Portugal 1-0 Croatia

Portugal are into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016! In an incredibly tense match of few chances, a late breakaway goal by Ricardo Quaresma sent the Seleção players and supporters into ecstasy.

After an evenly contested 90 minutes, with Pepe for Portugal and Vida for Croatia coming close to scoring with headers, it was Croatia who had the better of extra time.

An intense spell of pressure from Ante Cacic's side saw one effort rebound off the post, but immediately Portugal broke brilliantly as a move involving Renato Sanches, Nani and Ronaldo ended with Quaresma heading in from point-blank range.

 

On-the-whistle audio report

 

Portugal 1-0 Croatia

In dramatic fashion, Portugal won their first match of Euro 2016. Renato Sanches, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ricardo Quaresma linked up to steal victory from the jaws of defeat with a sweeping counter-attack just minutes before the end of extra time.

The pressure was felt as soon as the Hungary game ended: Portugal barely made it out of the group with less quality in the tournament and now was time to regroup and focus in overcoming a very good Croatia side. In the first do or die situation for the Quinas side, Santos made several changes and brought into the field what is - to me - the best eleven to start matches with. Cedric, a "true full back" came in to shore up our backline, just like Fonte was positioned alongside Pepe instead of Carvalho. After three performances from Moutinho that didn't show us the top class midfielder he can be, Adrien - perhaps the center midfielder that got to the tournament in best form - came into the eleven alongside his Sporting teammates. In the red and white shirts many were expecting Kalinic to start out up front after his brilliant display against Spain but Mandzukic was still the choice, most likely with the intention of being an aerial threat –  one of, if not the biggest, weakness of this backline.

Early on most people were already aware that this match was going to be very different to the group stage ones. The quality was on par between the two sides and Portugal was going to be continuously in control of the match, relentlessly creating chances. In fact the team had the tendency to sit deep the first handful of minutes, letting the Croatians take over possession and control the match. The first play built from the back by Santos’s side only happened around minute 17. With a very low amount of chances throughout the first half (well…throughout the match to be fair), the enthusiasm around this game slowly died down but fans in both sides were sure their team was going for the goal in the second half when they saw the half-time result being 0-0. A header by Pepe that went over the bar and a shot wide from Perisic – who had a relentless first 45’ – were the only highlights. Ronaldo and Nani didn’t get much into the game, having trouble to get in behind Vida and Corluka, while André Gomes seemed a bit sluggish and out of pace with the match. But unlike what happened while facing Hungary, Portugal played a top notch first half defensively. Fonte was on point, William had a positive performance and Adrien’s pressure on Modric was imperative to the team’s success. When it came to transitional play, Guerreiro – to me the best in the first half and one of the best on the pitch tonight – was always the one dragging the team forward with his runs, with and without possession, through the wing or in diagonal movements.

Personally I was more than pleased with Portugal’s defensive performance against such a strong side but we weren’t pulling enough of the strings in the match to get a win out of this one. Often sitting back too much, without enough of Adrien and João Mário on the ball, without enough width on Cedric’side or combinations between our offensive talents. Renato, Uefa’s Man of the Match, came to change a lot of the game’s nature in the second half but there was still a lot to be corrected. Bringing to the game a pacey presence through the middle that Gomes didn’t offer, the side switched into more of a 4-3-3 to “accommodate” the Bayern star. With this João Mário got “lost” too far from the ball out wide and Quaresma was the chosen one to substitute him. 

As time went by, the fear of conceding a late goal took over both sides who were clearly into the idea of extra-time. Portugal’s chances in the second half add up to a grand total of zero. Nani had his worst match so far, appearing lost in between the Croatian center backs, and Ronaldo didn’t take a single shot (you read that right, it happens, it’s okay).The side just didn’t seem to want to risk it and the best chances – not like they were many – went to Croatia with Vida spelling trouble every time he rose for a header. Pepe was poor on the ball and had a couple of scares but nothing that threatened the 0-0 that took this uneventful match to extra-time. The first 15’ were a bit more high paced than the rest of the match so far but without much end product yet again. Portugal made a few more combinations on the wing that resulted in a whole lot of nothing and Brozovic moved into more central terrain to create a couple of somewhat dangerous plays. It felt like the Portuguese crowd was seeing those penalties coming and when Vida went close with a header in the second half of extra-time, they sure wished for the 120’ to be over then and there. Luckily Portugal came out of that play living (Vida = life, for the couple of you who aren’t aware) and Danilo replaced Adrien in midfield shortly after. Fernando Santos wished for a Portuguese goal but couldn’t risk conceding one and while the team’s defensive efforts were impressive, spaces slowly appeared over time. The clock was ticking and Perisic went so, so close. As the curtains closed, a break from Renato followed by an outside the foot pass by Nani and a shot from Ronaldo gave us the thing we couldn’t get all match: a chance to score. And while the captain’s effort was followed by a Subotic save, the rebound turned in by Quaresma gave Portugal the tickets to the quarter-finals.

In a match where Portugal needed to show a different side of themselves, they did exactly that – in a positive and negative sense. “The” eleven seems to have been found and defensively it was a very sound match by the men in green. With that said, today the will to take over and create, the will to take risks and shape up the match to our demands didn’t show and that will mandatory for the next one. To close this piece let’s all remind ourselves of what we learned today: the luck that Portugal didn’t have in certain group stage affairs was “repaid” in a lot of moments today. Thursday it’s a clean slate, let’s see what our boys can pull off.

By Tiago Estêvão



Portugal: Patrício, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, William, Adrien, João Mário, Gomes, Nani, Ronaldo

Croatia: Subotic, Srna, Vida, Corluka, Strinic, Badelj, Modric, Rakitic, Brozovic, Perisic, Mandzukic

Goals: 

[1-0] Quaresma, 117’

 

 

Comments (22)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Not a bad game, happy that Portugal won, but feel so so sorry for Croatia. Such a poor Round of 16 game. Would have been a better Quarter final game. Hate seeing a good team go home early, sadness is seeing your favorite player Luka Modric cry
P...

Not a bad game, happy that Portugal won, but feel so so sorry for Croatia. Such a poor Round of 16 game. Would have been a better Quarter final game. Hate seeing a good team go home early, sadness is seeing your favorite player Luka Modric cry
Portugal have got to go all the way now.

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Chris
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Completely crappy soccer game. But if that's the only way I'll ever see Portugal lift a trophy, I'll take three more of those sil vous plait. Nice team goal. MOM - Fernando Santos, close second - CR7 - for not whining for 120 minutes (a first)...

Completely crappy soccer game. But if that's the only way I'll ever see Portugal lift a trophy, I'll take three more of those sil vous plait. Nice team goal. MOM - Fernando Santos, close second - CR7 - for not whining for 120 minutes (a first) and not trying to win it on his own. And by the way, I'm the real David Silva, not that Spaniard in Man. City.

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David Silva
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Man, that was one terrible game. I certainly appreciate the need to play a different brand of football than they did vs Hungary but the quality from both sides was awful. Crosses, passes, runs, all terrible. Ronaldo's shot that led to the goal...

Man, that was one terrible game. I certainly appreciate the need to play a different brand of football than they did vs Hungary but the quality from both sides was awful. Crosses, passes, runs, all terrible. Ronaldo's shot that led to the goal looked like he had nothing left. I hope we can chalk this up to tired legs but with comments from Quaresma about playing future games like this, we will be the Greece of Euro 2016. I know many will say, if thats what it takes to win then lets do it but tactics aside, there didn't seem to be the effort to try and win, even Ronaldo passed up a shot in the box twice! I love what Renato Sanches brings to this side but hes still raw so everyone needs to settle down on trying to convince Santos to get him to start. He is an off the bench injection of life like he was today, lets keep it that way. I like our changes against Poland! Forca Portugal!

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Jon
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WOW! While the neutrals have been complaining Fernando Santos' "negative" tactics, you certainly can't argue that they weren't effective. This was the exact opposite of the Hungary match: Pragmatic, tactically discipline, organization, and...

WOW! While the neutrals have been complaining Fernando Santos' "negative" tactics, you certainly can't argue that they weren't effective. This was the exact opposite of the Hungary match: Pragmatic, tactically discipline, organization, and clinical finishing. I would have obviously preferred to have seen a more proactive approach, but the three points is all the counts.

Many of us were calling for a back for of Pepe, Fonte, Cedric, and Guerreiro at the start of the tournament and boy have we been proven right. Pepe (who looked uncharacteristically shaky in the group stage) was absolutely immense alongside the very impressive Jose Fonte. Guerreiro was superb yet again and Cedric remarkably managed to keep Perisic (in my opinion the player of the tournament) in his pocket throughout the entire match.

William and Adrien didn't offer too much on the ball, but they completely nullified to of the best midfielders in Europe in Modric and Rakitic. Joao Mario was neat, tidy, and intelligent, and Renato Sanches, though sloppy at times, was completely dominating the midfield with extraordinary stamina and sheer athleticism -- not to mention his trademark driving run in the build up to the winner.

Ronaldo and Nani saw very little of the ball, but worked tirelessly throughout. They also combined beautifully to create what proved to be the winner. Quaresma was in the right place at the right time to score one of the least impressive, yet most important goals of his career!

Poland certainly won't be easy as they possess one of the best defenses in the tournament, but if we play to the best of our abilities we have every chance of marching our way to the final.

FORCA PORTUGAL!!!!!!!

CONTRA OS CANHOES MARCHAR, MARCHAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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jon/usa
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WOW! What a finish! A boring tight match, that paid off in the end. A lot of fans here were calling for Renato Sanches, and our victory today was driven by him. His bold runs, especially on the counters cause problems. Nani did an excellent pass....

WOW! What a finish! A boring tight match, that paid off in the end. A lot of fans here were calling for Renato Sanches, and our victory today was driven by him. His bold runs, especially on the counters cause problems. Nani did an excellent pass. Ronaldo a good hard shot and finally, Quaresma kept his run going to be at the right place at the right time. Quite a bit of luck, but when you attack good things happen. Literately all of our attacking players at the end were involved in the game. When Santos put in Danilo, to have two defensive mids, I knew our only shot was going to be a speed counter.

Props to Santos for bringing in fresh legs of Cedric, Fonte and Silva. And bringing back Rafa G. at left back.

I expect another tight game against Poland, who hadn't conceded until that awesome Shaqiri goal. But we have Quaresma for the crazy goals.

Forca Portugal!

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Paulo
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With this kind of luck we're sure to win this tournament. Let me quote you one of the comments from a Canadian match commentator: "this is one of the worst international games ever." Lol, who cares, we won!

Fernando Santos finally came to his...

With this kind of luck we're sure to win this tournament. Let me quote you one of the comments from a Canadian match commentator: "this is one of the worst international games ever." Lol, who cares, we won!

Fernando Santos finally came to his senses with regard to team selection, when Renato Sanches came on early in the second half the team lineup I wished for was complete. This is the defensive lineup we have to play with and Renato Sanches has to start with the Sporting midfield.

Ronaldo wasted most of the game waiting for a ball he wasn't going to get. I was saying to my father, why doesn't he go back into the midfield to help form triangles with his teammates in order to move the ball and sure enough one of the few times he came into his own half he was able to start the attack that led to the goal. He is not fit, no matter what he or Fernando Santos tells you.

It will be an Iberian final and Portugal will win its first major tournament.

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Mario
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I am so happy and exhausted that Portugal won this match. However I disagree with the praise for Santos. Yes he finally got the back 4 right, Fonte or Carvalho for me is fine. We did not give any high pressure at all. We were dominant in the...

I am so happy and exhausted that Portugal won this match. However I disagree with the praise for Santos. Yes he finally got the back 4 right, Fonte or Carvalho for me is fine. We did not give any high pressure at all. We were dominant in the first half and with some high pressure we would have won this game a lot easier and would have given us the fans, some stress relief. Croatia is not Spain, Germany, or France and yet we defended and played as if we were playing them. WE HAVE BETTER PLAYERS THAN CROATIA SANTOS!! Was it not evident today? I thought so. This game could have been had early on if we pressured them high. I know we won and yes I would take a EURO trophy playing like Greece, however we are not Greece, we have better players and my heart can't take this s*** anymore. I hope we dont defend against Poland, lets go out there and take it to them. I think we have seen enough from Andre Gomes, Sanches needs to start. Please lets keep rolling Portugal.

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Wes
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I give Santos credit. I had questioned him, but he was spot on. His changes were effective. Fonte in with quicker forwards, Cedric in and he keeps Perisic quiet. It was brave to give Adrien first action of tourney, but he helped keep Modric...

I give Santos credit. I had questioned him, but he was spot on. His changes were effective. Fonte in with quicker forwards, Cedric in and he keeps Perisic quiet. It was brave to give Adrien first action of tourney, but he helped keep Modric quiet. I think he and Sanches have to keep spot over Moutinho. I think he'll have different tactics with Poland, hopefully with more possession it won't be a nail biter.

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Craig
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Santos got it spot on for the first time in the tournament. That defense is exactly what we've wanted and it payed off. Raphael again didn't put a foot wrong. Our best player in this tournament. Pepe what a beast. Cédric better have gained his...

Santos got it spot on for the first time in the tournament. That defense is exactly what we've wanted and it payed off. Raphael again didn't put a foot wrong. Our best player in this tournament. Pepe what a beast. Cédric better have gained his spot after this performance. Fonte was amazing. I would stick with this defense for Poland.

Quaresma. The most amazing of supersubs. I'm glad he's finally getting his due credit. He deserves it.

What I wasn't impressed by was our inability to come close to their net. Seemed like every time we would get close we'd get scared and pass it backwards. It was frustrating. We need to play more attack minded versus Poland. I hope Santos doesn't put Moutinho back in the lineup. Also it's clear to everyone that Andre Gomes isn't fit. This is the second game now where he plays and isn't 100%. Let the man rest Santos!
-------------Rui Patricio--------------
Cédric ---Pepe---Fonte---Guerreiro
J.Mario---Danilo---Renato/Adrien---Rafa
---------Nani--------Ronaldo----

Rafa should be used for this game. Poland aren't as much of a threat as Croatia but they have a good defense that's hard to penetrate. We need attacking threats. Rafa is perfect.
I'd also give William a break.

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Ash
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First of all my condolences go out to Croatia, that is probably the best team they've had in their history. Their midfield consisting of Rakitić, Badelj and Modrić likely the pick of tournament. A well-balanced squad with quality all over the...

First of all my condolences go out to Croatia, that is probably the best team they've had in their history. Their midfield consisting of Rakitić, Badelj and Modrić likely the pick of tournament. A well-balanced squad with quality all over the pitch including Perišić, the hardworking Mandžukić and veteran captain Srna. It's a fantastic team, no doubt and I have to disagree with Wes' comment: "Croatia is not Spain, Germany, or France". Did you not hear Croatia defeated Spain last game out? Croatia were the dark horses this tournament and could cause trouble to any side. This result is a testament of the mental strength and resilience of our beloved Portugal.

Secondly, Fernando Santos has earned my praise once again. Nobody is perfect but the line-up he put out today was spot on. It was a very bold and courageous move that could have easily backfired (Adrien, Cedric, Fonte hadn't played a single minute in the group stages) but he pulled it off and as soon as I saw it I was pleased and very hopeful that Portugal could win this game. Carvalho needed his rest, Moutinho is clearly dealing with fitness issues, and Vierinha is a defensive nightmare that would have been torn apart by Perišić on that right side. Way to go Santos!

I can see why this wasn't the most eye catching match for the neutral but if your a true supporter of either team playing, you should've been at the edge of your seat the whole time. I know I was and when Quaresma scored after the excellent counter break started by Ronaldo led by Sanches to Nani and across to Ronaldo again, I almost lost my voice. Quaresma is the perfect sub. What a moment and what a time to celebrate.

I'm so proud with the way we performed.. win or lose Portugal left their hearts out on the pitch and if you can't see that you need to reevaluate and stop underestimating our opponents.

Now we have Poland coming up.. we are probably better on paper.. but at this stage teams will do all they can to stay in the competition. We must remain humble and grounded. Surely blessed to be on this side of the bracket though.

FORÇA PORTUGAL!!!!!

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SupremoGino
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