Portugal cruise to QF at Croatia’s Expense; Wales Also

Portugal cruise to QF at Croatia’s Expense; Wales Also

Portugal managed a last minute 1-0 win over Croatia in the tense match of Round of 16 thriller at Euro 2016.

The Portuguese hailed a triumph of endeavour, pragmatism and their unwavering support after edging a tense battle with a Croatia team left feeling that a golden chance has escaped them.

It was a very tactical match.

Hear the victors:

“Portugal tried to take over but Croatia didn’t let us; then again, Croatia tried to take over and we didn’t let them win either.

“We were up against an amazing team and this was always going to be tight and strong.

“We were ready for them and we set up to resist their strengths and take advantage of their weak spots.

“We didn’t allow them to counterattack but going forwards we do have room for improvement.

“At times we could have passed the ball faster but Croatia influenced that.

“Sometimes you have to be pragmatic. It’d be nice to play pretty but that’s not always how you win tournaments.

“Both teams went into this thinking this was a key step towards the final and luck was on our side – we earned it.

Substitute Ricardo Quaresma turned in a rebound three minutes from the end of extra time for Portugal.

The strike ended the tense encounter with Croatia to book a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final date with Poland.

After 116 minutes in which the teams failed to muster a single shot on target, Ivan Perišić headed against the upright.

Portugal immediately broke through Renato Sanches and he supplied Nani to drill a low ball across the box to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Danijel Subašić made the initial save but could only parry Ronaldo’s strike as far as Quaresma who headed in from point-blank range.

Caution had been the watchword for much of this last-16 tie in Lens, with both sides digging in throughout.

Croatia strung together their pretty passing, with Marcelo Brozović and Luka Modrić to the fore, but there was little penetration or urgency.

Even less so for Portugal, fully paid-up members of the waiting game.

NORTHERN IRELAND AGONIES AS WALES ADVANCE TO LAST EIGHT

Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley steered Gareth Bale’s excellent cross into his own net to settle this all-British contest in Paris.

An own goal by the unfortunate Gareth McAuley sent Wales into their first UEFA European Championship quarter-final, finishing Northern Ireland’s hugely entertaining stay in France.

It was never going to be easy putting out Will Grigg’s fire.

Fifteen minutes from the end, though, a little bit of quality from Gareth Bale on the left did the trick, the Real Madrid talisman’s teasing cross going in off the outstretched leg of McAuley.

Bale spoke during the week about matching, then surpassing, that distant Welsh achievement of reaching the quarter-finals at the 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden and leaving a legacy for the game in his home country.

Now they have a new reference point: Lille 2016, with Wales facing the winners of Hungary v Belgium in next Friday’s last-eight tie.

For Northern Ireland, 34 years to the day since they defeated Spain at the World Cup, the journey has come to a close.

This corner of Paris had turned British long before kick-off, flags from Swansea and the village of Scarva fluttering beside the Seine.

It was predictably tight during the first half, the combative Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward both having efforts saved by Wayne Hennessey in the Welsh goal.

Wales had most of the ball but lacked the fluidity of their 3-0 win against Russia.

Aaron Ramsey had one strike ruled out for a clear offside while Sam Vokes might have done better with a header after the break.

Bale, well shackled by Jonny Evans, tested Michael McGovern with a trademark free-kick from distance and it was perhaps no surprise that he would play a key part in the outcome.

But McAuley, a goalscoring hero against Ukraine, deserved better than an own goal.

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Portugal Advances to QF at Croatia’s Expense; Wales Also LENS, FRANCE - JUNE 25:  Ricardo Quaresma of Portugal celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Croatia and Portugal at Stade Bollaert-Delelis on June 25, 2016 in Lens, France.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)