Renato Sanches made his debut for Portugal today in a surprisingly exciting match against the ultimate Euro underdog, Iceland. Coming on for João Moutinho in the 71st minute, with the score at 1-1, the eighteen-year-old prodigy is the youngest Portuguese player ever to play in an international tournament.
Sanches quickly became involved in the action at both ends of the pitch, clearing the ball from danger before initiating attacks. He repeatedly drove the ball forward from deep in Portugal’s half, feeding it to the wings in the hope of breaking down Iceland’s stout defense. Not all was rosy, though, as on one occassion Iceland’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson outdribbled him before launching an unlikely attack forward.
Sanches was integral to Portugal’s offense as they sought a late go-ahead goal. Around 85’, he delivered a very promising cross across Iceland’s goal, but none of his teammates could connect. In the final minute of regulation time, Sanches delivered a beautiful long pass right to Cristiano Ronaldo lurking in front of the Iceland’s goal. Unfortunately, the ball slipped by just overhead, and an offsides call killed the play. The Northmen would frustrate all of his and Portugal’s efforts.
While Sanches certainly must have imagined his debut differently, there is much more soccer to be played before his tournament is over. At just eighteen, Sanches undoubtedly has a bright future ahead of him, and he definitely showed that he deserves to be a first choice off the bench for Portugal going forward. Today, however, would belong to the plucky side from Iceland that snatched a point from one of the better international sides in Europe.