Portugal 4-1 Croatia: Holders ease to emphatic victory

João Cancelo, Diogo Jota, João Félix and André Silva ensured Portugal kicked off their title defence in style.

Highlights: Portugal 4-1 Croatia
Highlights: Portugal 4-1 Croatia

UEFA Nations League holders Portugal extended their unbeaten home run to 17 matches as they cruised past Croatia in Porto.

Portugal vs Croatia: as it happened


Match in brief

In the absence of injured captain Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal hit the woodwork three times as they dominated the first half. João Félix, Diogo Jota and Raphaël Guerreiro were all denied by the frame of the goal before João Cancelo finally beat the inspired Dominik Livaković with a sublime long-range strike.

Shortly before the hour, Jota opened his international account with a fine finish. João Félix then followed suit, firing a long-range strike through the gloves of Livaković. Bruno Petković pulled one back for Croatia, only for André Silva to add a last-gasp fourth to crown an emphatic win for the holders.

Reporters' views

Diogo Jota enjoys his first international goal
Diogo Jota enjoys his first international goalAFP via Getty Images

Carlos Machado, Portugal reporter: The hosts grabbed a deserved and impressive win over Croatia at the Estádio do Dragão. Even without Ronaldo, Portugal's performance speaks volumes about the quality of this side. Fernando Santos's decision to play with no real striker paid off as Jota, João Félix and Bernardo Silva created lots of chances, with Bruno Fernandes offering excellent support.

Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter: Even the biggest optimists knew how difficult it would be for Croatia in Portugal due to the absence of players like Luka Modrić, who remains irreplaceable. The captain keeps everything connected and, without him, the team are fragile. With Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović on the bench, there were always going to be difficult moments against the holders. Zlatko Dalić gave a chance to some players who are believed to be the future of this team, but they came up short tonight.

Reaction

João Félix delight at first Portugal goal
João Félix delight at first Portugal goal

Diogo Jota, Portugal attacker: "We knew how difficult this game was and we knew it was important to keep the ball. We had a lot of opportunities and I am very happy to have scored my first goal for the national team. Nothing is decided yet but it is always good to start with a victory."

Fernando Santos, Portugal coach: "I thought the players could give this performance given how they performed during the week, but it was difficult to guess. It was the same for both teams with players struggling a bit. We were up against great opponents and we delivered at 100%."

Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: "We needed to add some energy and aggression. This will hurt for a while: Portugal were much better and they deserved to win. We must recover but it won't be an easy three days ahead. We have to show more energy and desire. It will again be very difficult against France."

João Felix threatens for Portugal
João Felix threatens for PortugalAFP via Getty Images

Key stats

  • Portugal are unbeaten in all six matches against Croatia (W5 D1).
  • They have not lost a competitive home game when scoring twice since September 2008.
  • Portugal have not conceded twice in a competitive home game since November 2011.
  • Twenty of their last 25 goals have been scored in the second half.
  • Petković's late goal means that Croatia have scored in their last 14 matches.
  • The visitors had not tasted defeat in their previous six matches (W4 D2).

Line-ups

Portugal: Lopes; Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, Guerreiro; Danilo, João Moutinho (Sérgio Oliveira 81), Bruno Fernandes; Bernardo Silva (Francisco Trincão 78), Diogo Jota, João Félix (André Silva 87)

Croatia: Livaković; Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Barišić; Pašalić (Brozović 61), Kovačić; Brekalo (Perišić 61), Vlašić, Rebić; Kramarić (Petković 74)

Next up

Both teams are in action again on Tuesday, when Croatia travel to France for a 2018 FIFA World Cup final rematch and Portugal visit Sweden.