and shoulders above his competitors, both physically and technically.
With a bullish, imposing frame, it was near-impossible to knock him off the ball but he combined that with a superb range of passing;. The defensive midfielder gave a brilliant example of how one should carry out the role, performing duties with a sense of calmness. He was unbelievably measured in his display, providing protection for those behind him by reading the game excellently – yet also providing the platform for the likes of Oliveira, Joao Mario and Silva to flourish.
A truly magnificent prospect, it is already abundantly clear to see why he is already considered to be one of the most complete defensive midfielders in world football
You can read a detailed Scout Report on William Carvalho here.
Similarly, another midfield prospect who has emerged in this tournament is Ccaptain Sergio Oliveira. The Porto man, along with compatriot Carvalho, completely bossed the midfield and he had the freedom to be more attack-minded and be effective higher up the pitch. According to WhoScored, in the Group stages it was Oliveira who recorded the most key passes with 11 and was rightly named in the best Group Stage XI.
He continued where he left off in this game, dictating the tempo and frequently found the runs of his teammates with deft passes. Some of his link-up play with Silva was outstanding and his passing in between the lines was a joy to watch. He was a driving force and went mightily close to opening the scoring when he popped up on the edge of the area and slammed an effort against the post.
Although he didn’t get his goal, his performance was exceptional – clever and productive. There was a hint of senior Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho in his performance, though he has been more recently compared to Ivan Rakitic and that would be an adequate comparison to what sort of role he carried out for Portugal.
There was a lot of emphasis on the attacking prowess of Portugal this game and rightly so, but their defensive unit deserves a fair bit of credit for the game they played. Shutting out a Germany side that contained the talents of Amin Younes, Kevin Volland and Nico Schulz is no easy feat and the Portuguese made them look fairly ordinary.
Defensively Raphael Guerreiro was brilliant at keeping Younes, one of the group stage’s best performers, worryingly quiet and that enabled Portugal to establish control for the duration of the match. In addition, Portugal were devastating in the channels and a fundamental factor in that were their full-backs. Down the left Guerreiro, who featured in Outside of the Boot’s 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 list, was a menacing weapon for width and helped create space in central areas with his overlapping runs.
There were several occasions where he started off attacks, for instance it was he who got things going in the move that brought about the terrific third goal from Ivan Cavaleiro. He has already netted a senior goal against Argentina in a friendly at Old Trafford last season and he could potentially displace senior full-back Fabio Coentrao if he continues on the same path.
Because of how poor Germany were on the day, it would have been easy to pick a full set of Portugal players for the top 5 performing players but I’ve decided to include Emre Can as I felt of all Germany’s players, he was the one who can come out with a bit of credit.
His versatility was tested against a dominant Portugal midfield and though he was in slightly unfamiliar territory as a sort of number ten, he was the one who tried to make things happen and brought a bit of creativity to the table. Personally, I feel that with his stocky frame, powerful and unrivalled running ability, he could have kept William Carvalho and co quiet had he been selected as part of a midfield two but he wasn’t able to affect as he would have liked to, as there was not enough movement around him. Still, the midfielder who also featured in Outside of the Boot’s 100 Young Players to Watch in 2015 list, had plenty of spells where he looked very impressive and has generally been one of the country’s positives in what will now go down as a disappointing U21 Euro campaign.
Hopefully we see the best of him in a two-man midfield for Liverpool next season, where he has the potential to fill the void left by Steven Gerrard.
You can read a detailed Scout Report on Emre Can here.
More U-21 European Championship 2015 reading here.