Portugal beaten 2-1 by Croatia in second friendly before Euro 2024

Portugal’s ambitions for the 2024 European Championship took a blow at Estádio Nacional where they suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Croatia.

Vitinha conceded an early penalty that Luka Modrić converted with confidence, Ante Budimir heading wide before break.

Roberto Martínez made four substitutions at half-time, his side equalising three minutes later when Nélson Semedo’s cross provided Diogo Jota with a tap in.

Croatia regained the lead in the 56th minute when Mario Pašalić rattled the bar, the ball bouncing back into play where Ante Budimir was first to react and head past Diogo Costa.

Vitinha’s deflected strike forced a save from Dominik Livaković but that was as close as the Seleção came to restoring parity, Luka Sučić unable to beat Costa with the last chance of the match.

The Seleção turn their attention to a final friendly against Republic of Ireland, the match taking place in Aveiro on Tuesday when Pepe, Rúben Neves and Cristiano Ronaldo are likely to get some playing time before the plane departs for Germany.

Modrić converts from the spot

Portugal bossed the ball until the 7th minute when Croatia took the lead. Vitinha’s late challenge on Mateo Kovačić resulted in a penalty, Luka Modrić stepping up and drilling the ball into the bottom corner.

Modrić fired wide and Lovro Majer saw his shot saved by Diogo Costa, the Seleção creating their first chance in the 17th minute. Bruno Fernandes found Bernardo Silva unmarked in the box, Joško Gvardiol doing well to get back and thwart the danger.

Gvardiol was making an impact at both ends of the pitch, getting into the box and stepping inside Diogo Dalot before his shot was deflected wide.

Gonçalo Ramos fired a difficult overhead opportunity over the bar, the most excitement for the crowd being the frequent Mexican waves making their way around Estádio Nacional.

Croatia continued to dominate with Andrej Kramarić and Gvardiol seeing their shots deflected wide. The visitors had a great chance to double their advantage before the break, Kramarić’s shot saved before Josip Stanišić found Ante Budimir who headed wide.

Bruno Fernandes missed the target in added time but Dominik Livaković had not been tested in goal.

Martínez makes his move

Roberto Martínez made four changes at the break with João Cancelo, Nélson Semedo, Diogo Jota and Rafael Leão replacing Diogo Dalot, Nuno Mendes, João Félix and Gonçalo Ramos.

It took just three minutes for Portugal to settle the score. Semedo got forward and raced onto Bernardo Silva’s pass, his cross evading the Croatian backline which allowed Jota to stroke the ball into an empty net.

Zlatko Dalić made his first changes in the 54th minute when Modrić, Majer and Kramarić made way for Mario Pašalić, Luka Sučić and Ivan Perišić.

Croatia regain the lead

Two minutes later Croatia regained their lead. Pašalić tried his luck from distance, the ball tipped off the bar by Costa and bouncing back into play where Budimir reacted first and headed into the net.

Leão sent João Cancelo clear but he was closed down before firing in anger, Bruno Fernandes then trying his luck with a long range strike that was deflected wide.

Budimir made way for Bruno Petković as the crowd cheered for Cristiano Ronaldo to be introduced, but the absence of the superstar warming up on the touchline was a clear sign that he wouldn’t be appearing off the bench.

Vitinha’s deflected strike forced a save from Dominik Livaković, Bernardo Silva the next player to see his shot take a touch and sail wide.

Pedro Neto replaced Bruno Fernandes which saw Bernardo Silva move into a central position. The changes kept coming with Nikola Vlašić and Luka Ivanušec replacing Brozović and Kovačić.

Plenty of Portuguese supporters were making an early exit with ten minutes remaining. Croatia went close to making it 3-0 when Sučić played 1-2's with Vlašić and Petković that sliced Portugal’s defence wide open, Sučić unable to beat Costa from close range.

Mateus Nunes replaced Vitinha with time running out and created an opportunity in added time, his cross spilled by Livaković before Rúben Dias’ follow up effort went straight at the goalkeeper.

Vlašić tested Costa at the other end which proved to be the final chance of the match, Croatia deserved winners in Jamor.


Roberto Martínez faced his toughest test after steering the Seleção to ten wins in the European Championship qualifiers. He made seven changes to the side that started against Finland with Diogo Costa, Diogo Dalot, Gonçalo Inácio, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, João Félix and Gonçalo Ramos coming in.

There were few positives to take away from the match. Portugal were carved up on multiple occasions in the first half, a big concern with João Palhinha, Vitinha and Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

Croatia's midfield were superior with Luka Modrić, Marcelo Brozović and Matteo Kovačić experienced and talented campaigners who helped their nation get to the 2018 World Cup final and 2022 World Cup semi-finals.

Martínez understandably made four substitutions at half-time and would have been pleased to see Semedo and Jota combine to equalise in the 48th minute. Chances were created, but the best fell to Croatia with Budemir heading wide from point blank range and Sučić 1 on 1 with Costa late on.

Portugal have now conceded eight goals in four friendlies and lost two of their previous three games, hardly encouraging performances with the European Championship starting next week.

Martínez repeatedly asserted that results are not the most important objectives in friendlies. While this is true, surely he would have hoped for better performances than the ones we saw in Slovenia and Jamor.

The Republic or Ireland await in the final friendly in Aveiro where Pepe, Rúben Neves and Cristiano Ronaldo will certainly get some minutes on the pitch. João Neves and Francisco Conceição will hope to be afforded some game time to impress before the plane takes off for Germany.

By Matthew Marshall at Estádio Nacional

Line Ups

Portugal (4-3-3): Diogo Costa - Diogo Dalot (Nélson Semedo 46’), Rúben Dias, Gonçalo Inácio, Nuno Mendes (João Cancelo 46’) - Bruno Fernandes (Pedro Neto 70’), João Palhinha, Vitinha (Matheus Nunes 84’) - Bernardo Silva, Gonçalo Ramos (Diogo Jota 46’), João Félix (Rafael Leão 46’)

Unused substitutes: Rui Patrício, José Sá, Pepe, António Silva, Danilo Pereira, Rúben Neves, João Neves, Francisco Conceição, Cristiano Ronaldo

Coach: Roberto Martínez

Croatia (4-3-3): D. Livaković - J. Stanišić, J. Šutalo, M. Pongračić, J. Gvardiol - L. Modrić (L. Sučić 54’), M. Brozović (N. Vlašić 74’), M. Kovačić (L. Ivanušec 74’) - A. Kramarić (I. Perišić 54’), A. Budimir (B. Petković 67’), L. Majer (Marco Pašalić 54’)

Unused substitutes: J. Juranović, B. Sosa, M. Erlić, D. Vida, N. Labrović, M. Pašalić, M. Pjaca, I. Ivušić, M. Baturina

Coach: Zlatko Dalić 


[0-1] L. Modrić 7’ P

[1-1] Diogo Jota 48’

[1-2] A. Budimir 56’