The Euro 2024 clash between Portugal and Slovenia culminated in a dramatic qualification for the favored Portuguese side, but not without unexpected twists and turns. Despite Portugal’s eventual triumph in the penalty shootout, their journey was anything but straightforward.


Heroics from Diogo Costa


Porto’s goalkeeper, Diogo Costa, emerged as the hero of the night. His remarkable performance during the penalty shootout was pivotal, as he denied every attempt from the Slovenian players.

Costa’s critical save in a one-on-one situation against Slovenia’s striker, Benjamin Sesko, in the dying moments of extra time, preserved Portugal’s chances and set the stage for their shootout success.


Portugal’s Offensive Struggles

Let’s take a look at Portugal’s offensive structure until their first substitution (Jota for Vitinha). We will examine their passing distribution in the following graph:

 Analyzing Portugal’s offensive structure up to their first substitution—Diogo Jota replacing Vitinha—reveals significant challenges. Despite dominating possession with nearly three times as many passes as Slovenia, Portugal struggled to penetrate dangerous areas and create scoring opportunities. Cristiano Ronaldo appeared disconnected from his teammates, while Bruno Fernandes found it difficult to impose himself on the game. Vitinha was the most active player in the offensive buildup, making his early substitution a questionable decision. Following his departure, Portugal managed only three accurate passes inside the penalty area.

The following graph proves Portugal’s dominance in the passing domain and Vitinha’s great influence in this area despite playing for just 66’.


Ineffectual Shot Creation

Portugal’s shot map tells a story of offensive inefficiency. They registered 15 non-penalty attempts over 120 minutes, but only seven were taken from inside the penalty area, with few clear-cut chances. This lack of sharpness in front of goal underscores their offensive woes on the day.

Slovenia’s Direct Approach

The Slovenian team proved they deserved their place in the second round, pushing Portugal to the very end. They exhibited tactical and defensive discipline, and Jan Oblak’s outstanding performance thwarted Portuguese attacks. Unfortunately for Slovenia, their efforts culminated in a loss during the penalty shootout against a solid Diogo Costa. Despite the defeat, Slovenia did not lose a single game in the tournament, drawing all four matches they played.


Slovenia’s game plan was clear and effective. They focused on a disciplined defensive setup, quick ball recovery, and direct counter-attacks. Their passing network, albeit limited, was highly strategic.


Cerin (22) was their linchpin in distribution, often initiating forward passes. Slovenia’s structure showed an unusual spacing between their central defenders and midfielders, reflecting their intent to quickly transition into attack. With only 155 completed passes until 74’ (approximately two per minute), and 73% of those directed forward, Slovenia’s direct approach was evident. They completed just five passes inside Portugal’s penalty area and managed to create just three chances from inside the box, with ten attempts overall.

A Heartbreaking Moment for Ronaldo


Despite his efforts, Cristiano Ronaldo could not carry his team through. His attempts were continually thwarted by the Slovenian defense, and the game will be remembered for the pivotal moment when his penalty was saved by Jan Oblak. This missed opportunity, which could have sealed Portugal’s qualification, led to a poignant scene with Ronaldo bursting into tears, a moment that will be etched in fans’ memories.

Another Twist: Sesko’s Golden Chance


But the game had another twist. After a mistake by Pepe, Benjamin Sesko found himself in a one-on-one situation with Diogo Costa. Costa’s exceptional save denied Slovenia a late winner, a moment that will surely be remembered with bitterness by every Slovenian fan.

Ronaldo & Sesko – The silent guns


Ronaldo and Sesko continued their goal drought despite their efforts and the huge chances to seal the game. Their role in the game was mainly to score but their approach in the game was different. Sesko had to fight, Ronaldo had to finish with quality.


Slovenia put up a resilient fight, effectively neutralizing Portugal’s offense and almost clinching a win in a game that will be remembered. Portugal now faces the challenge of improving their cohesion and efficiency, particularly ensuring Ronaldo can better connect with his teammates, as they prepare for their next match against France. Improved teamwork and sharper execution will be crucial for their success moving forward.



Dimosthenis Koukias


Ben Patrick


Karim Derouich