Following their triumph at Euro 2016, Portugal were favourites to beat Switzerland in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence.
However, the reigning European champions were beaten 2-0 at St. Jakob-Park in Basel, with the two goals scored in seven first-half minutes by Breel Embolo and Admir Mehmedi.
Embolo’s goal was caused by the Portuguese defence not reacting to quick enough to clear the second ball after Rui Patricio had saved a vicious Ricardo Rodriguez free-kick, but Mehmedi’s goal surely could have been prevented had William Carvalho worked harder in his attempts to track back.
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Portugal were in Switzerland’s penalty area, searching for the equaliser, when the hosts regained possession and launched a counter-attack.
Carvalho can be seen half-heartedly jogging back to his own half before inexplicably standing and watching as Mehmedi picks the ball up inside the box, turns and hits it into the back of the net. (Scroll down this page to watch the video).
Video: William Carvalho's 'tracking back' v Switzerland
Carvalho was subbed off at half-time
It was a laughable effort to track back from Carvalho, who was lucky that his manager didn’t castigate him in his post-match press conference.
Fernando Santos did, however, replace Carvalho with Joao Mario at half-time.
Even Yaya Toure would have been embarrassed with the defensive midfielder’s work-rate for Switzerland’s second of the night.
Santos: This cannot happen again
"We started the game well, we dominated the first 15, 20 minutes but then we were dazzled and were a bit pragmatic," Santos told RTP, per ESPN.
"We conceded in the only time that Switzerland was near our goal and afterwards we stepped back and allowed them to win individual battles -- the European championship has to be forgotten.
"We were not as strong as we usually are. We are in qualifying and that cannot happen."
Positives for Portugal
There were several positives for Santos, however, as Portugal dominated possession and had 20 shots at goal compared to Switzerland’s five.
"Trailing 2-0, I tried to change things, play with two strikers. We had chances to score, we could have created more," Santos added.
"In the latter stages, Switzerland just defended but we created some danger in the final minutes when we played with more heart.
"If we had scored a goal, we could have got back in the game."
Is William Carvalho one of the world’s best holding midfielders - or is he a bit overrated? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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