Goals from Joao Cancelo, Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and Andre Silva in stoppage-time sealed an impressive 4-1 victory for Nations League winners Portugal – but they could have easily put Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia to the sword by half-time. Which individual players impressed while others struggled in Porto?
Portugal hit the woodwork three separate times, forced goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic into seven saves and exposed the visitors for what was some rather sloppy defending throughout.
Dinamo Zagreb forward Bruno Petkovic took advantage as Portugal’s collective levels dropped towards the end with a consolation goal in stoppage-time.
The 25-year-old, who made his Croatia debut last March, now has six goals in nine appearances and will be satisfied with a memorable contribution from the substitutes’ bench – where the majority of the visitors’ success emanated from.
A toe infection ruled Cristiano Ronaldo out of contention here, but the nation’s star man would have been nonetheless pleased with his teammates’ performances as they target a strong finish to what has been an unprecented year in 2020.
The visitors face a trip to World Cup winners France on Tuesday and need to deliver a much improved display there, while Portugal entertain Sweden before this latest international break ends.
They’ll be hopeful to have Juventus forward Ronaldo back fit for that match on Tuesday evening, but this display reinforced their ability to perform without him. So without further ado, here’s a look at the player ratings from both teams during a rather comfortable Portugal victory:
Anthony Lopes: 6/10
In Rui Patricio’s absence, the Lyon man made his first international appearance since May 2018 – a 2-2 friendly draw against Tunisia. He had to be alert early on to react as Vlasic came close and Croatia looked threatening in bursts, but didn’t really have much to do after the first ten minutes.
Distribution was fairly shaky (13 completed passes, 52% success) but that’s understandable considering he was regularly a bystander for sustained periods.
Petkovic’s finish was well-taken and from close-range, so although he would have been disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet, it’s fair to say his defenders had dropped their concentration levels and were duly punished for it.
Joao Cancelo: 7.5/10
Dropped his rating from an 8 given the involvement in Petkovic’s consolation and a general inability to defend one-on-one duels, which was quite glaring at times despite Portugal’s routine win.
He made four tackles, three completed dribbles, two interceptions and clearances.
The 26-year-old also broke the deadlock with a well-taken strike from distance and had a key pass, but the Manchester City man’s defending left a lot to be desired.
Against the Mateo Kovacic – Ante Rebic combo down his side, he wasn’t confident and it showed in comparison to how happy he was flying forward on the overlap.
Should have scored in the first-half packed full of chances, but eventually got a stoppage-time assist for his troubles instead.
Defended well (four clearances, three interceptions, one block), distribution (50 passes completed, 94.3% success) was second-best across the Portugal team and at 37, showing no signs of slowing down at the heart of their backline.
Ruben Dias: 7/10
Pepe’s centre-back partner wasn’t too shabby either: a game-high seven clearances, four tackles and won all but one of his seven duels contested.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Benfica defender fares against tougher opposition though, after his Europa League exploits last month didn’t go unnoticed.
Raphael Guerreiro: 8/10
Borussia Dortmund’s Guerreiro left this encounter with a solitary assist, but could have easily had two more and a goal for good measure too.
With three key passes and the most touches (93) of anyone across both sides, it was clear he relished having possession – especially further forward where he was given a licence to roam alongside Fernandes and Jota.
He struck the post from distance in the first-half after a well-worked move saw him unmarked on the edge of Croatia’s box. Busy goalkeeper Livakovic very nearly turned it into his own goal with a nasty richochet, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Although the visitors didn’t really get going, it was important he didn’t shy away from his defensive duties either when they did threaten. Had one clearance, interception and completed tackle to boot in an impressive all-round display.
Joao Moutinho: 6/10
Didn’t really notice him on the pitch too often, was clearly Portugal’s least effective midfielder.
The Wolves man did create two key passes and retained possession well (91.4% success) but won just five of 13 duels, was dribbled past on four occasions and the captain just didn’t do enough in comparison to his teammates.
Danilo Pereira: 7.5/10
He only came close to scoring once – a header midway through the first-half – but Danilo’s disciplined midfield display allowed the likes of Fernandes and Silva the freedom to gallop forward at will without needing to focus heavily on defending.
Both players still tracked back as you’d expect, but the Porto man was reliable in the tackle, with the ball at his feet and it’s easy to see why he’s constantly linked with a big-money move elsewhere across Europe.
No-one retained the ball better with 98.2% pass completion, while having four interceptions and tackles, alongside two clearances during a commendable showing.
He celebrates his 29th birthday next week and looking at the Portugal bench, it’s evident they still lack a player capable of doing the things he does so well.
Bruno Fernandes: 9/10 – Man of the Match
The same could be said for Manchester United’s Fernandes, who was their Man of the Match on this occasion.
He had more tackles won (4) than successful dribbles (3), yet didn’t rest on his laurels and continued to create havoc as Croatia allowed him too much time and space to pick passes, both short and long-range.
With seven key passes, eight of 12 ground duels won and a handful of dangerous deliveries whipped into the box, it’s a surprise he only had one assist to show for his evening’s work.
Bernardo Silva: 7/10
Another player who was busy on both sides of the pitch was Manchester City’s Silva, who had the same amount of defensive interventions (5) as he did key passes.
After an excellent season in 2018-19, it’s fair to say his level dropped at club level and he appears determined to do better across all competitions in 2020 – that much was evident by the way he was playing here.
It was his costly miskick that cost Portugal a potential goalscoring opportunity on the counter-attack in the first-half, but importantly, he didn’t let that intricate mistake impact his game. An encouraging but not spectacular display, all told.
Joao Felix: 8/10
Someone who did catch the eye though, was Atletico Madrid’s club-record signing Felix – he scored one, hit the woodwork and did his fair share of defending too.
The commentators couldn’t hide their surprise as Rebic’s dangerous cross was cleared away with an acrobatic clearance by the 20-year-old as Brekalo lurked dangerously at the far post.
Croatia collectively should have done better to deny his drilled strike from the edge of the area, but it was a justified reward for a youngster who didn’t stop running and has shown signs that his Atleti education is gradually beginning to pay off.
Diogo Jota: 7.5/10
This game had goals written all over it early on and Jota, who had a topsy-turvy season across all competitions with Wolves, importantly made his mark.
It was interesting to see him preferred to Goncalo Guedes by Fernando Santos, but the 23-year-old dovetailed nicely down the left-hand side with Guerreiro-Fernandes and took his goal well too after the fullback’s defence-splitting pass.
Francisco Trincao and Sergio Oliveira: N/A
The Portugal pair were late subs, with not enough time to warrant a fair rating.
Andre Silva: 7/10
Came off the substitutes’ bench to score a scrappy fourth, which will give him a much-needed boost of confidence after an impressive end to the Bundesliga season with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Having gone scoreless in his last three games – club friendlies and a 1-0 loss to Basel in last month’s Europa League last-16 – the Portugal centre-forward now has two in successive games after netting against Ajax last week.
Dominik Livakovic: 7/10
Made seven saves and still conceded four goals, this will have been a frustrating evening for the 25-year-old who wasn’t effectively protected by his backline.
His double save in quick succession to thwart Pepe was the pick of the bunch, though he should have done better to deny both Felix and Silva from adding further gloss to a rather comfortable Portugal display.
Borna Barisic: 6/10
Cancelo tormented him on a few occasions, but Barisic’s determination under pressure proved key as he was continually busy throughout and didn’t give up.
Others might have, but he still completed four tackles, three clearances and had an interception – alongside two successful dribbles. Only two other starters could boast more of a creative impact on-the-ball than him.
Domagoj Vida: 6/10
The captain didn’t have his best game and positioning was quite questionable at times in the build-up to some of Portugal’s four goals – perhaps the worst was Jota, Guerreiro’s over-the-top pass should not have given him acres of space like that.
It’s in the Besiktas man’s nature to be overly aggressive at times though and step out higher when impatiently trying to win possession.
He made five clearances, two blocks, one interception and tackle but didn’t exactly help Lovren look good alongside him as Portugal’s pressure continued to pile up.
Dejan Lovren: 5.5/10
Can consider himself fortunate to have not conceded a second-half penalty as Portugal persisted in their attempts for more goals, didn’t exude confidence defensively and the statistics back that up.
Although he made three tackles, two interceptions and three clearances, no player was dribbled past more than him (3) and he won just four of 12 total duels – lost possession ten times with two fouls committed too.
Tin Jedvaj: 6.5/10
I’m still of the belief that Jedvaj‘s versatility is working against him, as the Leverkusen man looked uncomfortable at times at right-back – despite being more of a natural central defender.
Made four clearances, three tackles, two interceptions and one block with 92.3% pass success while being Croatia’s only defender to not get dribbled past. Wow.
Mateo Kovacic: 6.5/10
No Rakitic, no Modric, Chelsea’s Player of the Year Kovacic was tasked with a big job against Portugal and although he tried, ultimately didn’t have the desired effect.
He completed 59 passes (93.7%) with one key ball, one successful dribble and won seven of 11 duels with an admirable six defensive interventions too.
However, he wasn’t really helped often enough by teammates to get into those dangerous positions and instead needed to focus more off-the-ball as Portugal enjoyed sustained spells with possession and chances galore by comparison.
Mario Pasalic: 6/10
Croatia were passive in midfield, not aggressive enough and punished for persistent ball-watching. Pasalic was a prime example of the above: although he made three interceptions and two clearances, he seemed a step slow at times and didn’t really offer enough going forward to justify that. Hooked on the hour mark.
Nikola Vlasic: 5/10
Started brightly but faded quite drastically. If Dalic was afforded the opportunity for more substitutes, I suspect the CSKA Moscow man would have given way too.
Won just one of eight duels contested, was on the periphery for large periods and frustrated as Croatia were under the kosh.
Ante Rebic: 6.5/10
With three successful dribbles, two key passes and an assist to his name, Rebic didn’t do his reputation much harm on this occasion – but you would have liked to see more from him nonetheless, especially before the hour mark where Croatia’s impact substitutions prompted him to step it up another gear as Portugal slowed.
Josip Brekalo: 5.5/10
Started brightly but just like Vlasic, faded into insignificance quite quickly and wasn’t really a factor off-the-ball either.
Completed four successful dribbles to his credit, but the Wolfsburg winger failed to retain possession well (73.9%), was dribbled past twice and won just four of 11 duels before also being replaced.
Andrej Kramaric: 6.5/10
He didn’t score, but Hoffenheim’s Kramaric worked tirelessly during a match of few chances – the 29-year-old felt compelled to make his own and nearly got rewarded for doing so.
He went on a brilliant marauding run into the area and earned his side a corner, which ultimately came of nothing.
Then, carved another chance for himself, skipping past Danilo before curling wide of Lopes’ far post. Understandably faded in the second-half before being replaced.
Ivan Perisic: 7/10
Perisic’s passing left a lot to be desired (71.4% success) but the Inter winger should have started and his impact from the bench was undeniable.
He completed three successful dribbles and forced Portugal’s backline into much more action than they would have been expecting in the final half-hour.
After an excellent loan spell at Bayern last term, they’re looking to make his signing a permanent one and it’s easy to see why – he causes defenders so much hassle from the wing, creating openings for teammates at will.
Marcelo Brozovic: 6.5/10
Another player who should have started here, was Perisic’s club teammate Brozovic. Tidy and direct in possession (88.5% success, one key pass), he made two interceptions but importantly looked to get forward as Croatia finished strong.
Bruno Petkovic: 7/10
Took his goal well and will cause Dalic a selection headache after coming off the bench with an encouraging showing as Portugal were stretched late on.