Portugal have become the first team to book their place in the quarter-finals of Thailand 2012 after beating Paraguay 4-1 at Bangkok’s Huamark Indoor Stadium. Goals from Cardinal, Joao Matos and the outstanding Ricardinho were enough to secure a thoroughly deserved win for Jorge Braz’s side, and take them through to face the winner of Italy’s match against Egypt.
The Poruguese completely bossed the first half, dominating possession and racking up 20 efforts on goal to Paraguay’s six. Only a magnificent goal-line clearance from Juan Salas denied them an 11th-minute opener, with the Albirroja No9 diving across goal to head away Cardinal’s goal-bound effort. The Portugal forward would not be denied though, and within a minute he had scored his seventh goal of the tournament.
Yet although his was the finishing touch, it was a goal which owed much to some great play by Arnaldo on the left, who jinked his man and delivered a pinpoint pass to leave the prolific No7 with a simple tap-in at the back post. Portugal were good value for their lead, and with 26 seconds of the first half remaining, they doubled it. This time, the goal came from a short free-kick rolled by Ricardinho to Joao Matos, whose powerful right-foot shot took a telling deflection on its way past Carlos Espinola.
Paraguay were on the ropes at this stage, and Cardinal should have provided a knockout blow shortly after the re-start, but side-footed wide from close range with Espinola stranded and only a covering defender to beat on the line. Portugal continued to dominate though, forcing their opponents to throw on a fifth outfielder, Gabriel Ayala, in place of Espinola.
It was a tactic that eventually paid off with five minutes to go, when Juan Salas’s close-range shot hit the inside of the left-hand post and trickling over the line after squirming away from Andre Sousa’s grasp. That sparked a tense and dramatic finish, but Ricardinho removed all doubt with two late breakaway goals, capping a superb performance by the Portugal No10.
"I'm very satisfied to be one of the best eight teams at this World Cup. We were very organised, and when that happens things are easier. But we should have scored more goals. in any case, it was a well deserved win," Jorge Braz, Portugal coach.
"Our defence was good today, but we didn't manage to do enough going forward. Most of the time we had our opponents under control but Portugal has very good individual performances, particularly that of Ricardinho,"
Fernando Leite, Paraguay coach.