On paper this was supposed to be a classic, like a commentator said, unfortunately, these games are played on grass.
Almost two whole hours of barren desolate football had been played here in Lens before each team finally made their first chance on goal. Up to the 116th minute this had been a game of historical eventlesness, with not one shot on target for either side. But then Croatia missed their chance, Portugal took theirs and they were team heading for a quarter-final with Poland in Marseilles.
This game looked more set for penalties than any other game ever played with five minutes left. No saves, no open-play chances, no invention and no risk. No European Championship game had ever gone 90 minutes without a shot on target before. But knock-out football matches are strange things and in 27 seconds at the very end this one found room for hours of drama and emotion.
Luka Modric crossed from the right to Ivan Perisic, at the far post. He jumped with Pepe and got just enough of his head on the ball, but Rui Patricio tipped it onto the post and away.Croatia had missed their moment but they did not have time to regret it because Renato Sanches was driving forward with the ball. He charged down the middle and passed to Nani on the left. There were not enough Croatia defenders back and Nani curled a cross to Cristiano Ronaldo, anonymous all game, lurking in space where left-back Ivan Strinic was meant to be. Ronaldo’s shot hit Danijel Subasic but it bounced straight to Ricardo Quaresma who headed in from one yard out.
Less than half a minute had gone since Perisic’s chance. The Croatian players looked beaten and Vedran Corluka had to drag some of them off the floor. They managed a desperate late rally and Domagoj Vida nearly looped one in at the end of added time from a corner kick. That was the last action of the match.