Portugal played host to Spain when they clashed in their Nations League A Group B match in Braga. Portugal needed to avoid defeat to qualify for the semi-finals of the Nations League and all eyes were on Cristiano Ronaldo, and Spain needed to win by all costs to overtake the former champions on the group standings. It’s a tie that was bound to be a tough one, and one that’d see these face each other once again.
Portugal captain, Cristiano Ronaldo led his team out for his 190th international cap in their last international game before the World Cup begins in November. It was a very crucial game and a tough test against the former world champions Spain. The first half featured plenty of chances for Portugal but were just not clear cut enough for them to convert to goals, Diogo Jota and Bruno Fernandes came closest to opening the scoring for the Portuguese. Jota saw his effort saved from close range by Unai Simon after he had made an excellent run through the defence and beaten his marker, while Fernandes’ top corner-aimed long range strike hit the outside of the net and many fans had thought that had went in, understandably.
Spain could depend on Portugal’s mistakes at the back to carve chances that would be potentially harmful for the Portuguese side. The teams went into the break with Spain having seen more of the ball, as expected, and Portugal with the better goal scoring chances but it was only 0-0 at half-time. The first chance of the second half came just a minute after the referee resumed play, Jota stole the ball of of Carvajal before making a run and playing to the on coming Ronaldo who would have his shot saved by the on-rushing goalkeeper Unai Simon. In the 76th minute, Alvaro Morata created space outside the box for himself before unleashing a fast travelling long-range strike that forced Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa into an excellent low save.
The game looked set to end in another stalemate between these rivals, with neither of them taking their chances and the goalkeepers on top form. The 88th minute saw Real Madrid right back deliver a cross from the right to the back post for Nico Williams who was able to head it down for Morata who then made no mistake in applying the finish.
Ronaldo had another chance to score for Portugal in the 89th minute when he received a great lob pass but could only watch as his near post effort was fluffed out by the feet of Unai Simon. The Portuguese great has been struggling for game time and form for Manchester United, and is yet to score an open-play goal in all competitions this season. With that win, Spain were able to take the three points and leapfrog Portugal on the top of the Group 2 standings, joining Croatia, Netherlands and Italy in the semi-finals of the Nations League.
While in another game Lionel Messi came off the bench to score a brace (86′, 89′) in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Jamaica as they get ready to fight for the World Cup in November. Another World Cup favourite, Brazil were playing Tunisia in their final preparation game for the World Cup, and were able to win 5-1 with goals from Raphinha, Richarlison, Neymar and Pedro.