The first ‘stage presentation’ of Roberto Martínez’s Portugal left a great taste in the neighboring country. “Big and Spanish”, highlights ‘The Game’. “Walk of joy. A victory and an unprecedented start in a qualifying phase”, underlines ‘A Bola’. “Luxury Portugal”, reflects ‘Write’.
The balance, for now, is impeccable. Two games, two wins,10 goals in favor and zero against placed ‘Seleção’ as the only leader of Group C It is true, yes, that against the two rivals, a priori, more accessible in the group: 4-0 to Liechtenstein and 0-6 to Luxembourg).
Unprecedented bet for three ago
Roberto Martínez makes it clear that intends to make an evolution, not a revolution with regard to the stage of Fernando Santos. Incidentally, he plans to reunite with his predecessor in May and has been continuing his World Cup roster, citing 23 of the 26 in Qatar on his first call-up.
In terms of style, however, there is one thing that catches our eye: the commitment with the three central defenders, something almost unheard of in the history of the ‘Seleção’. The Alderweireld-Vermaelen-Vertonghen trident was one of the strengths in which ‘Bob’ cemented Belgium’s ‘number 1’ in the world, but, looking back, there were (reasonable) doubts that he would make it.
Danilo Pereira, Gonçalo Inácio, Otávio and Cristiano.
Santos had a very closed circle of trust when it came to defenders. It seemed that there was nothing but Rúben Dias, veterans Pepe and José Fonte and wild card Danilo Pereira… until the emergence of António Silva. Roberto has already hinted at his commitment to the three centre-backs, keeping António Silva andincluding Diogo Leite and newcomer Gonçalo Inácio on the list. The bet, for now, has proved to be right, both at a defensive level and at the level of ball output.
He rode the ‘Magnificent 4’
The fiercest criticism that was made to Fernando Santos it had to do with his reluctance to bring together the ‘Magnificent 4’: Cristiano Ronaldo, João Félix, Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes. Roberto Martínez did it early on, and successfully, in his first two games.
The case of Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes is reminiscent of the one initially found in Belgium with Eden Hazard and De Bruyne: two talented players who ‘step’ in the same areas and end up getting in the way. It’s hard to find a match against Portugal in which Bruno and Bernardo have scratched at a high level at the same time.
João Félix plays with Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes.
‘Bob’ has tried to give everyone space within the 1-3-4-2-1 that he has used as a starting point. It can also be interpreted as a 1-3-4-1 on offense and a 1-5-2-3 on defense. He was a bit late to help Palhinha to get the ball and granted more freedom to Bernardo Silva, who acts as a midfielder, lightly knocked the right. It works: City’s ’10’ scored two goals and provided an assist and Bruno left an assist against Luxembourg.
Cristiano Ronaldo and João Félix, playing from behind, also managed to cohabit. The mobility of the striker loaned by Atlético at Chelsea helps Cristiano, who is not a pure ‘9’, to divide the marks and distract the defenders. CR7 looks different: He has scored more goals (4) in two games with Roberto than he has in all of 2022 with Fernando Santos (3). He even looked angry when he gave up his place at 64′ to Gonçalo Ramos.
Cristiano shakes hands with Roberto after being substituted against Liechtenstein.
Gamers appreciate the former Belgian coach’s ‘proactive’ style. “With this tactic we always have 4 or 5 players in the area”, says Joao Félix. “We have more possession of the ball, that’s what the coach told us”, Otávio stood out, scoring immediately in place of Bruno Fernandes.
He gave power to the wingers
The big beneficiaries of the bet on playing three behind have undoubtedly been the runners, who can afford more offensive licenses. Interestingly, Roberto Martinez They lined up four different starters (Cancelo and Dalot, on the right; and Guerreiro and Nuno Mendes, on the left) and all four have performed at a high level.
Cancelo tries to dribble against Liechtenstein.
The four get up and reach very high. João Cancelo, without going any further, opened the scoring against Liechtenstein, scoring the first goal of the ‘Martínez era’. Nuno Mendes, for his part, assisted Cristiano Ronaldo in the first goal against Luxembourg.
Leo asks for more minutes
Roberto Martínez tried to form a group. “If we talk about those who don’t play, we get into the wrong dynamic”, he repeats. So, with the games already resolved, he has been trying to distribute minutes to Rafa Leão, Rúben Neves, Gonçalo Ramos, Otávio, Vitinha…
Leão escapes from two opponents against Luxemburgo.
Leão, in particular, has enjoyed well, especially against Luxembourg. The Milanist provoked a penalty… which he himself missed. He made up for it, however, with a ‘house brand slalom’ to score the final 0-6. The question remains, but it’s just the beginning, if Roberto Martínez will try to add two more top strikers, as would be the case with Gonçalo Ramos and Cristiano. It will be necessary to wait, at least, until the next break to clear up the mystery.
“Victory with Ideas”
The balance, in general terms, is positive. “Victory with ideas”, Rafael Silva heads his analysis in ‘Record’. “The team interpreted very well what the game asked for: they opted for a very long game, with variations on the lanes, especially on the right with Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes. Both Bernardo and João Félix appeared between the lines to bring solutions from within”, he continues.
Roberto Martínez gives instructions to João Félix.
“If the game with Liechtenstein told us little, the one in Luxembourg makes more sense. The team was awesome even more competent than in Alvalade. There’s a desire to play ball like you haven’t seen in a long time”, says Bernardo Ribeiro, Director of Record.