Portugal 4-1 Croatia Full Time!
A Ronaldo-Less Portugal was in blistering form as they see off Croatia 4-1 to start the UEFA Nations League title defense in a dominant fashion. As many feared, Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence proved no hindrance to Portugal as they began their Nations League title defense with a convincing win over Croatia in Porto on Saturday.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who is just one goal away from 100 for Portugal, was forced to sit at the stands due to a leg infection that is believed to be caused by a bee sting. However, despite his absence, the Selecao were unstoppable for their opponents.
The Portuguese players camped in the visitors’ side throughout the first period, hitting the woodwork thrice before Joao Cancelo found the breakthrough in a spectacular fashion with just four minutes left to play from the first half.
As the game resumed after the first half break, Diogo Jota, one of those that hit the woodwork in the first half, got a deserved goal to double the hosts’ lead before the hour mark. The goal was his first for Portugal. With twenty minutes remaining, Joao Felix added a third, which was also the youngster’s first for Portugal’s senior side.
Andre Silva wrapped up the win in the final minute of injury time after Bruno Petkovic’s late consolation.
Portugal 4-1 Croatia: Match Report
A Portugal side without star player Cristiano Ronaldo was at their front foot from the start of the game, but their quest for a goal at the early stage was a frustrating one.
Joao Cancelo, Bruno Fernandes, and Joao Felix all hit the post from early opportunities, while the visitors’ goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic pulled an unlikely double save to stop Pepe from scoring.
Diogo Jota, before the half-hour mark, spurned two chances – first, heading a Fernandes cross onto the post and then smashing the side-netting following an impressive run.
While Croatia survived another Portugal threat in the 33rd minute when Raphael Guerreiro’s long-range strike hit the left-hand post, struck the goalkeeper’s foot, and then bounced just wide.
Shortly afterward, in the 41st minute, Portugal’s persistence paid off after Cancelo picked out the top-left corner from distance.
In the 59th Minute, Jota doubled the hosts’ lead with what was the striker’s first goal for his country. Racing on to Guerreiro’s lofted through-ball, Jota finished calmly into the bottom right-corner after holding off Tin Jedvaj.
Youngster Joao Felix sealed the win with 20 minutes left to play, his low drive too powerful for the goalkeeper to keep off.
Substitute Bruno Petkovic savaged a goal for the visitors as they offered a little threat towards the end of the encounter.
But then Andre Silva ensured that the host killed off their opponents by restoring their three-goal lead cushion with a close-range finish at the end of the injury time.
Portugal 4-1 Croatia: What Does the Scoreline Tell Us? No Ronaldo, No Problem!
Certainly, there would come a time when Portugal can no longer depend on the magics of their star striker Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal for sure is a way better with Ronaldo, even as he is 35. But with such result over a team that finished runners up in the 2018 World Cup Final, it must be breathtaking for head coach Fernando Santos and rest of the supporters and for them to know that this Portugal squad is blessed with immense talent even without Ronaldo.
Despite no out-and-out striker named in the starting XI for the fixture, each of the front three of Bernando Silva, Diogo Jota, and Joao Felix, together with Bruno Fernandes at their back, provided lively and smart football with good link-up play against a strong Croatia. Even if the breakthrough had taken a bit longer than it should have, the team’s overall performance without Cristiano Ronaldo was full of positivities.
Portugal 4-1 Croatia: Positives
Youngster Joao Felix finally breaks the duck with a well-taken goal. On the same vein, Diogo Jota, who was named to lead the attack for the night, grabbed his first goal for Portugal.
Manchester United midfield star was once again a fine performer. He picked up an assist and six other key passes, coupled with his long-range effort to cap his superb performance. He proved to be the key to pushing Portugal’s attack and was a real leader in Ronaldo’s absence.
Up next, following Portugal 4-1 Croatia win is a game against Sweden on Tuesday, while Croatia will be hoping to bounce back away to France, who picked up a 0-1 away victory against Sweden.
Cristiano Ronaldo could be in contention for the next Portugal fixture against Sweden. But at the moment, there is no report about whether he is fully fit or not as the Portuguese Federation keeps close tabs on his recovery.
What are your thoughts on Portugal’s performance against Croatia without Ronaldo today? Share them via our comments section below!