Portugal got the defence of their UEFA European Championship off to a frustrating start on Friday at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Ukraine in their Group B qualifying showdown.
The first period was a testing one for the home side, as Ukraine proved to be solid opposition. On a couple of occasions, Andriy Pyatov was forced into good saves from Cristiano Ronaldo, but overall the visitors were comfortable.
After the break, the match followed a similar pattern, with Pyatov making one especially excellent save from Andre Silva. Ukraine actually had the best chance to win the game late on, when Junior Moraes fired over after Rui Patricio parried a long shot back into a dangerous area.
Having won this competition in 2016, Portugal are expected to be contenders again next summer. Aside from Friday's opponents, they will be tasked with getting past Serbia, Luxembourg and Lithuania.
Ronaldo Needs More Help from Portugal's Creative Stars
On paper, the side selected by manager Fernando Santos was an attractive one for Portugal, with a number of excellent attacking players involved.
In midfield, Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves have excelled in tandem for Wolves in the Premier League, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva has arguably been one of the best players in the division. With Ronaldo at the point of the attack, goals looked guaranteed.
However, Portugal's creative stars found it a challenge to get into a groove throughout the game. As the match rumbled on, the lack of rhythm in their approach play forays saw Ronaldo drop deeper in an attempt to get on the ball and make things happen himself.
Subsequently, Portugal lost their shape, and while Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro raided down the flanks with regularity from full-back, they were unable to provide the kind of delivery to release Ronaldo in dangerous areas.
When Santos steered Portugal to victory in this competition in 2016, the blueprint was dependent on a strong defence and Ronaldo providing stardust. With so much quality available to him in the final third, it makes sense to adopt a more attacking approach in the coming months—but on this evidence, it may take time to click into gear.
On Monday, Portugal will host Serbia, who are set to be their biggest rivals for top spot in the group. Ukraine will be the favourites when they travel to Luxembourg.