A dominant and controlling Croatian midfield. A Portuguese lightning-bolt streaking up the left wing. Accurate long balls and Ronaldo chops. All of the above was the bare minimum expected from fútbol fans as they tuned in to watch a high intensity game Euro 2016. Instead, fans were treated to what was possibly the worst Euros match to date. From the first blow of the whistle, the dangerous Croatian midfield duo of Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric ran literal circles around Portugal. Ivan would attack, Luka would defend. Sometimes they would swap, sometimes they would both attack/defend. Even with only a shaky Portugal defence to beat, the Croatian team found it hard to accurately pass the ball to their teammates. Too many times, the ball would be crossed to absolutely no one. Even when the ball made it to Portugal’s side of the pitch, Rui Patrício was rarely troubled. They took seventeen shots and had none on target. They held possession of the ball 59% of the time, goaded Portugal into drawing 28 fouls, and even had more attempts via corners. Surprisingly, nothing came from all of that “huffing and puffing”.
Portugal, on the other hand, were made to look like trained circus animals on the pitch. They spent a good portion of the match fouling, getting their defence split, and running after the ball. Even with all of that, Rui Patrício could have spent the entire game drinking lemonade rather than in the goalie box. He was left untested the entire game.
Though Nani was supposed to be Portugal second best marksman after Cristiano Ronaldo, he vanished for most of the game and only reappeared at halftime and the final whistle. Though he troubled the Croatian defence and left many on wobbly ankles, “the dark invader” didn’t see as much of the ball as he would have liked. This is mainly due to the excellent midfield of the Red and White side. He spent much of the game suppressed and choked until the break-through header from Quaresma in the 117th minute.
The stats at the end of the game do not lie. Portugal was sloppy, reckless, and uninspired the entire game. Croatia had few ideas and an excellent midfield, but the final execution was left wanting. For a team that had been previously undefeated since November 2015, it was shocking to see such elementary mistakes. Mistakes that sent them packing until the next edition of the Euros. Indeed, this match and its outcome made no sense.