Football Features

‘Haaland will be licking his lips’ — Bernardo Silva backs up TOTY inclusion with double assist as Portugal brush past Czech Republic

By Ben Green

Published: 21:46, 9 June 2022

On a night where he was officially named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year Bernardo Silva produced a footballing masterclass to vindicate his selection in the division’s ultimate XI for 2021/22.

Portugal took on Czech Republic in their third Group A2 match of the 2022/23 Nations League season and the Selecao had few issues seeing off Jaroslav Silhavy’ side. In fact, they were refreshingly pleasing on the eye and authoritative as they collected a convincing three points.

Bernardo was the creative fulcrum in the heart of Fernando Santos’ midfield, orbiting the middle of the pitch with extreme fluidity and rhythm as he collected the ball and sprayed passes with metronomic accuracy, a common trait that is regularly exhibited for Manchester City.

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But, where Pep Guardiola gets a version of Bernardo who links play and flourishes in tight pockets of space, Portugal seem to get more of a playmaking force — with the diminutive midfielder registering an assist brace this evening, something he failed to do for City across 2021/22.

Both assists were simply mesmeric. His first to club-mate Joao Cancelo in the 33rd minute was his magnum opus from the Estadio Jose Alvalade tonight, collecting the ball on the right flank before jinking in-field and deceptively cutting the ball across to his onrushing team-mate.

Cancelo showed the shooting power and precision of a seasoned marksman to unleash a haymaker past Jindrich Stanek between the Czech sticks. But, Bernardo wasn’t done there, as five minutes later he teed up Goncalo Guedes to double Portugal’s advantage — it was also the Valencia man’s first international goal since 2019.

Again, the weight of pass, timing and vision of Bernardo’s ball was a sight to behold; the nonchalant manner in which he executed it made it look like he was having a kick about with his mates at the park, not in the presence of world class footballers on the global stage.

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Of course, this was a continuation of Bernardo’s form from his previous match against Switzerland, in which he once again set up Cancelo to hand Portugal a 4-0 win. Three assists in three Nations League games. He managed just four across the entire 2021/22 Premier League season for City.

It’s certainly a point Guardiola may want to consider ahead of the new campaign. He is blessed with an embarrassment of creative riches, but if he can get Bernardo, not only pulling strings and threading passes at the Etihad, but also producing silly assist numbers, they will be even more frightening (if that were even possible).

Erling Haaland will be licking his lips if he gets this version of Bernardo.