Extra-time goal sends Portugal to Euro 2016 quarters
Lens (France), June 26 (IANS) Ricardo Quaresma scored in late extra time to gift Portugal a 1-0 win over Croatia in their second-round clash at the Euro 2016 here.
Portugal will face Poland, which eliminated Switzerland through penalty shootout earlier, in the quarter-finals in Marseille on Thursday, repoirts Xinhua.
The tough and tight duel witnessed a goalless draw after regular time and was expected to go into another penalty shootout.
The 32-year-old Besiktus forward Quaresma, who came from the bench in the 87th minute, captured the last chance in the 117th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo's close-range shot was denied by Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic. Quaresma was on hand to knock the rebound into the empty net.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos said, "It's a very tactical match. we tried to take over, but Croatia didn't let us, and vice versa."
"This's a very tight match, very attacking football. We respect each other. Today we are the lucky side. we are going to have tough game against Poland in five days," Santos added.
Croatia coach Ante Cacic said, "Everything was perfect except the score. we didn't expect Portugal to play counter-attack. We controlled the match. We didn't concede any chance expect the last minutes."
"We were trying to push, trying to be aggressive. We tried to deliver the last minutes, but they scored through a counter-attack," Cacic added.
The Man of the Match award went to Portugal's 18-year-old midfielder Renato Sanches who caused an impact after coming off the bench in the 50th minute, contributing 32 successful passes, including nine in the attacking third, as well as three dribbles and an opportunity laid on for his teammates.
Statistics showed that Croatia made 15 attempts in the whole game but not a single shot was on target. Portugal made five attempts, two on target. During the regular time, both sides made 15 attempts altogether, which all missed target. Quaresma's goal was the first shot on target by either side.
Croatia's best chance to lead appeared in the 114th minute, when central defender Domagoj Vida rose at the far post to get on the end of a corner, but he lifted the header over the bar.
In the 25th minute, Portugal won a free-kick on the left through Ronaldo, and the subsequent delivery from Guerreiro was superb, but Pepe failed to keep his header down from six yards out.
Portugal won all three of their previous encounters with Croatia, scoring six goals and conceding none.
This game made Nani become the fourth player to win 100 caps for Portugal.
Croatia were unbeaten in their last 10 internationals (8 wins and 2 draws), the longest current run among all teams involved in Euro 2016.
Croatia coach Ante Cacic made five changes to his side which defeated Spain. The return of "magician" Luka Modric, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mario Mandzukic forced Marko Rog, Tin Jedvaj, Sime Vrsaljko, Marko Pjaca and Nikola Kalinic to the bench, despite they impressed a great deal against the defending champions.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos made four changes. Raphael Guerreiro returned from injury. Southampton duo Cedric Soares and Jose Fonte were brought into the back-line, making their first appearance of the tournament at the expense of Vieirinha and Ricardo Carvalho. Sporting Lisbon's Adrien Silva replaced Joao Moutinho in the midfield.
"It's true that a few of the players today serve the first match. It's a growing national team. Some positions are renewed," Santos said.
Portugal was a harsh reward for Group D winners Croatia. When Ivan Perisic scored a late goal to help Croatia beat Spain 2-1 to claim top spot in Group D, Ante Cacic's side seemed to have an easier road to the semifinals. But then Arnor Traustason's 94th minute winner for Iceland against Austria forced Portugal to settle for third in Group F, setting up this mouth-watering clash in Lens.