Croatia has drawn 1-1 with European champions Portugal in their first match since finishing runners-up at the World Cup in Russia.
Ivan Perišić’s 18th-minute strike, which was Croatia’s first ever against Portugal in five matches, was cancelled out by a header from Portugal’s captain Pepe in their international friendly in Faro tonight.
Only four players that started the World Cup final for Croatia against France started against Portugal tonight – Šime Vrsaljko, Domogoj Vida, Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić – with coach Zlatko Dalić giving 25-year-old AEK Athens striker Marko Livaja his senior debut.
Portugal looked to attack from the go and forced Lovre Kalinić to make two good saves in the opening ten minutes.
Croatia has their first real chance to take the lead in the 12th minute when Vrsaljko crossed to Marko Pjaca who after getting away from two defenders laid off to Mateo Kovačić whose strike was well saved by Rui Patricio.
Milan Badelj went close a minute later with a shot from outside the box.
Croatia took the lead in the 18th minute when a deflection in the box fell to Perišić and the Inter winger would make no mistake with a powerful strike into the back of the net.
— Francesco Littera (@fralittera) September 6, 2018
Portugal levelled just after the half-hour when former Real Madrid defender rose to head home a cross from the right into the bottom left corner of Kalinić’s net.
Pepe’yi Vida da durduramadı pic.twitter.com/Nfk63oEuiJ
— Loris KARIUS Bey (@LorisKariusBey) September 6, 2018
Croatia would lose Vida before the break as the centre-back was stretchered off the pitch after Kalinić caught his arm with a boot when trying to clear.
The sides went into the break all square but it was Portugal who looked more likely to go ahead as Croatia struggled to maintain possession.
Croatia had the first chance of the second spell but Perišić could only direct his header from a Modrić corner straight at Patricio. Dalić stated to ring the changes, taking Modrić off and bringing on Mario Pašalić in his place and also giving Anderlecht striker Ivan Santini and Duje Čop some game time.
There was not much action in the second half for the crowd that turned up to the Estadio Algarve to get excited about as both sides struggled to fashion any real chances in the final third, although Portugal looked the more dangerous with 19 attempts to Croatia’s 5.
For Croatia, Kalinić in goal and Mateo Kovačić in the midfield showed their class at times, whilst Dalić would not have seen much which impressed him from the new faces.
“I did not expect anything spectacular tonight. It was not easy against Portugal and there were a lot of things we need to fix but we made 6 changes and as I said before we are using these games to build and prepare. We saved some players (for Spain) and I got the chance to see some other players and we need to be more serious and a lot better against Spain,” Dalić said.
Croatia now heads to Spain for their UEFA Nations League opener on Tuesday.
PORTUGAL 1 – 1 CROATIA
GOALS: Perišić 18′, Pepe 32′
PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Rui Patricio – Cancelo, Pepe (c), Ruben Dias, Mario Rui – Ruben Navas, William Carvalho, Pizzi – Bruma, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva
CROATIA (4-2-3-1): Kalinić – Vrsaljko (Milić), Mitrović, Vida (Jedvaj), Barišić – Kovačić, Badelj – Pjaca (Rog), Modrić (c) (Pašalić), Perišić (Čop) – Livaja (Santini).