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Dublin: 16 °C Saturday 20 July, 2019
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Good evening, everyone.

So, Northern Ireland’s clash with Wales may not have been the most exciting game we’ve seen so far but this one promises to be quite entertaining.

Croatia will be motivated after that victory over Spain while the Portuguese still have a point to prove, despite digging deep against Hungary.

Who’s your money on?

Let’s get to the lineups.

Croatia XI: Subasic, Srna, Corluka, Vida, Strinic, Modric, Badelj, Brozovic, Rakitic, Perisic, Mandzukic.

Subs: Vargic, Vrsaljko, Jedvaj, Kovacic, Kramaric, Schildenfeld, Rog, Nikola Kalinic, Coric, Pjaca, Cop, Lovre Kalinic.

Portugal XI: Rui Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Joao Mario, Adrien Silva, William Carvalho, Andre Gomes, Nani, Ronaldo.

Subs: Lopes, Bruno Alves, Carvalho, Joao Moutinho, Eder, Vieirinha, Danilo Pereira, Renato Sanches, Rafa, Eliseu, Quaresma, Eduardo.

Flag

This is arguably Croatia’s strongest team with Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic both returning after missing the Spanish clash.

For Portugal, the big news is that Joao Moutinho has been dropped with Adrien Silva coming while Jose Fonte and Cedric Soares are both selected in defence too.

He’s one short of Michel Platini’s goals record of nine.

This is also Nani’s 100th cap for his country.

Have a think about that, Man United fans.

1Mins

Croatia have bossed the opening few minutes here. Some good early pressure and Portugal finding it hard to get out of their own half.

6Mins

Another terrifying haircut for Ivan Perisic ahead of tonight’s game.

8Mins

That’s better from Portugal as Joao Mario gets down the right and delivers a deep cross. It’s too high for Ronaldo but encouragement for Fernando Santos’ side as they find a foothold in this game.

9Mins

The game still finding a rhythm here as it bounces from end to end. Modric not been on the ball too much to calm everything down.

12Mins

Nani gets a flailing arm to the face and takes a breather for about 5 minutes.

14Mins

It’s untidy stuff but Portugal force their way forward as Nani gets a low cross into the area. It’s knocked out for a corner and a brief bit of pressure from Ronaldo and co.

16Mins

Certainly Ronaldo has been moaning already that his team-mates are too far back and need to press higher. A different system than in their previous games.

20Mins

Couple of loose challenges from Ronaldo in quick succession as he catches Modric first and then leaves his foot in on Srna too.

23Mins

What Portugal have done well here is to stop Srna getting forward. He’s been well monitored and Croatia are struggling to get their influencers on the ball.

Strinic is having slightly better luck on the left but not much.

26Mins

Just for a second, it looked like Portugal were through as Andre Gomes went tumbling in the area. But no penalty. Not many appeals from the Portuguese players, in fairness.

Flag 27Mins

CLOSE! First decent chance of this game and it comes after Ronaldo is taken down by Perisic. The free-kick is whipped in to the far stick and Raphael Guerreiro picks out the head of Pepe who should really do better. He can only knock it over the top from close range.

28Mins

I was expecting a lot more, to be honest.

30Mins

Quick transition from Croatia and Perisic gets a glimpse of goal as he pops up in the right channel and cuts inside. He drags it, though, and it harmlessly drifts wide of the near post.

33Mins

That’s nasty from Fonte. He leaves his studs in on Rakitic after the ball is gone. Clearly playing alongside Pepe is rubbing off on him.

36Mins

Another free-kick as Srna is the latest player to end up on the turf. Rakitic takes on the right side but Vida can’t control the header and it harmlessly goes out for a goal-kick.

39Mins

Both teams cancelling each other out here. No shot on target. No major chances created. No space given. Some solid defending but plenty of cynicism too. The game has struggled to build momentum because of the litany of fouls.

41Mins

The game brightens up as Strinic is picked out in space on the left side. But the cross is poor – just bad decision-making – and Portugal break instantly. Ronaldo lays it off and makes a run into the area but Nani concedes the free-kick as the cross comes in and that’s the end of that.

43Mins

Free kick to Croatia here and it’s in a good position too. Can there be a good delivery at last?

45Mins

Oh. It wasn’t bad actually and Vida was ready to pounce but Pepe did well to drop off and put the header out for a corner.

45Mins

Well, that was drab. Croatia have had more of the ball but there’s been so little created by the two teams.

 

There has been persistent fouling, which isn’t very nice and has broken up any potential breakaway or potential counter.

 

Modric hasn’t been able to conduct the orchestra so far while Srna – such an offensive weapon – has been restricted due to the presence of Ronaldo, which is understandable.

Rakitic has been crowded out when he’s got on the ball while Mandzukic has been isolated.

Perhaps Perisic can pop up and prove the difference? He had one moment in the right channel when he found space, cut inside but hit the side-net while Strinic has had more joy on the left flank so maybe there’s potential there too.

Pepe went close from a free-kick, though he looked to have been in an offside position and maybe the set-pieces are Portugal’s best way through.

Flag 52Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Renato Sanches (on) – Andre Gomes (out)

Bayern Munich’s new signing, who’s only 18, is introduced. Could this be a memorable Euro 2016 debut?

Flag 53Mins

CLOSE! Croatia probably should be in front. Firstly, Strinic gets to the by-line and whips in a great cross to the far post where Brozovic goes close from a header. From the resulting corner, the same player has a brilliant chance but has to turn and strike in one movement as Srna sends in the low cross. He has time, because Portugal are slack with their marking, but he doesn’t know that and rushes the effort. Great opportunity. 

54Mins

Much better from Croatia here and they’re stretching Portugal more out wide. Srna has already seen much more of the ball than in the first half.

59Mins

That’s excellent from Renato Sanches. He plays a superb pass wide and then follows the play and picks it back up inside. A neat exchange tees him up for a shot on the edge of the area but he pulls the shot – just a bit anxious when it came to pulling the trigger. Encouraging signs from the 18-year-old, though.

Flag 62Mins

CLOSE! Oh! What a chance. And Mandzukic is rightfully furious. The free-kick from the right is perfectly placed and the attacker is just about to send his header to the net, surely. But the centre-back, Vida, races in front of him and glances it wide instead!

Flag 66Mins

PENALTY CLAIM! It’s much more open than the opening period and we really should’ve had a penalty for Portugal here. The ball bounces up for Nani to run onto and as he gets a first touch ion the area, Strinic, to use a hurling term, pulls across him, smacking him with his left boot. It’s wild and reckless but is’ not the first time referees have ignored that. How they can simply wave play on is beyond me. Dangerous play, without a doubt.

67Mins

One for the purists but a few minutes ago – just before the couple of chances for Croatia – Strinic took a ball down on the left side with an absolutely divine first touch before whipping in a superb cross.

Just a little thing but refreshing.

74Mins

After a really encouraging spell, it’s struggling again. Maybe some changes will breathe new life into things.

73Mins

Free-kick to Croatia in a really dangerous zone here after Renato Sanches gives away a silly foul.

77Mins

Ronaldo has been a real passenger tonight, finding it so hard to find any space. Credit Croatia for keeping him so quiet as well.

Flag 78Mins

BOOKING! William Carvalho picks up a yellow and we’re approaching crunch time here. Will there be a late winner?

85Mins

Surprised that Croatia haven’t made a chance up top. Madzukic hasn’t exactly been at the races and has struggled to impose himself.

Flag 88Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Ricardo Quaresma (on) – Joao Mario (off)

Attacking change for Portugal and can the winger create some magic?

Flag 88Mins

SUBSTITUTION! Kalinic (on) – Mandzukic (off)

Well, there is that change now. Just two minutes of normal time remaining so fresh legs badly needed up top for Croatia.

92Mins

Game follows the usual pattern. After 80 minutes of a scoreless draw, no time for risks.

90Mins

We can surely look forward to a brilliant, vibrant extra-time now, right? Isn’t that how it works? Who are we kidding. Prepare yourself for more penalties. I’m making myself a cup of tea.

And by tea I mean whiskey.

2Mins

As pointed out in the office, Portugal could get to the quarter-finals of this tournament without winning a game.

They’re the ‘Republic of Ireland, 1990′ of Euro 2016.

5Mins

Good idea from Perisic as Corluka lofts it forward and Perisic runs onto the ball, sees Patricio off his line and tries to loop the long-range header to the net. Just too high but at least there was some imagination on show.

8Mins

Fonte makes a meal of it at the back and Kalinic pounces but with time to settle himself, he blasts the shot about half a mile wide. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

12Mins

This extra time has actually been a lot more lively that I was expecting. There’s been, y’know, shots on goal.

Now, they’ve been terrible. But nobody’s perfect.

14Mins

Corluka’s in a bit of bother here. He seems to be struggling with his groin, maybe. It looks like he’s going to have to come off.

17Mins

You’ll be glad to know that we’re back underway.

Flag 21Mins

SUBSTITUTIONS! Danilo (on) – Adrien Silva (off) & Pjaca (on) – Rakitic (off)

Portugal make another change while a surprise from Croatia as one of their key men is replaced. With penalties likely, that also seems a little odd.

22Mins

Game has genuinely opened up in the last few minutes but there’s still a lack of quality in the final third for both teams.

Flag 25Mins

VERY CLOSE! Oh. Vida with another chance. The corner is whipped to the far post, Patricio ends up on the turf and the centre-half is at the far post, stretching for it but sends it over the bar with the goalkeeper stranded. He holds his had in his hands and rightfully so. Big, big opportunity.

Flag 29Mins

Oh! This game! At one end, Perisic hits the post. As Portugal break, Sanches feeds Nani. His mis-hit shot rolls across to Ronaldo. His shot is parried by Subasic but there’s Quaresma – the substitute – who taps it to the net.

Croatia will be absolutely floored by that. They’ve dominated in extra-time. And they’re set to let this slip.

30Mins

But wait. Pjaca goes on a the run deep into the Portugal area and tries to flick it back across goal but it’s a corner.

30Mins

Oh! Qauresma gives away a free kick right in the corner. Final chance here for Croatia.

Flag 30Mins

VERY CLOSE! That’s surely that. Srna sends in the cross and it breaks for Vida – wrong player, right time – and he tries to hook the volley into the far corner. It just drifts past the upright.

30Mins

Well, that’s a bit disappointing. Croatia were better – not by much – but they went for it in extra-time and created plenty of chances instead of sitting back and waiting for a shootout.

But they were caught on the counter and badly exposed though Portugal were incredibly fortunate. The goal came from a mis-hit shot from Nani that fell into Ronaldo’s path. His shot was parried and Quaresma pounced to knock it to the net.

It certainly wasn’t pretty and it promises to be another tight affair in the quarter-finals as Portugal face Poland.

Thanks for staying with us tonight.

More reaction on the site to come.

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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