Portugal ended their European U21 Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win against Greece.
Paulo Bernardo and Gonçalo Ramos scored shortly after half-time at Estádio Cidade de Barcelos, the Greeks leaving it too late after Georgios Koutsias scored in added time.
The Equipa das Quinas end the campaign top of Group 4 with nine wins and a draw, 41 goals scored and three conceded.
Greek defence on top
Greece started the match with intent, earning two corners and creating the first opportunity in the 10th minute. Marios Vichos released Giannis-Fivos Botos who had Samuel Soares to beat, but he shot closer to the corner flag than the goal with Tiago Djaló closing in.
Portugal struggled to create opportunities and had to wait until the 30th minute for their first chance. Paulo Bernardo’s cross was met by Gonçalo Ramos, his looping header saved by Christos Talichmanidis.
Greece continued to show enterprise, Botos sent clear by Efthymios Christopoulos with Djaló showing his trademark speed to recover and make an important challenge.
Nuno Tavares was looking dangerous down the left wing, teasing crosses into the box with Fábio Silva heading high and seeing another effort deflected over the bar.
Portugal take charge
Rui Jorge's half time talk worked a treat with Portugal strarting the second half on fire.
João Mário had already gone close with a cross into the box, and it was second time lucky in the 48th minute, his delivery met by Paulo Bernardo who timed his run to perfection and headed home.
Samuel Soares was tested in the 55th minute when he tipped Lefteris Lyratzis’ shot wide. The visitors couldn’t maintain the pressure however, and were 2-0 down a minute later.
Fábio Silva was the provider on this occasion, taking a touch in the 18-yard box before drilling a low cross towards goal where Gonçalo Ramos converted from close range.
Rui Jorge introduced Zé Carlos and Vitinha for Vasco Sousa and Fábio Silva in the 68th minute. He made two more changes not long after, David Da Costa and Henrique Araújo replacing André Almeida and Gonçalo Ramos.
João Mário hit the bar with a wayward cross in the 76th minute before Nuno Tavares fired a fierce shot that narrowly missed the top corner.
Jorge made his final substitution in the 81st minute with Rodrigo Conceição replacing João Mário.
Too little too late
Greece manager Georgios Simos had to go for broke and made a last ditched attempt to bridge the gap in the 85th minute, Georgios Koutsias, Fotis Kitsos and Michalis Kosidis replacing Georgios Kanellopoulos, Vasilios Zagaritis and Efthymios Christopoulos
Koutsias pulled a goal back in added time, but it was too little too late for the Greeks who missed out on the play-off position, overtaken by Iceland who beat Cyprus 5-0 in Reykjavik.
Rui Jorge showed Greece and the 11523 spectators in Barcelos the respect they deserved, selecting a full strength side with Vasco Sousa replacing the injured Fábio Vieira in the playmaking role.
Greece required a draw to reach the play-offs, setting up with three central defenders and little space between the lines. That suffocated Sousa and forced Portugal to launch balls into the box from deep or out wide.
Rui Jorge's tactics were almost identical to what we saw against Liechtenstein, the big difference being that Greece are a far superior opponent that possess a much taller and better organised defence.
Regardless, Portugal eventually broke them down and were deserved winners.
Jorge celebrated 100 games in charge of the U21 side with another victory, making it 73 wins, 15 draws and 12 defeats, Equipa das Quinas scoring 257 goals with 80 conceded.
In charge for more than a decade, he reflected on his achievement before kick off. "It is a sign of continuity and longevity. It gives me and my technical team great pleasure to deal with these groups in these 12 years.
The players who have passed through have left a legacy of quality of play and behavior, and I feel satisfied to lead this group and being able to see great players with enormous talent up close, who today are the pinnacle of football worldwide."
Jorge has used 35 players in 10 qualifying matches, a campaign that started in September 2021 with a 1-0 win against Belarus in Amadora.
Since then they have racked up the frequent flyer points, travelling to Iceland, Cyprus, Greece, Armenia and Liechtenstein. They have regularly thrilled supporters in the motherland, banging in goals in Vizela, Faro, Portimão and Barcelos.
This is a squad that is superior to the one that lost 1-0 against Germany in the 2021 European U21 Championship final. They will be one of the favourites to go all the way in Romania and Georgia, the tournament taking place from 9 June to 2 July, 2023.
PORTUGAL 2-1 GRÉCIA! 🎥⚽— Canal 11 (@Canal_11Oficial) June 11, 2022
Vê o resumo da vitória dos sub-21! pic.twitter.com/fbzULHjsAt
Portugal (4-3-1-2): Samuel Soares - João Mário (Rodrigo Conceição 81’), Tiago Djaló, Gonçalo Inácio, Nuno Tavares - André Almeida (David Da Costa 76’), Tiago Dantas, Paulo Bernardo - Vasco Sousa (Zé Carlos 68’) - Fábio Silva (Vitinha 68’), Gonçalo Ramos (Henrique Araújo 75’)
Unused substitutes: Gonçalo Tabuaço, Alexandre Penetra, Afonso Sousa, Francisco Conceição
Head Coach: Rui Jorge
[1-0] – Paulo Bernardo 48'
[2-0] – Gonçalo Ramos 56'
[2-1] – Georgios Koutsias 90+1'