Portugal take advantage of slack Croatia
Thursday 20 June 1996
Portugal swept to a comfortable victory here against a team much changed by Croatia, who seemed to concede Group D to their opponents, who now play a quarter-final against the Group C runners-up at Villa Park on Sunday while Croatia meet the winners of that section at Old Trafford.
Croatia's attitude seemed clear from the moment Miroslav Blazevic announced a line-up minus seven members of the team that had so impressively dismantled the champions, Denmark, at Hillsborough. The missing faces included both scorers there, Davor Suker and Zvonimir Boban, as well as the influential Derby-bound Aljosa Asanovic, and his new club mate, Igor Stimac, all of whom were rested.
This not only seriously undermined the prospect of a genuinely meaningful contest but cannot have gone down well with the Danes, whose only hope of survival depended on Croatia winning.
The odds against such an outcome lengthened in only the fourth minute. Carlos Secretario, the Portuguese right-back, exchanged passes with Joao Pinto just inside Croatia's half before driving hard towards the corner flag. He then delivered a cross which found Luis Figo unmarked. Taking the ball on his chest, the Portuguese forward prodded it easily past Marijan Mrmic, the reserve goalkeeper.
After 32 minutes Portugal doubled their lead, at which point the match and the group was effectively settled. It was a lovely goal, the product of instinct rather than design. Fernando Couto, rising to meet Figo's corner from the right, did not make good contact, sending the ball away from goal, but Ricardo Sa Pinto, to his left, retrieved the situation with a brilliant overhead kick, setting up Joao Pinto to side-foot home from close range.
This was impudence too much to take, it seemed, for the Croat second string, for whom Dubravko Pavlicic, a menacingly shaven-headed centre- back, was booked for a dreadful foul on Joao Pinto, who reacted with more than a hint of exaggeration.
Blazevic made sweeping changes for the second period, restoring Suker, Boban and Asanovic in one move. Not that it made any worthwhile difference and one has to question the tactical wisdom of upsetting a team's rhythm wilfully during a tournament. At least, unlike his Italian counterpart, Blazevic made sure he qualified first.
The Portuguese could coast now and it was not until only 14 minutes remained that Vitor Baia, their goalkeeper, had to make a noteworthy save, pushing an Asanovic shot around his left-hand post.
Then Portugal scored again, through a combination of good fortune and good finishing, Domingos, a half-time substitute, racing through on the left after Pavlicic's attempted clearance cannoned off Slaven Bilic before clipping a diagonal shot in off the far post.
Goals: Figo (4) 1-0; Joao Pinto (33) 2-0; Domingos (83) 3-0.
PORTUGAL (4-3-3): Vitor Baia (Porto); Sectretario (Porto), Fernando Couto (Parma), Helder (Benfica), Dimas (Benfica); Oceano (Sporting Lisbon), Rui Costa (Fiorentina), Paulo Sousa (Juventus); Joao Pinto (Benfica), Sa Pinto (Sporting Lisbon) Figo (Barcelona). Substitutes: Domingos (Porto) for Sa Pinto, h-t; Pedro Barbosa (Sporting Lisbon) for Rui Costa, 60; Tavares (Boavista) for Paulo Sousa, 69.
CROATIA (5-4-1): Mrmic (Varteks Varazdin); Simic (Croatia Zagreb), Bilic (West Ham), Pavlicic (Hercules Alicante), Soldo (Croatia Zagreb), Jarni (Real Betis); Jurcevic (Freiburg), Mladenovic (Gamba Osaka), Prosinecki (Barcelona), Pamic (Osijek); Vlaovic (Padova). Substitutes: Suker (Real Madrid) for Pamic, h-t; Boban (Milan) for Mladenovic, h-t; Asanovic (Derby County) for Prosinecki, h-t.
Bookings: Croatia: Jarni, Pavlicic, Pamic.
Referee: B Heynemann (Germany).
Man of the match: Rui Costa (Portugal). Attendance: 20,484.
Latest in Sport
Arsenal vs Monaco match report: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goal provides little consolation as Berbatov and Monaco stun Gunners
Fabio Cannavaro given jail sentence: World Cup winning captain gets 10-months for swimming in pool
Charlton sex tape: is the #sextratime Vine real or just another publicity stunt?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
Financial Fair Play under threat: Brussels court case could potentially lead to rules being scrapped
- 1 Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
- 2 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 3 People who sleep more than eight hours are more likely to have a stroke, research shows
- 5 Muslim women's rights campaigner writes heartfelt letter to girls thinking of joining Isis
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
Ukraine crisis: 'One miscalculation, and Britain faces an existential threat to our whole being...'
£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...
£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...