Even without the services of Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal stunned Italy with a 1-0 friendly victory Tuesday in Geneva. It marked the fifth Portuguese win in 25 all-time meetings against Italy, and the first in 39 years.
The Real Madrid superstar was rested after a long season in La Liga and in international competition, leaving Fernando Santos’ side without their top scoring threat. But forwards Eder and Ricardo Quaresma teamed up for an exhilarating strike seven minutes into the second half to hand Italy’s its first loss since the World Cup and under manager Antonio Conte.
Portugal keeper Beto also came up with six critical saves, including two last attempts by Italy in the closing seconds of extra time.
The Italian side was a bit shorthanded as well, with regular keeper Gianluigi Buffon sidelined by a knee injury and Paris Saint-Germain’s Salvatore Sirigu inserted in the lineup. He’d wind up with five saves, but could turn back the most important shot of the match.
It was a rough start for Portugal, who were sorely missing Ronaldo, and they didn’t manage a single shot until 31 minutes into the match.
But in the 52nd minute, Quaresma and Eder would hook up to turn the tide.
After deft and elusive dribbling by midfielder Eliseu to spring the quick attack and catch Italy off guard, the 31-year-old Porto regular Quaresma launched a well-synced cross from the left wing over the Italian defense to the sliding right foot of Eder for the 1-0 lead.
It’s the second international goal in 19 career appearances for Eder, and the win should bolster the confidence for the squad for the rest of the European qualifying rounds.
For the Azzuri, the loss could be attributed to a lack of quality opportunities. They came up with 15 shots, only four found their target while Italy’s top scorers, Andrea Pirlo, Ciro Immobile and Stephen El Shaarawy, combined for only three shots.