The mercurial Ricardo Quaresma scored an extra-time header to send Portugal into the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 after a dour last 16 tie with Croatia in Lens, with the 117th minute winner the only shot on target in the match.
Like the second match of the day between Wales and Northern Ireland, this was a highly anticipated match that failed to live up to expectations. Both Croatia and Portugal struggled to impose themselves on the game, with misplaced passes and wild attempts on goal typical of this last 16 encounter.
It was billed as a matchup between two of the most interesting sides in the competition, with Croatia beating reigning European champions Spain in their final group match to win Group D and Portugal boasting the likes of three-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks.
The standard, however, was set by Croatia’s Luka Modric who passed the ball straight out of play in the first minute, with the 20 minute mark coming and going without a shot on goal. Croatia seemed content with keeping the ball away from Portugal, with Ante Čačić’s side’s eventual ability to keep the ball sadly the highlight of the first half.
Both sides failed to galvanise themselves for the second half, with the match ending 0-0 after the 90. Thankfully for spectators around the world, the game really began in extra-time – the second half, that is.
Both sides opened up as the threat of penalties loomed large, with Croatia in particular committing men forward. The drama began as Domagoj Vida headed over for Croatia from a corner with Portugal keeper Rui Patricio floored by his own player.
After 115 painful minutes, the game suddenly exploded into life. Nikola Kalinić was just unable to get on the end of a wicked cross into the box with the keeper beaten, with Ivan Perišić hitting the post with a header from the resulting cross back into the box.
The loose ball fell to Portugal, who broke with substitute Renato Sanchez. The 19-year-old fed Nani who’s cross/shot reached Cristiano Ronaldo, who saw his shot saved by Croatia keeper Danijel Subašić, with former Chelsea and Barcelona man Quaresmsa gleefully heading home the rebound to spark wild celebrations on the bench and in the crowd.
The excitement didn’t stop there, with Croatia’s Vida presented with a golden opportunity to equalise right at the death. Again it was a case of the loose ball falling to the attacking side, with the 27-year-old seeing his volley fly past the upright with Rui Patricio beaten and watching the shadow of the ball on the post with his heart in his mouth.
Croatian players were despondent at the full-time whistle, with many pegging them as potential semi-finalists considering their hugely impressive victory over Spain in the group stage.
Portugal will now play Poland in the quarter finals which will take place at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on Thursday.