5 Lessons from Portugal's 3-2 Loss to Ecuador in Their International Friendly
In the midst of Wednesday's incredible lineup of international football, Portugal and Ecuador put on a show at the Estadio Dom Afonso Henriques.
When the dust had settled, host Portugal found themselves on the wrong side of a 3-2 scoreline.
While the loss may not be a costly one in terms of importance, it is yet another blow to the confidence of a side that is having a surprisingly difficult time in their World Cup qualifying group.
So what positives can one take away from Portugal's loss? And what can the side learn from the result?
Here are five lessons from Portugal's loss to Ecuador on Wednesday.
Ronaldo Is Indispensable
As if one didn't know it already, this match served to underscore the importance Cristiano Ronaldo has to this Portugal team.
Just a day after his 28th birthday, Ronaldo earned his 101st cap for his national team and celebrated with a first-half goal.
When the Real Madrid forward came off about an hour into the match, his side seemed to lose its drive and subsequently gave up the decisive goal.
It's never ideal for a national team to rely so heavily upon one player.
However, seeing as that player is Cristiano, maybe it's not such a risk.
Nani Can Still Contribute
Coming into this friendly match, an interesting subplot surrounding Portugal was Nani's performance.
The skill of the winger has never been in question. However, Nani has seemingly fallen out of favor at Manchester United and has made far fewer appearances for the club than he had in recent seasons.
Hence, supporters of Portugal were looking to see whether his club situation might impact Nani's play for his country.
Thankfully for A Seleção, the winger showed no signs of ill effects, making beautiful weaving runs and creating numerous chances, including the assist on Helder Postiga's goal against a tough opponent.
It looks safe to bet on Nani over the next year despite the tough time he's having at Old Trafford.
Eduardo Might Not Be the Answer
One of the more surprising decisions of the day for either side was Paulo Bento's choice to start Eduardo in goal.
Eduardo conceded just one goal in Portugal's run through the 2010 World Cup, yet has struggled on both club and international levels ever since.
After moving to Genoa, Eduardo quickly fell out of favor at the club and ended up losing his first-choice spot in Portugal to Rui Patricio, who started every match at Euro 2012.
In Wednesday's match, Eduardo showed signs of the rust one would have expected from lack of matches.
Both of Ecuador's first two goals came off of shaky play from the keeper, who misjudged a cross on the first and had a miscommunication with a defender on the second.
If there were any thought of switching from Rui Patricio to Eduardo, this match may make Bento think twice.
Strikers Are Still Frustrating
The striker position at Portugal has long been a source of frustration for supporters and fans of A Seleção.
Helder Postiga started the problems within the first minute, missing a clear-cut chance that he absolutely should have put away.
While Postiga may have atoned for that mistake with a goal later on, it is not the first time the Zaragoza striker has had a tough time with easier chances for his nation.
Portugal's substitute strikers were even more frustrating, with Eder, Danny, Nelson Oliveira and Silvestre Varela all failing to really get involved in the match or get a good chance.
Portugal will need to get more consistent play from one of these players if they hope to really challenge in the run to Brazil.
Defense Will Make This Qualification Process a Tough One
It's hard to draw too many conclusions from a friendly match with an opponent as good as Ecuador, but Portugal's defense showed the same lapses and issues that have caused the team trouble through the first part of World Cup qualifying.
Joao Pereira gave up that ridiculous own goal, Bruno Alves looked quite shaky, and Fabio Coentrao, despite showing some great signs going forward, didn't help much down the left.
The only glimmers of light from the match were the fine display by Neto and the fact that Pepe were missing.
If things don't improve in the back four soon, A Seleção could be watching the tournament at home.