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Portugal in quarters
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 27 - 06 - 2016

A close-range header from Portugal substitute Ricardo Quaresma secured a 1-0 win over Croatia after the game burst into life late in extra time Saturday and set up a Euro 2016 quarterfinal against Poland next week.
Quaresma struck three minutes from the end of the extra period after a Cristiano Ronaldo shot was brilliantly saved by Danijel Subasic to settle the tie just a minute after Croatia's Ivan Perisic had hit the post with a header.
Croatia almost snatched an equalizer at the death but Domagoj Vida hooked the ball agonizingly wide.
Croatia was on top for most of the first half but Portugal had the first chance when Pepe headed Raphael Guerreiro's free kick over the bar after Ronaldo was tripped by Perisic. Perisic, then cut in from the right but he dragged his shot outside the near post.
Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic returned from injury for Croatia, with Mandzukic spurning an excellent first-half chance when he headed Dario Srna's corner wide of the target.
With Mandzukic on his own up front and Nani and Ronaldo shackled, neither side could break the deadlock and a smattering of boos and whistles were heard at the halftime whistle.
Croatia continued to dominate possession after the break, but their wasteful finishing continued as Marcelo Brozovic narrowly failed to connect with Ivan Strinic's cross and then followed up by blazing over from the resulting corner.
Substitute Renato Sanches registered Portugal's first shot of the second half when he broke forward and played a one-two with Joao Mario but steered the ball wide of the target.
Croatia center-back Vida then had a glorious chance to give his side the lead on the hour but headed wide with the goal at his mercy and Mandzukic lurking behind him.
Earning his 100th cap, Nani had a penalty appeal turned down when he went sprawling in the box under pressure from Strinic.
Ronaldo did not fare much better and, despite occasional flashes of skill, he was kept quiet for most of the game.
The match finished scoreless and went into extra time with Nikola Kalinic, who replaced Mandzukic, blasting a shot wide halfway through the first period.
Croatia still looked livelier and Vida was frustrated again as he headed another corner just over with Portugal keeper Rui Patricio stranded after coming out for the cross. Perisic flashed the ball across the goal and then saw a header come back off the post before Portugal countered.
Sanches, the poster boy of Portugal's new generation, launching a quick break to feed Nani on the left. As always, Ronaldo dug deep into his reserves to charge up in support on the right and Nani picked him out with a clever, threaded low cross. Ronaldo's shot from a tight angle was blocked by keeper Danijel Subasic's quick reflexes but Quaresma, brought on in the 87 minute, was on hand to nod-in on the rebound.
Croatia poured forward in search of an equalizer and Vida made it a hat trick of misses as he hooked the ball wide leaving Portugal to go through to face Poland in Marseille Thursday. — Reuters


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