Portugal pull past Mexico for third place

Portugal have claimed third spot at the Confederations Cup with a surprisingly dramatic win over Mexico after extra time.

What Happened
You can never be sure what to expect from a third-place playoff but this clash between two teams with points to prove turned out to be a highly engrossing encounter. For Mexico, they had to bounce back after a humiliating semi-final loss to Germany while Portugal were determined to show that they can still win without Cristiano Ronaldo.

A see-sawing first half, where defending wasn’t a priority of either sides, looked to have been broken open when evergreen Mexican defender Rafa Marquez brought down Andre Silva in the box with a VAR review resulting a penalty being given.

However, the outstanding Guillermo Ochoa saved Silva’s penalty and it was 0-0 going into the break.

Mexico took the lead not long into the second half when Javier Hernandez cut down the left hand side and whipped in a dangerous cross that Portugal defender Luis Neto turned into his own net.

Then, with the game going deep into added time, Real Madrid hot-head Pepe was able to get his foot on the end of a cross and steer the ball past Ochoa to take the game to extra time.

Some extra times can be a bit slow and lethargic but this was certainly not the case here and Adrien Silva scored Portugal’s eventual winner from the spot after a Miguel Layun handball. Nelson Semedo was then shown red by the referee after a second yellow after 106 minutes before Mexican striker Raul Jimenez ensured that both teams would finish with 10 men when he also picked up a second yellow.

One last moment of controversy came as Hector Moreno seemed to be pushed over in the box with a minute remaining only for the referee to not even send the decision to the VAR before he eventually booted Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio to the stands for his remonstrations.

Stand Out Performances
Guillermo Ochoa certainly has a sense of timing as the out-of-contract Granada keeper pulled off a vintage performance between the sticks for Mexico. His first-half penalty save from Andre Silva saw him get very little help from the Portugal striker who hit it low and hard but Ochoa was equal to it. On top of that, a super second-half save from Gelson Martins meant the former Club America man could do nothing more to keep his side in it.

The quintessential angry old man, Pepe, was at his best for Portugal tonight doing all the hard graft work in defence before tapping home the late, late equaliser. He also impressed as the key experienced man in the absence of Ronaldo.

Talking Points
With a minute and a half left in extra time, a good ball in seemed to lay a goal on a plate for Mexican defender Hector Moreno only for Pepe to seemingly shove him and force the header wide.

Not only was a pretty clear penalty not given it was not even referred to the ever controversial VAR and that fact seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Mexican coach Juan Carlos Osorio who gave the referee an almighty tongue lashing and was subsequently sent to the stands.

The point remains, a contentious penalty non-decision in the last moments of extra time, isn’t that what the VAR is for?

What It Means
Portugal finish third which is about where most people placed them for this tournament and a win without Cristiano Ronaldo will encourage them. For Mexico, it’s another disappointing result which will heap more pressure on Osorio ahead of next year’s World Cup.

Needs Work
Portugal could well have had the game done and dusted within the 90 considering the quality of chances they created with Silva and Martins the main culprits. It’s easy to say that they would have scored more of these with Ronaldo playing but reliance on the Real Madrid man only hurts them.

For Mexico not being able to hang onto a lead in a knockout game gave some bad flashbacks to the loss to the Netherlands at the World Cup in Brazil. They also conceded two goals once again and that will be their main issue going forward. Ten goals conceded in five games is not good enough if they want to make deep runs in major tournaments.

What Next
Mexico’s squad will have a break before resuming World Cup qualifiers while their coaching staff will head to the USA to lead their B squad on its CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign. Portugal on the other hand will go straight back to making sure they qualify for Russia 2018.

Goal of the Day
In the opening group game it was Mexico scoring a late equaliser to grab a point, on this occasion however Portugal were able to return the favour. Pepe able to outmuscle Miguel Layun and get on the end of a good cross to send the game to extra time. Nothing like a late, late goal.

Miss of the Day
A rash challenge from Rafa Marquez left Guillermo Ochoa facing a penalty from Andre Silva in the first half of the first half. Silva stepped up and hit a nice looking penalty, low and hard to his left. Ochoa however was well and truly up to the challenge as he sprung down to his right and denied Silva the opener. More a good save than a miss, but certainly worth a mention

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