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Portugal 4-1 Croatia: 5 talking points as Fernando Santos' Portugal thrash World Cup finalists | UEFA Nations League 2020-21

Portugal celebrating Joao Cancelo
Portugal celebrating Joao Cancelo's opener in the 41st minute
Harsh Pillai
ANALYST
Modified 06 Sep 2020, 10:28 IST
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UEFA Nations League holders Portugal hosted Croatia at the Estádio do Dragao in Porto in what turned out to be a rather one-sided game as the defending champions continued their rampant form in the competition.

With a massive total of 15 attempts on goal in the first-half alone, Fernando Santos' men dominated the FIFA World Cup runner-ups from the outset. A 41st-minute effort by Joao Cancelo saw the home side take the lead, and they didn't look back since.

It would be safe to say that Croatia's defence and goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic had a torrid time in keeping Portugal's front line at bay. The home side hit the woodwork four times in the first half alone.

Livakovic was easily Croatia's best player of the night as the 25-year-old kept his team in the game and gave them a chance of making something out of it, but that was not to be.

The visitors did grow into the game in the second half, gradually dominating possession and testing Pepe and Ruben Dias. The introduction of Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic helped, but Portugal were clearly the superior side by some distance.

On that note, let us take a look at five talking points from the game.


#5: A stern Portugal defence was on show

Portugal put on a defensive masterclass against Croatia (Picture courtesy Getty Images).
Portugal put on a defensive masterclass against Croatia (Picture courtesy Getty Images).
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While plenty of credit goes to the work of Danilo Pereira and Joao Moutinho to limit Portugal's defensive work, Ruben Dias and Pepe dealt with anything that eluded the attention of the dynamic midfield duo. Croatia attempted five shots compared to Portugal's 27 while having only two on target as the likes of Ante Rebic and Andrej Kramaric were kept quiet for large swathes of the game.

Croatia's only goal of the game came in the 91st minute when Perisic and Rebic completed a few one-twos to play Bruno Petkovic through on goal. The 25-year-old finished his chance immaculately, but it was only a consolation effort for the visitors.

Pepe was the best centre-back on the pitch by quite some distance as he completed four clearances and three interceptions while winning 100% of his aerial and ground duels. The 37-year-old ended his game by bagging an assist as well in the dying minutes to sum up a perfect performance.


#4: Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix disrupted Croatia's defensive lines

Joao Felix had a good game against Croatia (Picture courtesy Getty Images)
Joao Felix had a good game against Croatia (Picture courtesy Getty Images)

Zlatko Dalic's men only saw 43% of the ball throughout the game as Croatia preferred to sit deep in their half and tried to play in transitions instead of pressing Portugal high up the pitch. Unfortunately, the tactic backfired spectacularly as the team were completely outperformed in the middle of the park.

Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix had a field day as they got the better of their markers on numerous occasions. Fernandes had somewhat of a free role, drifting across the face of the pitch and efficiently taking up positions to support Portugal's full-backs for overlapping.

Joao Felix, on the other hand, constantly dropped deep into midfield to collect the ball. The Atletico Madrid player not only got a goal to his name but was heavily involved in most of Portugal's attacking play. The 20-year-old completed four duels on the night and had a passing accuracy of 80%.

Bruno
Bruno's free role and Cancelo's inverted/overlapping runs caused immense trouble for Croatia
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Published 06 Sep 2020, 04:43 IST
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