Croatia 0 v 1 Portugal (AET) – Euro 2016 Last 16

CRO 0:1 POR (AET) – a dreadfully disappointing encounter between two sides who were far too heedful of each other at a subdued Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens. Somewhat surprisingly Ante Čačić instructed his side to abandon any exciting, free-flowing style in favour of a more strict, structured approach against a Portugal side who have cracked under pressure in all their group games. Fernando Santos looked to have set his side up for penalties right from the off as a shot-shy first half came and went with little to note. Croatia enjoyed over 70% possession and were content in being patient. Portugal looked for a rare set piece to take advantage of – Real Madrid C.F.‘s Pepe heading over from close range from a tight angle. The introduction of young Benfica starlet Renato Sanches provided A Selecção das Quinas with more attacking bite after the break. Cristiano Ronaldo continued to be a peripheral figure as his teammates gave the ball away around him. Marcelo Brozović fired over midway through the second half in the best move of the match. But still the football was dire – both teams being more afraid of losing than willing to risk something to win the game. Not one shot on target in 90 minutes – pathetic! Santos has history with this style of football after turning Greece into football history’s most negative side. But what is more perplexing is Čačić’s radical change in tactics from the group games. Nikola Kalinic‘s introduction sparked the Croats into some life and he widely shot wide at goal in the opening period of extra time. Domagoj Vida was a rock at the back for Croatia alongside Vedran Ćorluka, and he could have won it for his team as Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio misjudged a corner but the FC Dynamo Kyiv defender’s header looped over the bar. It was all Croatia late on, Ivan Perišić twice coming close to making the difference: first, the F.C. Internazionale Milano forward flashed a ball across goal that Kalinic couldn’t get on the end of; then Perišić hit the post after good play from Brozović. Suddenly Portugal were up the other end – a pathetic attempt at goal from the terrible Nani luckily fell to Ronaldo whose shot was superbly blocked by Danijel Subašić but only as far as Ricardo Quaresma who nodded in an unlikely winner for the grim Portuguese. Croatia threw everything forward and Vida was again unlucky not to score with a left-foot volley. If any side deserved to win it was Croatia, but they were as guilty as their opponents in not pressing forward earlier. Sad to see a talented Vatreni go home, and Portugal will be delighted to reach the quarter finals. 

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