China crisis: Five reasons why Portugal failed

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Portugal hosted China last Wednesday in a World Cup warm-up match and won 2-0, but the performance was anything but convincing and it raised more questions than it answered. Here’s why:

1) The match was against China

With all due respect to the team ranked 83rd in the FIFA rankings, China is a weak team and nobody actually expected them to pose serious problems to the Portuguese team. Additionally, after the match the Chinese national coach claimed the team went easy on the Selecção to avoid potential injuries, which further suggests that this match wasn’t a serious test.

It's also difficult to buy the argument that China were selected to their similarities with North Korea. Despite being our opponents in the group, the Koreans are the least of our headaches in South Africa. It would have made more sense to play against a team similar to Brazil or Ivory Coast (let’s say Argentina, Paraguay, Ghana or Cameroon). ‘Getting ready for North Korea’ is just a sign of how high the expectations are...

2) The performance was just poor

Even if the current Portuguese team doesn't possess the same talent as the 2006 World Cup squad , we should always be able to play good football against China. The first half was OK and mostly because of Cristiano Ronaldo: the Real Madrid forward put in a solid performance and was a threat in the first 45 minutes.

As soon as he was benched, Portugal faded out and the lack of effort and imagination was greeted with jeers from the crowd. Shame though, because a good overall performance could have boosted the morale ahead of the tournament.

"Have I got to do EVRYTHING myself?!"

3) Varela only played for 30 minutes

Silvestre Varela earned his first call-up – congratulations! – and, considering this match was the last before Carlos Queiroz announces his final 23, it was expected he would feature for at least 45 minutes. After all, if Queiroz opted to pick him at this stage, it was because he believed the FC Porto winger could add something different to the side.

However, the decision to bring him in with just 30 minutes to be played is puzzling and disappointing as Varela didn’t naturally show as much as he could have. Can we ask why?

4) It failed to test our full-backs

It's a fact that one of our major shortcomings is the lack of a proper left-back. Malaga’s Duda has been playing there, but there are still question marks regarding that adaptation. It's one thing to play against weaker opponents, but what would have happened if Duda was facing Leo Messi, David Silva or Robinho?

Furthermore, it's now confirmed that Bosingwa will miss the World Cup due to a knee injury, which raises questions about the right-back role as well. Paulo Ferreira and Miguel have already peaked and they have both struggled for fitness this season. Are they up to the task? Guess we’ll have to wait until June to find that out...

5) It failed to build empathy between the team and the supporters

Portuguese people are never afraid to speak their mind and they unveiled a new song for the Selecção in the last minutes of the match. As the Portuguese players slowed down their tempo and stopped pushing for more goals, the crowd started booing and went even further by roaring “Olé” every time China successfully completed a pass.

It may have been unfair on the players, but one has to understand the supporters’ point of view. They witnessed their team playing miserably throughout much of the World Cup qualifiers and all they wanted to see on Wednesday was a good performance and a few goals to kiss and make up.

It wasn’t meant to be, though, as the subpar performance failed to bring the supporters closer to the players. If Queiroz actually “gotta feeling”, then it's almost certain that Wednesday night was not a good night…

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