World Cup 2018: 5 days to go

Form 'far from ideal'

Portugal's Goncalo Guedes (right) celebrating one of his two goals with Raphael Guerreiro.
Portugal's Goncalo Guedes (right) celebrating one of his two goals with Raphael Guerreiro.PHOTO: REUTERS

Euro champs' coach still fine-tuning but sees side improving as Finals progress

LISBON • Portugal coach Fernando Santos expects his side to play their way into form at the World Cup, after they finished their preparations with a 3-0 friendly win over Algeria on Thursday.

With talisman Cristiano Ronaldo back in the side, the European champions recorded their first win since March. And Santos believes there is still room for improvement.

"We are still far from ideal, it is with the championship that we will grow," he said in Lisbon.

"There are some things to fine-tune, there are players who are playing for the first time together in this selection."

A day after Santos said he still had many doubts over the starting line-up for their World Cup Group B opener against Spain next Friday, 21-year-old forward Goncalo Guedes made a strong claim for a place with a brace.

Guedes, with nine appearances and one goal before Thursday, fired Portugal in front in the 17th minute.

Ronaldo, playing in his first match since the Champions League final on May 26, set up Portugal's second in the 37th minute.

He sped down the left and provided a pinpoint cross, which Bruno Fernandes met with a powerful downward header for his first international goal.

A similar move led to the third goal, as Raphael Guerreiro burst down the left and Guedes met his cross with a bullet header into the roof of the net in the 55th minute.

Santos said: "Obviously we are getting closer to the starting XI, but the most important thing is to feel that I have 23 players prepared to compete."

Portugal also face Iran and Morocco in their first-round group.

Unlike Santos' men, Iceland will not arrive in Russia on the back of a win.

They had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Ghana on Thursday, after a late equaliser by Thomas Partey in their final warm-up in Reykjavik.

But the Nordic nation gave indications that they will rely on their physique and set-piece prowess at the showpiece tournament.

Iceland took a sixth-minute lead when defender Kari Arnasson headed home a corner via a defender to put them ahead.

The hosts made it two before the break, Alfred Finnbogason nodding into an empty net after an attack that ended with Gylfi Sigurdsson's shot being palmed into his path by Ghana goalkeeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi.

But Iceland spent the second half absorbing massive pressure from Ghana and were pegged back by Kasim Nuhu and Thomas.

There were no such problems for Uruguay in Montevideo as they kept a clean sheet, beating Uzbekistan 3-0.

The win, against a side ranked 81 places below them at 95th in the world, was the third in a row for the South Americans. They have lost just once in their last nine games.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2018, with the headline 'Form 'far from ideal''. Print Edition | Subscribe