Macedonia displayed organization and discipline on defense, and held Potrugal to a goalless draw in Leiria.
Portugal controlled possession for the majority of the game but Macedonia gained confidence as the match went on and even had several chances in the 2nd half to shock Portugal on the road. The first real opportunity of the game came in the 11th minute but Cristiano Ronaldo’s free kick from the left went just over the goal. Two minutes later, Ricardo Quaresma attempted a volley that was comfortably saved by the Macedonian keeper Martin Bogatinov.
Macedonia then created its first chance in the 16th minute when Goran Pandev intercepted a pass near midfield before finding Stefan Spirovski whose shot from the edge of the area went wide of the left goal post. That was the only good chance for Macedonia in the 1st half but the defense was very disciplined and although Portugal dominated possession, they did not create many quality chances. Most of their attempts on goal came from well outside of the box with long range shots that Bogatinov was able to handle. Ronaldo almost scored a spectacular goal in the 40th minute with a long range free kick but his effort went just inches over the goal.
In the 2nd half, however, Macedonia seemed more confident and took the initiative, especially in a six minute stretch from the 55th to 60th minute. Macedonia created three glorious opportunities during that stretch but none of the chances could be realized into goals. First, in the 55th minute, Agim Ibraimi, who just entered the game two minutes earlier, came very close to scoring but his left footed shot went narrowly wide of the left goal post. Vanche Shikov should have scored a goal in the 58th minute, as he was left unmarked in the box, but his header following a well taken corner kick by Ivan Trichkovski went over the goal. Finally, in the 60th minute, Shikov’s free kick from a dangerous position was deflected by a Portuguese player and it resulted in another Macedonian corner.
The game then slowed down for several minutes before Ronaldo came close in the 66th minute but his powerful shot went just wide of the goal. Both sides then made numerous substitutions which hurt the flow of the game, but Portugal still came close to scoring the game winner in the fourth minute of stoppage time but Bogatinov, who was solid in goal, saved the shot to ensure a goalless draw.
Overall, the Macedonian side played motivated football and showed what it is capable of doing when each player gives 100% effort. The key will be for manager John Toshack to motivate the players to play with this kind of intensity even when they are playing a less attractive side in the future. Macedonia has drawn against England, the Netherlands and now Portugal, but the national team must become more consistent and not play up and down based on the class of its opponent.
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Highlights from the game: