Euro 2016 round up: Croatia 0 Portugal 1 (ET) - and what the result means

Ricardo Quaresma (centre) of Portugal celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Uefa Eurp 2016 round of 16 match between Croatia and Portugal.
Ricardo Quaresma (centre) of Portugal celebrates after scoring the winning goal during the Uefa Eurp 2016 round of 16 match between Croatia and Portugal.PHOTO: EPA

Portugal have rediscovered their winning touch.

Fernando Santos' men were the first team to draw all three of their group games at a European Championship, becoming the only team to ever qualify for the knockout stages without a victory.

They made the most out of the new, generous tournament format, and Croatia's inhibited performance to reach the quarter-finals.

With the game's first shot on target in the 117th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo's angled drive was only parried by Danijel Subasic and substitute Ricardo Quaresma headed the ball into an empty net.

And just like that, Portugal have taken out the team that beat holders Spain in the group stage.

 
 
 

In truth, neither side deserved to win, and certainly not in regulation or extra time. The game looked destined for penalties from the start.

Neither team showed any attacking intent for most of the game. Both teams were playing not to lose as opposed to trying to win outright.

Croatia were patient but hardly did anything meaningful with 58 per cent of possession. Portugal were content to sit back and wait for a counter-attacking opportunity. Given that their winner came on the break - 22 seconds after Croatia midfielder Ivan Perisic hit the post, Santos can at least argue that his tactics have paid off.

So quiet was the game at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens that Ronaldo registered his first touch inside the Croatia box midway through the second half. Over 90 minutes, he failed to have a shot and created no chances.

When he finally did set up an opportunity, however, Quaresma was able to provide the finishing touch.

Match highlights

- In the 25th minute, Perisic fouled Ronaldo on the left flank. Raphael Guerreiro's cross into the box found the head of Pepe, who outjumped Domagoj Vida. But the centre-back could not keep the ball down.

- Five minutes later, Nani lost possession in Croatia's half. Milan Badelj launched a counter-attack, feeding Perisic on the right wing. The Inter Milan man cut inside and attempted to beat Rui Patricio at the near post but fired wide.

- In the 52nd minute, Ivan Rakitic's cross from the left flank was met by Marcelo Brozovic. His header was deflected for a corner. Darijo Srna took the corner short. Rakitic, on the right flank, set up Brozovic again but the midfielder's shot was off target.

- In the 57th minute, substitute Renato Sanches played a one-two with Joao Mario. Sanches took a shot inside the D, but dragged his effort wide. 

- In the 61st minute, Vida had a free header from 10 yards out. He could not redirect the free kick on target.

- Three minutes later, Nani went down in the penalty box. Portugal appealed for a penalty but the referee waved play on. Replays seemed to suggest that Ivan Strinic kicked Nani.

- In the 97th minute, substitute Nikola Kalinic gots behind the Portugal defence. His shot from the right was well wide.

- In the 100th minute, Brozovic's shot from outside the box was sliced horribly wide.

- In the 112th minute, Brozovic swung a corner into the box. Vida failed to get another free header on target.

- In the 117th minute, Perisic hit the post. Portugal launched a counter-attack, with Sanches driving down the middle. He passed to Nani on the left. He found Ronaldo on the right, whose shot was parried by Danijel Subasic. The ball fell to Quaresma and he headed home from two yards out.

The talking point

Who will win Euro 2016 is really anyone's guess. Hosts France were the favourites before a ball was kicked. Spain became the new favourites with a stunning 3-0 win over Turkey. But they lost to Croatia, who have now been sent packing by Portugal.

No team has stamped their authority on this tournament yet and the overall quality on display has been poor. Factor in the rise of the minnows and the bottom-heavy draw, and it is almost impossible to pick a winner right now.

Man of the Match

Sanches. The 18-year-old was the only player who seemed to want to make something happen. When he was brought on in the 50th minute, he showed hunger on both ends. He made strong challenges, had the willingness to bomb forward and raised the tempo of the game. He was vital in the move that led to goal, surging at least 30 metres down the middle of the park.

What the result means

Portugal will next face Poland in Marseille on Thursday for a place in the semi-finals.

Key statistic

This is the first major tournament game without a shot on target inside 90 minutes since 1980. It took 25 minutes before a shot was registered - the longest wait at Euro 2016 for an attempt. 

What they said

Sanches: "I'm delighted and now I'm focused on the next game. As I said when my chance came I'd give my best and I was waiting for the boss' call."

Croatia manager Ante Cacic: "We expected Portugal to counter and we were playing really well for 120 minutes, controlling the match, not conceding any chances except the last one. That was our mistake and we were punished for that."