Croatia 2-3 Portugal

The Seleção rounded off their Nations League campaign with a 3-2 win against Croatia in Split, in a matched marked by a poor playing surface and defensive mistakes from both teams.

The home side took a first-half lead through Mateo Kovacic, but the game changed when Croatia’s Marko Rog picked up a second yellow card and was sent off shortly after the break. Two quick goals followed for Portugal through Dias and João Félix, but a fine strike by Kovacic seemed to have earned Croatia a draw.

Rúben Dias had other ideas. The Manchester City defender, who had never previously scored for his country, showed good awareness to notch his second goal of the game with a last-minute winner. 

Santos rings the changes

Fernando Santos switched things up after Saturday’s defeat to France, bringing in Nélson Semedo, Mário Rui, Rúben Semedo, João Moutinho and Diogo Jota, respectively for João Cancelo, Raphael Guerreiro, José Fonte, William Carvalho and Bernardo Silva.

There was no noticeable improvement in the first half from the weekend game, with Portugal playing with none of the dynamism that had characterised their earlier matches in the competition, not least against the same opponent in a thumping 4-1 win in Lisbon in September.

The heavy pitch was a contributing factor, with both teams finding it hard to get passing combinations going. It was Croatia who struck first. A poor clearance from Rúben Semedo led to a low cross with Kovacic first to reach it. Rui Patrício made a fine reaction save to repel his initial effort, but the Chelsea midfielder made no mistake with the rebound.

Portugal responded with Danilo and Felix efforts, but Croatia went into the break with their lead intact.

Turning point

In the 51st minute Marko Rog tripped up Ronaldo from behind leading the referee to brandish a second yellow card to him and the subsequent red, and from the resulting free kick the Seleção immediately took advantage of more bodies in the box. Ronaldo’s fierce free kick was athletically kept out by Livakovic, but as the ball looped into the air Portugal’s two centre-back Rúbens combined, Semedo doing well to tee up Dias to score from close range.

The turnaround was soon complete, although Croatia could justifiably feel aggrieved at the manner of the goal. Diogo Jota raced onto a ball over the defence, clearly controlling it with his hand, albeit inadvertently, then teed up João Félix whose scuffed shot found its way into the corner of the net. With no VAR, the goal stood despite strong protests from Croatia’s players.

A man up and a goal up, Portugal looked set for a calm stroll to victory, but Croatia showed spirit to draw level. Rúben Semedo was again passive in his defending, with Kovacic needing no second invitation to fire a fine finish into the bottom corner from the edge of the box to make it 2-2.

Trincão lively

Half-time substitute Francisco Trincão was seeing plenty of the ball and using it well. The Barcelona youngster had one goal-bound effort deflected over the bar and later showed tremendous skill to beat two defenders and set himself for a shot but hit his effort wide.

When the Croatia goalkeeper saved Trincão’s next effort Bernardo Silva seemed certain to score from the rebound, but the Manchester City man’s shot bounced into the ground and marginally over the bar.

Portugal’s late pressure told and again it was a defensive blunder that led to the goal. Croatia goalkeeper Livokovic collided with Lovren when attempting to catch a cross, dropping the ball, and the alert Dias swivelled swiftly to score his second goal of the match and give the Seleção victory.

By Tom Kundert

Portugal: Patricio, Nélson Semedo, Rúben Semedo, Rúben Dias, Mário Rui (João Cancelo, 71’), João Moutinho, Danilo Pereira (Sérgio Oliveira, 77’), Bruno Fernandes (Trincão, 46’), Diogo Jota (Paulinho, 77’), Cristiano Ronaldo, João Félix (Bernardo Silva, 71’)

 

Comments (19)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I refrained from posting against the France match due to a lot of overreactions. While France played better, Portugal seemed to have an off night (happens to any team on any night)

All in all, it was a very good game by Portugal. the confusion...

I refrained from posting against the France match due to a lot of overreactions. While France played better, Portugal seemed to have an off night (happens to any team on any night)

All in all, it was a very good game by Portugal. the confusion that plagued them with France seemed to go away. Let’s not kid ourselves though. We need to find a proper CB when Pepe retires. I thought it would’ve been Ferro, but that’s not looking too well. Maybe Danilo? I haven’t seen much of him since his PSG move. Ruben Semedo is NOT the guy the partner with Dias. We need someone else. On the other hand - WHY doesn’t Mario Rui start?! Much more reliable defensively than Cancelo.

I honestly think it’s time to start dropping Bernardo Silva from an automatic spot. I get that he had a great ascension years ago, but I find that I’m always wanting more from him when he plays for the National Team. Again, might be me, but I find that his play is frustrating. Portugal has to play a 4-3-3 hybrid, and I prefer a Danilo-Sanches/B.Fernandes-William trio. I like Jota and Felix up top with Ronaldo. That trio is spicy.

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Hi All, I live in the US. Does anyone know how I can watch the under 21 game tomorrow?

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Which one is that? I thought it was a wrap with the Cyprus game? Either way, I saw that ESPN was telecasting them, but when I checked, I did not see any of the U21 games (not just Portugal's.) If you find an American carrier, let me know. !

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Just saw that it's 1-1 at half against the Dutch..

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It’s easy to beat Portugal now. All you have to do is be first on the ball (intensity) and put two players on whoever has the ball (confinement).

I was just as frustrated with this game as I was with France.

Where was the Portugal that beat...

It’s easy to beat Portugal now. All you have to do is be first on the ball (intensity) and put two players on whoever has the ball (confinement).

I was just as frustrated with this game as I was with France.

Where was the Portugal that beat Croatia and held their own against France? They seemed complacent and out of ideas.

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Lmao, again, overreaction! Portugal missing their best defensive players (Pepe and William) and people are back to doubting the National Team.

One bad game and people are throwing in the towel.

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laugh all you want, we struggle when disciplined teams react faster and pressure, we have no strategy for that. We need the goalie as the eleventh man and cross wishful balls into a box we get to only in the dying hours.

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Sorry, John, I disagree.

Overreactions are warranted when the game turns out the way it did. We looked completely outclassed the second game against France when the first game was a toss up...even then, during that 1st game, we played...

Sorry, John, I disagree.

Overreactions are warranted when the game turns out the way it did. We looked completely outclassed the second game against France when the first game was a toss up...even then, during that 1st game, we played conservatively...

When is Santos going to stop playing scared against bigger teams like France and Italy?

We have scored a total of 2 goals against those teams in 5 games? Germany, even in their current state, will probably beat us considering our abysmal record against them.

I was ripping my hair out when the first 45 minutes revolved around us letting France dictate play, scared to play them, sitting back...allowing the number 1 team to out-play us.

This is a common occurrence with the conservative nature of Santos. Does someone at the FPF or the players tell him enough is enough? Or do we just keep ignoring this fact and keep him on board and allow him to potentially ruin 2 tournaments we can win because we have the attacking flair to do so?

I love Santos for what he has done for us over the past 5 years, but when do we say that he does not understand he has keys to the Ferrari?

Not to mention our offense was ZERO creative...how many times did France know we were going to knock the ball in towards the middle hoping that Ronaldo, covered by 5 people, was going to get something on it?

Also makes me realize that someone needs to speak with Ronaldo and tell him this doesn't win tournaments and maybe a group, team effort is the only thing that will work. His stats and his shots will have to take a back seat.

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Does your logic apply to Germany who just for smoked 6-0 by Spain? Or just Portugal losing to the best team in the world? Germany should BLOW IT ALL UP, EVERYONE FIRED!!

Santos played scared when he won the Euro? Or the Nations League last time...

Does your logic apply to Germany who just for smoked 6-0 by Spain? Or just Portugal losing to the best team in the world? Germany should BLOW IT ALL UP, EVERYONE FIRED!!

Santos played scared when he won the Euro? Or the Nations League last time around? Did he play scared when he played an 18 year old as a central mid at the Euros? When he made every single correction to the squad after every lost or hiccup? Removing Vieirinha, adding Guereiro. Sticking with Eder when all the "fans" wanted him dead. Same for Patricio, Quaresma, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix. Consistently rewards excellence like Rueben Dias, Trincao, Andre Silva. Has always fixed and tinkered and always played the best players.

So Portugal cant beat France consistently let me know who can, Ill wait....

Let me know how many teams dominate France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Brasil. Ill wait.

Keys to a ferrari? Like say a squad with Ronaldo, Figo, Joao Pinto, Rui Costa, Conceicao, Paulo Sousa, Miguel, Capucho, etc? Like those guys who won....nothing. Like that?

I shouldnt have to say this but at this level playing balls to the wall will get you shredded vs France. Absolutely wrecked.

Portugal had their chances and missed. France didnt miss and played all around better. it happens, this isnt a video game.

Pray with me for patience John.

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The pitch was very very bad. Players were slipping all over the place and the ball could hardly roll on the pitch. Because of the poor condition of the pitch, both teams could not play a fluid and productive football.

Portugal was the clear...

The pitch was very very bad. Players were slipping all over the place and the ball could hardly roll on the pitch. Because of the poor condition of the pitch, both teams could not play a fluid and productive football.

Portugal was the clear winner tonight, but we were lucky with the second and third goals. VAR would have cancelled the second goal. While on the other hand, if VAR was there, Ronaldo could have a penalty from the knock he got on the head from Lovren. Ronaldo could hardly dribble pass a defender now. It was evident in the France match too. His age seems to creep onto him now.

I don't fully blame Ruben Semedo for Croatia's first goal. To me, I think he did an okay job. Nelson Semedo was brilliant as always. On the other hand, I was not impressed with Mario Rui. He could not cross the ball at all. Subbing him for Cancelo was the right choice. Also, subbing Bruno Fernandes at halftime was the right decision. As always, his game was very unconvincing. Joao Moutinho had a better game than him in the last two matches.

Now, let's say goodbye to Jose Fonte and call up David Carmo from Sporting Braga. David Carmo has a very bright future. He could play for Manchester United very soon. He is tall. I think he has a good football IQ. His long-range pass is very good. He could be the future of Portuguese football.

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PLEASE let this be the last of the Ruben Semedo experiment. He was never good enough to be selected in the first place, hopefully Santos has opened his eyes to see that he’s terrible.

Danilo HAS to be the 3rd CB behind Pepe and Dias. He plays...

PLEASE let this be the last of the Ruben Semedo experiment. He was never good enough to be selected in the first place, hopefully Santos has opened his eyes to see that he’s terrible.

Danilo HAS to be the 3rd CB behind Pepe and Dias. He plays that position for PSG, let him do it for the National team. We already have 2 other DMs in William and Neves anyway. 4th choice will still be Fonte as Santos will never drop one of his veterans but I’d still like to see Duarte given one more chance and Ruben Vezo to get an opportunity.

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How has he been doing with PSG?

I’ve been hoping for one of Ruben Vezo, Domingos Duarte, Ferro, etc. as the years have been going by. It seems like nobody has taken the next step into their development

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Could be worse. Think about Germany and Spain playing in a must win game and the final score is 6-0.

This game, had no passion because there was nothing to play for. The biggest mistake was not starting the majority of our substitute players...

Could be worse. Think about Germany and Spain playing in a must win game and the final score is 6-0.

This game, had no passion because there was nothing to play for. The biggest mistake was not starting the majority of our substitute players to get some real playing time (Andorra is not an opponent to assess players). Then Santos could throw in a few veterans at the end of the game to give them their caps.

Let's be a little level-headed here. We have elite players and a coach who has shown he can switch systems/styles.

In terms of a Pepe replacement, what is the word on Braga's David Carmo (21 years). I sense he is getting a lot of attention these days.

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Whoever mentioned it first said it best. Age has creeped up on him understandably, but our young guys will never stop looking for him. A front three of Felix, Jota, and Bernardo is now our best. Too bad that will never happen.

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PAULO, try firestick. Follow medicalMD at YouTube

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Fonte and R.Semedo are two disasters waiting to happen. We can’t go into a tournament with these guys. Everyone has known for years the centerback position could come to bite us in the ass and yet Santos has done nothing to address it.
March...

Fonte and R.Semedo are two disasters waiting to happen. We can’t go into a tournament with these guys. Everyone has known for years the centerback position could come to bite us in the ass and yet Santos has done nothing to address it.
March friendlies should be used to try new CBs. Pepe, Dias, Danilo, should be guaranteed then call up any of Vezo, Carmo, Oliveira, Leite. Just stop using Fonte and Semedo. They will be our undoing if they see the field in a tournament.

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Even I wasn't interested in watching this match after the loss against France. The team is pretty much work in progress. Players have a lot to learn, especially about the effectiveness and efficiency. Some impressive performance in the early...

Even I wasn't interested in watching this match after the loss against France. The team is pretty much work in progress. Players have a lot to learn, especially about the effectiveness and efficiency. Some impressive performance in the early stages of tournament, and the neutral fans kept hyping up our team in their Tweetlands. With all due respect to Santos, he should prepare the team better against the Giants like Spain, France etc. In the WC 18, we started bright against Spain and once Spain found their opening, we were chasing ghosts for the next 1 hr. I don't care much about the WC 18 though, as some of our players were either out of form or newcomers. I don't get the idea of starting both William and Danilo. In my opinion, William should be reverted back to the #6 role and Danilo either as CB or on the bench. This way, an explosive player like Renato Sanches will get his due opportunity to start in competitive games. Danilo is an excellent player, and when on form, I don't mind him starting over William. I don't know what happened to Bernardo Silva btw. He seems to have completely lost confidence. Is this the end of Bernardo before he ends up somewhere in Turkey or Greece, or can he regain his form back and become the player as we all expect him to be.

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