The host nation gave their illustrious opponents a real scare after substitute Stuart Holthusen netted a 64th-minute equaliser to cancel out Raphael Guzzo’s 22nd-minute opener at the Waikato Stadium, in Hamilton. But Sporting CP winger Gelson Martins produced a sublime late winner to earn the Portuguese a crack at Brazil in the quarter-finals.
“It’s disappointing,” said New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley, quoted on stuff.co.nz. “To have a game like that and come up against a very, very good team in Portugal; to compete and have some possession and have some build-up, to not get over-run.
“We had that moment, we scored that goal and we were back in the game. For 10 or 15 minutes the crowd got behind us, but to then concede in the 87th-minute- it knocked the stuffing out of us.”
Bazeley’s team had qualified for the knock-out stages after a 5-1 victory over Myanmar in their final group match took them through as one of the best third-place finishers. Portugal, meanwhile, had topped their group convincingly after beating Senegal 3-0, Qatar 4-0 and Colombia 3-1.
The Junior All Whites initially surprised the Portuguese with their formation – Bazeley opting to play three central defenders, plus wing-backs, with three in midfield and two up front. But Portugal soon gained the ascendancy, and took the lead when Benfica’s Guzzo turned past Moses Dyer before finding the bottom corner.
Andre Silva missed an inviting chance to double Portugal’s lead when he over on the hour mark, and Holthusen then sent New Zealand’s supporters wild when he fired past Andrew Moreira to equalise just minutes after coming on. The host nation pushed forward with purpose for the next 15 minutes – but with only four minutes remaining Martins dummied his way past one defender before unleashing a fierce shot into the far corner from the edge of the penalty area.