Portugal navigate Croatia clash in extra time courtesy of Quaresma
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | June 25, 2016
Croatia 0-1 Portugal AET
- No shots on target in 90 minutes
- Perisic hits post in extra time
- Quaresma grabs 117th minute winner
- First quarter-final confirmed by result
Quaresma plots Navigators progress to quarters
Portugal will play Poland in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals after the Navigators nicked an extra time winner through mercurial substitute Ricardo Quaresma.
After a goalless and dire 90 minutes, Ivan Perisic hit the post during the additional half hour, but Portugal sprang a counterattack in which Danijel Subasic denied Cristiano Ronaldo and Quaresma nodded in the rebound with the only shot on target in two hours.
Coral have cut the Portuguese into 15/2 chances for a tournament victory at the Euros, and they’ve reached their sixth consecutive quarter-final at this continental championship.
Not much of a spectacle
Reverting to their first-choice XI, the Blazers brought back Luka Modric among others, but it was Ivan Rakitic instead who Fernando Santos had down for special treatment. William Carvalho was given a man-marking job on the Barcelona playmaker in a bid to stop Croatia from clicking in the final third.
A narrow Navigators system made midfield congested and the flooded engine room resulted in this being detracted from as a spectacle somewhat. Neither side can be blamed for such tactics, because the top half of the Euro 2016 draw looks vastly more open.
Cagey and cautious, the Blazers had plenty of Portugal bodies to try and play through despite Santos making as many defensive changes as Croatian coaching counterpart Ante Cacic.
Chances at a premium
Southampton skipper Jose Fonte was rarely tested by a misfiring Mario Mandzukic, yet club teammate Cedric Soares had a more thorough examination from livewire winger Perisic – complete with the chequered pattern of his national flag and football kick in his hair.
Pepe saw a free header sail over from Joao Mario’s free-kick midway through a drab first-half in Lens, and just before half an hour Perisic swapped wings before firing into the side-netting from a tight angle down the other end.
Those were the only real glimmers of goal for either country before the break. Marcelo Brozovic blazed over for Croatia as they caught Portugal to an early and quickly-taken second-half corner when Ivan Strinic’s cross up from left back stretched the Navigators.
Star turns shot shy
Cristiano Ronaldo, needing one more goal to equal Michel Platini’s Euros scoring record, and former Manchester United teammate Nani on his 100th cap proved peripheral to the action, as the Blazers continued to have the better of proceedings.
Big money Bayern Munich buy Renato Sanches came off the bench for Santos’ side, but the Portuguese prodigy pulled his long-range effort wide as space opened up for the talented teenager.
Domagoj Vida took a delicious Darijo Srna free-kick off Mandzukic’s head just after the hour mark in a frustrating fixture for players and punters alike.
No penalty for Nani
Navigators attacker Nani then went down under Strinic’s challenge in the area, with replays confirming he kicked the man and not the ball, but no penalty followed for Portugal.
Perisic skied a couple of efforts as this bore draw limped towards extra time, with only the energetic and exuberant youth Sanches truly able to express himself in midfield.
When the regulation 90 minutes passed without a single shot on target, an additional half hour of token efforts at trying to win the game were made by the Navigators and Croatia with defender Vida heading over when Rui Patricio couldn’t reach a corner.
Dramatic end to drab game
Perisic hit the post from point blank range and was inches away from forcing penalties following Quaresma’s goal. That came when Sanches led a break and released an onside Ronaldo.
With many pundits and punters having the Blazers down as dark horses, their agonising exit is a bitter blow to those who had a bet on Euro 2016. Portugal have been anything but convincing at the France finals, but underline their credentials as a tournament team.
Poland should pose problems for an ageing Navigators defence with in-form Jakub Blaszczykowski joining striker duo Robert Lewandowski and Arkadius Milik as real threats. Like Ronaldo, the latter pair need to offer more at Euro 2016.