LENS, France (AP) - Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal seized their chance to stay in the chase for an elusive first title together on Saturday.
Ronaldo’s only shot created a rare scoring opportunity and substitute Ricardo Quaresma finished it off, helping Portugal to beat Croatia 1-0 on Saturday and advance to the European Championship quarterfinals.
Portugal settled a poor game in the 117th minute with its only serious attack, when Ronaldo’s one shot all match was parried by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic across the goalmouth in the second half of extra time. Quaresma stooped to head the ball into an unguarded net from close range.
They were the only shots or headers on target in the entire game, and ended a fast counter attack just after Croatia forward Ivan Perisic had struck the post with a header.
Portugal will now play Poland in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Marseille. It is clearly in the weaker half of the bracket, avoiding Spain, Italy, Germany and France until the final on July 10.
Somehow, Portugal and 31-year-old Ronaldo can still win a first major trophy despite three draws in the group stage and looking incapable of scoring in a cautious, mistake-filled match in the round of 16.
Days after beating two-time defending champion Spain, Croatia is heading home.
“Croatia is the team that played the best football in the group stages,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said through a translator. “Today we were the lucky ones, but I think it was fair.”
The match only sparked into life in the closing minutes, and Croatia’s best chances fell to defender Domagoj Vida. His header from a corner in extra time flew over an unguarded goal, and - in a frantic final push - his hooked shot flew just wide.
Nothing so clear fell to Luka Modric, and the Croatia playmaker left the field in tears. A third straight European Championship ended for him without winning a knockout match.
“Everything was perfect, but we didn’t score,” Croatia coach Ante Cacic said through a translator. “Sometimes the better team doesn’t win and that’s the case tonight.”
Two technically gifted teams, which were among the best attacking forces at Euro 2016, disappointed in the 90 minutes. It ended with whistles from the crowd.
Portugal showed more attacking intent after a spoiling first half when 18-year-old Renato Sanches came on as a substitute. Sanches had a clear chance in the 57th but pulled his right-footed shot well wide.
By then, Ronaldo was playing as a traditional No. 9 target man, yet still no chance came his way, or anyone else’s. There had not been any attempt on goal until 24 minutes had passed.
For once, Croatia’s red-and-white checkerboard shirts were more suited to a chess match than soccer.
Creative midfielders Modric and Ivan Rakitic were closely marked and their rhythm broken up by Portugal’s willingness to foul.
Portugal’s caution could perhaps be explained by having just two full days rest after a 3-3 draw with Hungary on Wednesday. That match in Lyon was a standout thriller of an underwhelming tournament.
Croatia briefly lit up Euro 2016 with high-quality play, and seemed a team united with a sense of destiny.
Inspirational captain Darijo Srna returned home for his father’s funeral after an opening game win over Turkey, and was in tears when the national anthem was played Saturday. The 34-year-old Srna has said he would retire from the national team after this tournament.
Ronaldo stays on in France as an another team leader, whose most decisive and unselfish acts in the 90 minutes were two clearances in his own penalty area.
Still, after being so prolific in the group stage - Ronaldo’s 32 goal attempts had been more than eight team totals, including Italy’s - his first attempt in Lens helped Portugal into the last eight.
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