Portugal 4-1 Croatia

The Seleção put to bed whatever uncertainty there may have been about their potential without Ronaldo after a resounding victory over Croatia tonight at the Estádio do Dragão.

Portugal tirelessly pressured the visitors and were unlucky in the end not to turn a comprehensive victory into a full-on rout with only Petkovic's late goal in reply. 

João Félix and Diogo Jota both scored their first-ever goals for the Seleção while Francisco Trincão made his senior side debut.

Ever full of surprises, Fernando Santos handed the starting goalkeeper assignment to Anthony Lopes while Cancelo kept out Nélson Semedo at right-back. André Silva's return to form at the close of the 2019/20 season for Eintracht Frankfurt was not enough to convince Santos with Diogo Jota starting alongside João Félix as Ronaldo missed out due to a toe infection.

The first half was surprisingly good entertainment considering it had been nearly a year since Portugal last played a competitive match. Initially, play was tedious with both sides exchanging poor attempts inside the opening quarter hour through Vlasic and Danilo, respectively. 

But Cancelo gave a warning sign that this would be Portugal's half on twenty minutes when he deftly cut inside his marker and tested Livakovic with an outside-of-the-boot effort which was parried out for a corner.

After that, Portugal were all over Croatia.

First, João Félix hit the post following great build-up play, and Guerreiro was a bit unlucky to see his follow-up shot saved by Croatia's excellent keeper. Then Pepe was first to a well-delivered corner, but his towering header was somehow kept out by Livakovic. The rebound came back to Pepe, but this effort too was smothered out for a corner.

Minutes later, Diogo Jota, who was linking up well with Félix and Bernardo Silva, met a superb Bruno Fernandes cross with in an off-balanced, looping header which just caught the edge of the right upright. Shortly after, Guerreiro found space just outside the penalty area and let loose a shot which struck the left upright.

Portugal kept the pressure on and just when it looked as if it would be all square at the halftime break, Cancelo stepped up and crushed a sensational drive into the top left corner from 25 meters. It was just reward for a half in which Portugal bossed possession and racked up six shots on target in addition to striking the woodwork on three separate occasions. Croatia finally managed to get in a shot with a minute left in the half through Kramaric, but the rare effort only further emphasized Portugal's dominance to that point.

Portugal continued their patient but continuous probing in the second half. Bruno Fernandes combined well with Bernardo Silva and the former's shot was well-gathered by Livakovic. Croatia pushed forward, but Portugal countered with long passes to their speedy forwards, especially Jota. Raphael Guerreiro played in the Wolves striker just before the hour mark, and he duly justified his inclusion by stepping inside a defender and finishing into the opposite corner with conviction.

The Seleção continued to relentlessly pressure the Croatian defense each time they had the ball and it paid off again in the 70th minute when João Félix drove a hard shot past Livakovic that the beleaguered keeper might feel he should have kept out. Trincão made his debut in the 78th minute but Portugal had the match well in hand. 

Even a late Petkovic consolation could not dampen the mood as there was still time for substitute André Silva to bundle home Portugal's fourth of the night after a corner with the last kick of the game. It was a performance which will have inspired confidence in the legion of Portugal supporters all over the world.

After such a long interval it would have been expected for the squad to suffer from a lack of chemistry, but no such problems were apparent. Portugal controlled possession and registered 11 shots on goal compared to two for the visitors. Combination play between Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, and João Félix was far better than may have been anticipated, and even the final scoreline was perhaps merciful on Croatia with only the woodwork and Livakovic to thank for preventing further embarrassment.

The defense, meanwhile, was quietly effective at repelling any Croatian forays into the attacking third, blocking five shots and ultimately forcing Croatia into giving up possession throughout the match. Lopes was effective though rarely troubled, and Santos must be credited for his tactical preparations once again. In a match where most of Portugal's starting XI was very good, it must be said Bruno Fernandes was top with six key passes including an assist, three dribbles, four tackles, and four shots.

Portugal travel to Sweden on Tuesday, 8 September, ahead of France on goal differential in Group 3 of League A.

by Nathan Motz

 

Portugal XI: Anthony Lopes - Raphael Guerreiro, Rúben Dias, Pepe, João Cancelo - Danilo, Moutinho (Sergio Oliveira, 82'), Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva (Trincão, 78') - Diogo Jota, João Félix (André Silva, 88') 

Croatia XI: Livakovic - Barisic, Lovren, Vida, Jedvaj  - Kovacic, Brekalo, Vlasic, Pasalic, Rebic - Kramaric

 

Goals:

[1-0] - João Cancelo, 41'

[2-0] - Diogo Jota, 58'

[3-0] - João Félix, 70'

[3-1] - Petkovic, 90 + 1'

[4-1] - André Silva, 90 + 5'

Comments (23)

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Best Selecao performance against a quality side in quite some time. Yes, Croatia were far from their best and were without Modric and Rakitic, but I was still really impressed with how dominant we were from start to finish. Had we had a more...

Best Selecao performance against a quality side in quite some time. Yes, Croatia were far from their best and were without Modric and Rakitic, but I was still really impressed with how dominant we were from start to finish. Had we had a more clinical finisher like Ronaldo on the pitch, we realistically could have been 3 or 4-0 up at half time.

Joao Cancelo was superb, particularly in the first half. Still needs a bit of work on his defending, but I do not think there is another right-back on the planet who can provide that kind of offensive output, especially on the dribble.

Moutinho and Danilo were quietly excellent. Bossed the midfield from start to finish.

I was a little worried about playing without a proper goal scorer/out-and-out striker, and while we were wasteful with our chances in the first half, we had no problem creating them with the clever movement and interplay of Bernardo, Fernandes, Jota, and Felix.

At the end of the day, it was an excellent all around performance and the perfect way to start our nations league title defense. Sweden aren't quite as talented on paper as the Croatian side we faced today, but I expect them to be more organized defensively. Nevertheless, I still expect us to pick up the three points, especially if Ronaldo is deemed fit to play.

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The Good: A very nice win against a legitimately good team, ranked above us at #6 in the world(even though I don't think they are going to stay there long).

Concelo: Today, he was the best right back in the world. Shows he can play defense,...

The Good: A very nice win against a legitimately good team, ranked above us at #6 in the world(even though I don't think they are going to stay there long).

Concelo: Today, he was the best right back in the world. Shows he can play defense, along with being very good at the attack. He showed the world he deserves to be starting and not coming off the bench. He did tire at the very end, and was partially culpable for the Croatia goal.

Diogo Jota: Took his chance and looked very dangerous. He should get more looks especially when we are in the counter attack mode.

The whole team: I can finally sleep knowing we will be more than alright once Ronaldo is done. When Moutinho is your worst player, you are doing good. The movement and passing was great to watch, the beautiful game. I imagine Santos might go with the double pivot when in knockout games, but great to see what are attacking style looks like, second to none.

Could have score a quite a few more goals, but the goalkeeper and the post were strong today.

Forca Portugal!

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Team played as well as they could given their lack of time together. Joao Felix playing that false 9 was interesting. I’m on record here about Jota being the forward alongside Ronaldo and today is more or less what I envisioned he could do. Quite...

Team played as well as they could given their lack of time together. Joao Felix playing that false 9 was interesting. I’m on record here about Jota being the forward alongside Ronaldo and today is more or less what I envisioned he could do. Quite simply he’s a pest, he’s selfish, he has energy and athleticism that annoys defenders. I mentioned a few weeks ago that guys like him draw fouls around the box, ironically he almost won us a penalty. There’s a few things I don’t like, Pepe a few times showed his age, historically he had the pace to cover up his habitual ridiculous decision making but that’s no longer the case. One of the plays late in the game he tried a bicycle kick to clear the ball and it’s obvious that his only option was to do that because he’s to slow to be in the correct position to begin with. Anyways, no hate against Pepe because between him and Ricardo Carvalho I’d say we’ve never had anybody as solid and consistent as he has been, it’s just over with for him in my opinion. Second thing, Joao Moutinho doesn’t have to start games anymore, it’s not that he’s bad it’s just that he’s sort of pointless to play when Neves could do that job or Bruno Fernandes. Lastly my only other issue and I think it’s not really an issue because they haven’t played together but I really don’t like how our front 4-5 attacking players try and play cute all the time with little trick passes and extra lay offs etc. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love the flair of our team, I embody everything Portugal does as far as playing the beautiful game so well...I just think sometimes we think that we can literally pass and dribble the ball into the goal. I suppose that’s why I love a guy like Jota so much for this team. Oh yeah, Lopes player well, I have no idea if he’s better or worse than Rui Patricio but I guess that’s a good problem to have.

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Great analysis of Jota, he is a fearless pest.

Moutinho will probably go to the bench, with Bernardo dropping back and taking his place if Ronaldo is able to play with against Sweden. I have gotten to see a lot of Moutinho's games at the Wolves...

Great analysis of Jota, he is a fearless pest.

Moutinho will probably go to the bench, with Bernardo dropping back and taking his place if Ronaldo is able to play with against Sweden. I have gotten to see a lot of Moutinho's games at the Wolves and he is a class act. But with all of the other great midfielders we have, he was outshone today. But, it is great to know someone of his quality is on the bench. Can't forget his contribution in stealing the in-bounds pass and feeding Eder in France 2016.

Lopes seems more agile than Rui and looks better playing the ball at his feet, even though Rui has improved in that area, he is still weak and unsure. However, Rui has greater length and is a proven warrior. Like you said, great problem to have.

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I was unable to watch the game, does anyone know how I can watch it?!!

Please!!!!!

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You can watch it in the US on ESPN3.com. Just go to replays.

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Thank you, but I’m in Canada. I’m so willing to pay anything to see this game!

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In the USA, I am able to access the replay and watch it at: ESPN3

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It won’t play in Canada ☹️

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Great game all around. Unlucky not to have been a blow out.
A player who isn’t getting enough credit is Danilo. He’s been an absolute rock. I agree with the above comment about Moutinho. He shouldn’t be starting anymore. He should only come on...

Great game all around. Unlucky not to have been a blow out.
A player who isn’t getting enough credit is Danilo. He’s been an absolute rock. I agree with the above comment about Moutinho. He shouldn’t be starting anymore. He should only come on to close out games. Danilo and Neves should be the double pivot so when the full backs go forward they can sit back and help the centerbacks. I don’t get why Oliveira came on and not Rúben. Pepe’s age is something that concerns me. It doesn’t help that Fonte is only a couple of years younger. I wonder if the Euro had gone as planned if these two would still be with the NT or if their cycle would have come to an end.

Loved Felix finally getting the monkey off his back. Hopefully this will give him some much needed confidence. Great cameo by Trincão. Such a talented kid. Hoping he doesn’t get lost in the mess that is Barcelona.

If Ronaldo is fit for the next game I’d start him with André Silva and have Neves instead of Moutinho. Rest should stay the same.

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Santos will actually give some of the players who he calls up a cap. I think that is why he played Sergio. The game was in hand and Sergio is capable of holding his own, so it wasn't a super big risk. He has given many players there first call up...

Santos will actually give some of the players who he calls up a cap. I think that is why he played Sergio. The game was in hand and Sergio is capable of holding his own, so it wasn't a super big risk. He has given many players there first call up and has cap a lot of them. That gives the players hope and motivation to get and stay at the top level.

He even has called up and played players who were struggling with club play. That shows loyalty and I think that is one of the main reasons the National Team has been so effective. When these players get there form back, they should be willing to give the NT everything.

He even brought back few players that weren't going to play anymore, Quaresma, Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho, and Tiago Mendes.

That lets players know they are welcome if they can help. Of course I haven't always been convinced of the call ups and of the starters, but I am mostly satisfied will the results.

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Unsure if you watched the 2011 U-21 tournament, but Danilo really had the potential back then too - albeit he was still a raw project.

What's interesting to see against Croatia was him sliding back playing that defender role in case of Ruben or...

Unsure if you watched the 2011 U-21 tournament, but Danilo really had the potential back then too - albeit he was still a raw project.

What's interesting to see against Croatia was him sliding back playing that defender role in case of Ruben or Guerreiro went forward. Could there potentially be a Danilo-Dias partnership in the future? Speculating of course.

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Well played, Ronaldo's absence was felt as his power strike were needed.

The football kit & jersey was not impressive, require a make over.

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After watching some extended highlights, I realized just how well Jota played on both sides of the ball. I thought he was excellent when watching it live, but when given the opportunity to analyze various attacking sequences over the course of...

After watching some extended highlights, I realized just how well Jota played on both sides of the ball. I thought he was excellent when watching it live, but when given the opportunity to analyze various attacking sequences over the course of the match, you can really see just how intelligent and incisive he was with his movement and link-up play.

Felix is clearly a level above Jota in terms of his touch and vision, but I feel the Wolves man gives you a lot more off the ball, and this clever movement along with his superb work rate could really work well alongside Ronaldo - should he be deemed fit for the Sweden game.

Guerreiro can be a liability at left-back especially when left to defend one-v-ones (remember the Morocco game?) which is why it is vital that we have a hard-working left winger who is capable of tracking back and supporting the Dortmund man. Jota definitely has that quality, and that's certainly one of the reasons why Guerreiro was not once troubled defensively the entire game yesterday.

I understand the calls for Neves to start of Moutinho, but I'm honestly more than happy to see the old man get another start on Tuesday. He's only six caps away from overtaking Figo as the second most capped player in the history of the Selecao! I'd love to see him accomplish that feat before the start of the euros. He's never been the flashiest midfielder on the pitch, and he certainly doesn't have the some energy and dynamism of the Moutinho of old, but he's been a loyal servant of his country for quite some time now, so I think he deserves to remain in Santos' plans (perhaps not always as a starter) until he decides to hang up his boots. I don't think too many people will have wax lyrical about his Portugal career the way they talk about Eusebio, Figo, Ronaldo, etc but I'll always rank him as an absolute legend of the Selecao.

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Great analysis. Jota works hard on defensive for the Wolves, so I am glad it is transferring over.

A shout out to Felix for his clearance, he tracked all the way back and possibly save us a goal. When we attack and defend as a team, we don't...

Great analysis. Jota works hard on defensive for the Wolves, so I am glad it is transferring over.

A shout out to Felix for his clearance, he tracked all the way back and possibly save us a goal. When we attack and defend as a team, we don't need to be overly defensive.

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Have we ever seen such a hard working Portugal team? Midfield and forwards defending, defenders were attacking. They pressured Croatia every time Croatia had the ball. I just hope Portugal can play like this against France, Spain and any other so...

Have we ever seen such a hard working Portugal team? Midfield and forwards defending, defenders were attacking. They pressured Croatia every time Croatia had the ball. I just hope Portugal can play like this against France, Spain and any other so called bigger team. Credit to Fernando Santos for adapting the team according to the players at his disposal. Euro 2016 was all about solid defense with sprinkles of offensive flair. Can Euro 2020/Nation's League be the tournaments where we dominate teams and score beautiful intricate goals? I'd for sure go for some of that! Second person that needs credit is FPF president Fernando Gomes. It all starts at the top. He's presided over tournament wins such as Euro 2016, Nation's League, Euro Futsal, Beach World Cup, U19 Euro, U17 Euro, and Euro Beach Soccer League. It's astonishing how many tournaments Portugal has won over the last 5 years.

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@Jerrold Hewson

The game was played here in Canada on ABC. Check your local listings.

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Thank you, I found a way.

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“Today he had 60 or 70 minutes to watch how Sadio is doing and then he came on the pitch and did incredibly well. He scored a super goal, a nice first game at Anfield. He will never forget it, I will never forget it. A cool start.”

Jürgen Klopp
(Liverpool manager happy with Diogo Jota's debut) 

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