Portugal created a wealth of opportunities against both Serbia and Ukraine in their opening Euro 2020 qualifiers, but ultimately have just two points to show for their efforts.
It leaves Portugal third in the group facing an uphill challenge to gain automatic qualification to the European Championship, and has left fans ruing what could have been but for some improved finishing and a little bit of good fortune.
Here, we take a look at Portugal’s combined statistics against both Serbia and Ukraine to deduce just how much dominance Portugal displayed and see if Portugal can consider themselves somewhat unfortunate to fail to win either match.
The number of shots doesn’t tell the full picture of course, although it does offer a rough indicator of how much dominance there was from one side over the other.
And looking at the chart below, it’s clear to see that Portugal were the side most actively looking to win the match.
Indeed, over the two matches, Portugal mustered up a scarcely believable 46 shots in total, a huge number that dwarfs the 19 shots that Ukraine and Serbia managed to record combined.
More concerningly for Portugal though, only 30% of those shots actually found the target, with 32 of those efforts failing to test the opposition goalkeeper at all.
Indeed, as the table below shows, more shots by Portugal were either off target or blocked rather than finding the target, illustrating Portugal’s fundamental failure to create clear-cut goalscoring opportunities and
Number of shots on target, off target and blocked
Something else that can be taken from the above graph is that a huge 15 attempts were blocked by the opposition defence, showing how well organised and defensively astute both Ukraine and Serbia were in their matches. It wasn’t just a case of Portugal fundamentally failing to create chances, but also a significant element of excellent defensive displays from their opponents. And they deserve credit for that.
By contrast, only 3 Ukrainian/Serbian shots were blocked, indicating that Portugal were virtually always on the front foot.
The average possession of Portugal against Serbia and Ukraine combined confirms the above point. Portugal had the majority of the ball throughout, with 64.5% of the possession overall.
That’s 59% against Ukraine and a huge 70% against Serbia.
This can be construed as a positive, but can also be seen as a significant issue. While Portugal saw so much of the ball, they ultimately only scored once, and therefore were not having that possession in the correct areas of the pitch.
Indeed, this becomes even clearer when you look at the passing accuracy in the attacking third of the pitch compared to the overall passing accuracy.
Portugal’s overall passing accuracy over the two matches, for example, was 88.5%, in the final third, that went down to 81.4%, a reduction in accuracy of 7.1%. Not abnormal to have such a decrease of course, but could indicate a lack of potency when it came to the end product.
Nevertheless, when you compare this reduction to that of Serbia and Ukraine combined, it seems a lot more convincing, with Serbia and Ukraine’s combined overall passing accuracy being 74.9%. When you compare that to their combined passing accuracy in the final third (62%), you see a difference of 12.9%, a much more significant decrease than that of Portugal, which could indicate the further control Portugal had in their games and how they had the composure in the final third to warrant better results than they ultimately achieved.
Indeed, Portugal’s passing in the final third was better than the combined Ukraine and Serbia overall passing accuracy.
To illustrate the credit that goes to Ukraine and Serbia, one can look no further than the number of clearances completed.
Number of clearances
Portugal, for example, only completed 35 clearances in total, while Ukraine and Serbia by contrast made 97 clearances overall, a clear indication of how much time the ball spent in the opposition territory in both matches and the superb defensive resilience both Ukraine and Serbia demonstrated in the outings.
These final two graphs again indicate how much dominance Portugal had across both matches.
The first is an analysis of the total number of corners, while the second is an illustration of the number of key passes.