Portugal did not need Cristiano Ronaldo to start the Nations League defense by beating Croatia (4-1). CR7 was low due to an infection in a right toe, but the also reigning champion of the Eurocup was unrivaled in the world runner-up; who accused the losses of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic and was a shadow of himself. Joao Felix, the Atletico star, scored his first goal as an absolute international; while Francisco Trincao recently joined Barcelona, made his debut in the last quarter of an hour.
A Portugal with a variety of offensive resources
Cristiano Ronaldo’s 100th goal for Portugal – he has scored 99 goals in 164 caps – will have to wait. The infection that creeps in a toe of the right foot forced him to watch the debut of his team from the stands.
Portugal gave a bath in the first half to a Croatia to which the posts and its goal Dominik Livakovic saved him from retiring with a landslide at halftime. Despite the absence of CR7, the selection of Fernando Santos, who played in white, deployed a great variety of offensive resources thanks to the mobility of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva in the midfielder, supported by the outstanding full-backs Joao Cancelo and Raphael Guerreiro and by Diogo Jota and Joao Felix as spearheads.
Nikola Vlasic sowed panic as soon as the game started with a distant chit, but it was a mirage. In the 20th minute, the siege of Portugal began on Croatia’s goal, powerless to contain the avalanche and leave his plot. Joao Cancelo had the first clear chance in a great boarding session that culminated with an outside shot that forced Livakovic to shine.
Joao Felix, the first of the three posts
Joao Felix lavished the first of three shots at the post when he intentionally struck from the edge of the area and the ball, after brushing against a defender, was repelled by the squad (23 ‘).
Livakovic shone again to miraculously avoid the goal in a double shot by former Madrid player Pepe in a corner (25 ‘). In the midst of the Portuguese offensive, the Croatian goalkeeper again had the post as an ally in a header from Diogo Jota (28 ‘) and a distant whip from Guerreiro (34’).
Left-handed by Joao Cancelo
Finally, just before the break, Joao Cancelo opened the scoring with a great goal. The Manchester City side went through the center and, unopposed, unleashed an unstoppable left-foot for Livakovic. The bolt had jumped in Portugal’s 15th shot in the first half by only 2 from the rival.
At the restart, Croatia, a shadow of itself, never gave the impression of being able to get into the game. Portugal, although they slowed down somewhat, continued to dominate at will and Diogo Jota scored 2-0 by controlling a long pass from Guerreiro down the left and beating Livakovic on his way out (59 ‘).
Joao Felix sentences and Trincao enters
Joao Felix was in charge of sentencing the game by receiving from Bernardo Silva and releasing a whip from outside the area that folded Livakovic’s hands, misguided in this action. Like Diogo Jota, it is the first goal of Atletico’s crack with his team. With the first three points in his pocket, Fernando Santos gave Francisco Trincao, who had just joined Barca, the opportunity to make his debut for Portugal’s senior team, replacing Bernardo Silva.
Two goals in discount
Already in the discount came the last two goals. Croatia saved the honor through substitute Bruno Petkovic, who shot behind a wall with Ante Rebic, and Andre Silva, another newcomer, made it 4-1 by pushing Pepe’s header into a corner at the far post.