In an international friendly between two teams hoping to reach the 2014 World Cup, Portugal was able to secure a 1-0 win over Croatia.
Both teams were coming off World Cup qualifying matches on Friday, although the two sides had very different results. Portugal grabbed a much-needed 1-0 victory over Russia to stay on top of Group F, while Croatia had a disappointing 1-0 loss to Scotland to fall behind Belgium in Group A.
Still, they are both immensely talented and used this friendly in Switzerland to showcase their ability.
The first half started with a relatively frenetic pace for these two teams. Each side had a number of opportunities near the net, although the defenses did a good job in the final third to keep the match scoreless for the opening 30 minutes.
However, Portugal was finally able to get on the board when the match's most famous player took advantage of an opportunity. In the 36th minute, Silvio Manuel Pereira made a low cross that was deflected by Silvestre Varela right to Cristiano Ronaldo.
Despite the fact that he did not have a clear view to the goal, Ronaldo had enough room to take the shot he wanted. He fired it low with his left foot beyond the defenders and goalkeeper and into the net to give his side a 1-0 lead.
The remainder of the first half featured a number of solid opportunities, including a shot off the crossbar by Ronaldo, as noted by @FCPortoWorld:
Still, the intermission finally came with only one goal on the scoreboard. Analyst Andy Brassell had good things to say about each side at this point:
In the second half, Croatia had a notable substitute enter the match. Aleksandar Holiga was not alone in his excitement for 16-year-old phenom Alen Halilovic:
The young player came in the 50th minute and played well, which brings plenty of hope for the future of the international team.
Unfortunately, the squad was unable to get the equalizer despite a number of great opportunities in the final 30 minutes.
In the end, Portugal was able to hold on for the 1-0 victory in a contest that featured much more excitement than the score would indicate.
Both teams competed well in this match, which almost makes it disappointing that there are no more meaningful matches for a few months.
Still, the squads should still have plenty of confidence heading into the summer after this display.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: A
He only played in the first half and produced as much as you possibly could have wanted. He scored a tough goal with his left foot to put his side ahead, and pleased the hometown fans who came to watch.
In the second half Portugal got a chance to see what some of the younger players were capable of, which will be important in the future.
Silvio, Portugal: A+
One of the bright spots in the entire match was the strong play by Silvio on both sides of the ball. He was strong defensively on the back line and made few mistakes throughout the match. On offense, the 25-year-old player helped lead a few counter-attacks and created the opening goal.
This was a solid effort, and Silvio looks like he will help this squad immensely in the future.
Luka Modric, Croatia: A-
If Croatia is going to challenge the better teams in the world, it will need a lot of production from Luka Modric. The Real Madrid man was all over the pitch in this one, although he was unable to create any goals.
The squad needs more help around Modric next time if they want to be successful.
Danijel Subasic, Croatia: A-
Although he might have had a chance to stop the goal by Ronaldo, Danijel Subasic played a strong match as Croatia's goalkeeper against a tough offense.
Stipe Pletikosa will remain the team's No. 1 option in net, but Subasic showed he can handle the duties if needed.
|D||Ivan Strinic (Off 50') ||B|
|M||Ivo Ilicevic (Off 72') ||B|
|M||Ivan Rakitic (Off 59') ||B|
|M||Ognjen Vukojevic (Off 66') ||C|
|M||Luka Modric||A- |
|F||Ivica Olic (Off 66') ||B-|
|M||Alen Halilovic (On 50') ||A|
|M||Arijan Ademi (On 59') ||B|
|M||Mateo Kovacic (On 66') ||B-|
|M||Ivan Perisic (On 72') ||B|
|F||Nikola Kalinic (On 66') ||B+|
|G||Carvalho dos Reis Eduardo ||A |
|D||Bruno Alves (Off 46') ||B+|
|D||Fábio Coentrão (Off 61') ||B |
|D||Ricardo Costa ||B+|
|M||João Moutinho (Off 83') ||C+|
|M||Ruben Amorim ||B-|
|F||Cristiano Ronaldo (Off 46') ||A|
|F||Hugo Almeida (Off 76') ||B|
|F||Silvestre Varela (Off 85') ||A-|
|M||Miguel Veloso (On 46') ||B|
|F||Vieirinha (On 46') ||B+|
|M||Ressurreicao Ruben Micael (On 61') ||A-|
|M||André Renato Soares Martins (On 83') ||B|
|F||Nelson Castro Oliveira (On 76') ||B-|
|F||Joao Pereira (On 85') ||B|
Neither team has a scheduled match until the next set of World Cup qualifying in September. Portugal will resume its play against Northern Ireland on September 6, while Croatia will have a match against Serbia on the same date.
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