After 120 minutes of grueling football, Portugal got the one chance they needed to beat Croatia in extra time. Ricardo Quaresma headed in the winner to keep Portugal’s dreams alive at Euro 2016.
In a game with few chances, it was a double chance in the second half of extra time which saw Portugal advance to the quarterfinals after beating Croatia 1-0 in Lens.
Ricardo Quaresma, who came on as a substitute just before the end of normal time, pounced on a parried Cristiano Ronaldo effort to give Portugal the game-winning goal. The two shots were the only two efforts that went on target in the game, and it allowed Portugal to reach the Euro quarterfinals for the sixth-consecutive time.
Croatia had dominated most of the statistical categories, including unleashing 15 shots in the game – none of which forced a save from Rui Patricio, ultimately leaving the tournament in disappointment. The result will now pit Portugal against Poland in the quarterfinals, the first time these two countries have played each other since 2007.
Pragmatic Portugal approach
After drawing all three of their group games, Portugal coach Fernando Santos elected to come out more conservatively against Croatia, replacing prolific passer Joao Moutinho with the more physical Adrien Silva and conceded over 70 percent of possession to the Croats in the first half.
The result was a chance-empty opening period, one that did not see a single shot on goal. Domagoj Vida and Vedran Coluka, two players who are not strong with the ball at their feet, were burdened with the build-up play, forcing Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric to sit deeper in midfield.
The approach allowed Portugal to get decent chances against the run of play, the best one being a free kick Pepe headed over the bar.
Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo was kept away from goal by a strong collective defensive effort. The leading man for Portugal failed to get a shot away in the first half as a result, a remarkable statistic considering he had 10 shots in each of the three group stage games.
Despite swaddling Ronaldo, Croatia could not capitalize on their chances at the other end, the best of which came on the half an hour mark when Ivan Perisic hit the side netting from the right wing after maneuvering past Raphael Guerreiro.
Matching miss for miss
The emptiness in the final third continued into the second half and neither team was able to provide their fans with much excitement. Vida got fans out of their seats briefly as he rose highest from a free kick, but much like Pepe’s shortcoming in the first half, the Dynamo Kyiv defender could not put Srna’s free kick on target.
Normal time ended without either team having a shot on goal, making this match the first since 1980 to not have a shot on target inside 90 minutes. Extra time had similar misfortune, which included Ivan Perisic hitting the post in the second half.
Croatia’s late pressure gave Portugal the counter attack they needed, though, and after Danijel Subasic saved Cristiano Ronaldo’s first shot of the game, Ricardo Quaresma stepped up to head in the game winner with just three minutes to play.
Vida had one final chance to give his team a breakthrough, but the defender could not put his volley on target as time ran down. The Croatians held their heads in sorrow when the fulltime whistle sounded. Portugal meanwhile were all smiles after finally securing their first victory of the tournament.