From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Well, Portugal did manage to win and without conceding a goal, but a 1-0 victory means everything is still to play for.
With both sides fancying their chances to reach the World Cup, the only thing certain is that the play-off will be settled, one way or the other, on Wednesday.
Being the favourites on paper, Portugal went on the offensive from the beginning at the weekend but most of their attacks didn’t create clear-cut opportunities and were easily countered by the Bosnian side.
However, in the 32th minute, following a cross from Nani, Bruno Alves scored the only goal of the match with a simple header at the far post.
Some hoped this goal would open the floodgates, but the Bosnian team didn’t panic.
As a matter of fact, they were unfortunate not to draw level just two minutes from the break, as Senijad Ibricic hit the woodwork after a corner-kick.
In the second half, Portugal enjoyed 15 minutes of supremacy, where they created several good chances.
On one of those occasions, Liédson, who worked his socks off, did superbly to evade a defender but then smashed his effort wide.
With the Portuguese team struggling to find a killer second goal, Queiroz decided it was time to make a move. And that’s exactly when Portugal lost control of the match.
Nani, who despite his usual below-average decision making was very lively in the first 45 minutes, was replaced by Benfica left winger Fábio Coentrão. A puzzling decision for three main reasons:
• Portugal were enjoying their best period in the game• It was Coentrão’s debut;• Nani was the one to leave - the Manchester United winger was certainly not at his best, but his pace can always cause problems. As Portugal were dominating at that stage, Queiroz should have switched to a more attacking-minded formation.
And the truth is that Coentrão, a revelation this term for Benfica, barely did a thing.
The 89th minute witnessed an incredible moment that froze Estádio da Luz as in-demand striker Edin Dzeko met a cross with a powerful header that hit the woodwork for the second time in the game.
The ball rebounded to yet another Bosnian player who then hit the post, much to the relief of every Portuguese in the stadium.
In the end, the Selecção may have had more attacks and more shots on goal, but they also had a bit of luck on their side.
Man of the match: Pepe
Personally, I don’t agree with the decision of deploying Pepe as a holding midfielder, but he may change my opinion if he keeps putting performances like this one.
Whether he was stopping Bosnian players or initiating Portugal offensive moves, the Real Madrid defender marshalled the midfield and was one of the few bright spots for Portuguese side.
The two teams meet again tonight in Zenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina to see who progresses to the biggest sporting event in the world.
The Balkan side have lost four regulars as defender Spahic and midfielders Rahimic and Muratovic were all yellow carded and therefore won’t be able to help their team on their amazing quest to South Africa.
While Wolfsburg midfielder Zvjezdan Misimović is injured.
It is a blow for them, but again they have nothing to lose. Especially with a crowd of 35,000 wild supporters behind their back.
After watching Saturday’s clash, it is clear that defence is Bosnia’s weakest link. If Portugal can use their wingers effectively, then they have a very good chance of going through.
On the other hand, Dzeko is actually THAT good and will have to be stopped. Hopefully Bruno Alves will be fit to play and keep the Wolfsburg striker quiet.
Overall, Bosnia will give us a hard time, but Portugal will get one goal and end the Bosnian dream.
Result: Bosnia 1 Portugal 1 (1-2 aggregate)
Key man: Liédson
There’s no doubt Bosnia is going to be more dangerous on Wednesday. They’ll be playing on home turf and after almost doing it three times, they know it is not impossible to score against Portugal.
However, the Selecção know that one goal might just be enough (as Bosnia would have to score three) and that’s why Liédson’s predatory instincts will be invaluable.
Should the “Slender One” be on fire, well... Portugal might just book their trip to South Africa.
Here’s extended highlights of Saturday’s match in case you haven’t seen it.
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