Croatia’s dream run at EURO 2016 has ended in drama against Portugal on Saturday night in Lens…
Croatia enjoyed more possession and chances than their opponents in a match which ended 0-0 after 90 minutes, but were knocked out by a heart-breaking goal against the run of play in the 117th minute after they had just hit the Portuguese post seconds before.
Playing for the first time in the tournament in their famous red and white checks, Croatia opened the more confident and had the better possession in a nervy opening quarter. Croatia continued to enjoy more possession but Portugal were defending close and closing down space well meaning there was little space for Croatia’s midfield.
The first attempt on goal in the match did not come until the 25th minute when Portugal were given a soft free kick after Cristiano Ronaldo collapsed to the floor after sight contact from Brozović. The resulting free kick found the head of Pepe from 6 yards out who could only watch his header sail over the bar.
Croatia had their first real chance on goal in the 30th minute when Perišić was set free down the right. After cutting inside to beat his man he could only get a shot off with his weaker right foot which crashed against the side netting.
Croatia’s best chance of the first spell came in the 40th minute when Perišić found Strinić fee on the left with a great ball, but instead of letting fly from just inside the box he tried to find Mandžukić in the middle but missed his man. Croatia had a number of set pieces in the first spell to try and carve out an opener, but were off target with their headers.
Croatia looked more urgent to open up the Portuguese defence in the second half and in the 52nd minute nearly did so when good work by Mandžukić and Strinić down the left saw the left back whip a dangerous ball into the box but Brozović was squeezed out by the Portuguese defence before he could put head to ball. The resulting short corner saw Brozović come close again but the Inter Milan midfielder fired over from close range.
Croatia should have gone 1-0 up in the 62nd minute when Domagoj Vida was free from 6 yards out from a free kick deep on the right, however the centre back could only watch his header sail wide. Portugal, who aggressively defended throughout the game, started to launch more attacks once Sanches was introduced into the game, but Croatia’s centre back pairing of Vedran Ćorluka and Vida managed to curb any threatening chances. Both sides to have any real chances towards the end of the second half and looked nervy as the match headed into extra-time.
Croatia looked the more likely to score in the first period of extra time as they continued to dominate possession and created a couple of half chances for Brozović, Perišić and substitute Nikola Kalinić, who perhaps had the best chance but fired well wide from just inside the box.
Again Croatia had the best chances of the second period of extra time. Vida should have done better when he was unmarked at the back post but his header, with the goal gaping, went over the top. In the 116th Croatia could have sealed the match but Perišić’s cross sailed across the face of the goal. From the next play it was Perišić again who come within inches of giving Croatia the lead but his effort hit the post.
From the counter-attack Portugal ended Croatia’s dreams as Sanches powered forward and let Nani free. He then found Ronaldo free in the box whose shot was blocked by Subašić but Ricardo Quaresma was on hand to head home from the rebound to give Portugal a 1-0 lead which they will hold onto.
Croatia will be ruing their chances as they were the better team in all four of their matches at EURO 2016 but still find themselves on a plane going home.
CROATIA 0 – 1 PORTUGAL (aet)
CROATIA: Subašić – Srna, Ćorluka (Kramarić), Vida, Strinić – Badelj, Modrić – Brozović, Rakitić (Pjaca), Perišić – Mandžukić (Kalinić ’87)
PORTUGAL: Patricio – Fonte, Pepe, Guerreiro, Carvalho – Ronaldo, Mario – Gomes, Nani, Cedric – Silva