Ruben Dias made the difference while Cristiano Ronaldo was frustrated yet again as Portugal beat Croatia 3-2 to end their UEFA Nations League campaign on a high.
The game was an end-to-end affair from the get-go, albeit with few clear-cut openings. In fact, it was Croatia that got the closest to scoring before the deadlock was broken, as Ruben Dias blocked a goal-bound effort by Mario Pasalic. Portugal did go behind midway through the first half though, with Mateo Kovacic scoring from close range.
It was not until the 52nd minute that Portugal would find a way back in the game. And, Dias was involved again as he tapped the ball into the open net after gleefully receiving the ball from Ruben Semedo, who pounced on the rebound from Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick. Shortly after, the hosts were ahead, as Joao Felix bundled the ball into the net from Diogo Jota’s cut-back.
However, parity was restored just five minutes later, with Kovacic on target again for Croatia. But, a costly mistake by Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic gifted Portugal the winner, with Dias at hand to pounce on the stray ball, as the Seleccao sealed a 3-2 win. With their UEFA Nations League campaign ending on a high, The Hard Tackle runs the rule over Fernando Santos’s men.
Rui Patricio: 6/10
There was not a lot that Rui Patricio had to do in the game, with Croatia not creating many clear chances. The veteran goalkeeper made just one save all game and could not have done much to deny Mateo Kovacic either time.
Nelson Semedo: 8/10
Nelson Semedo for Portugal vs. Croatia:
💯 5/5 take-ons completed (most)
💯 5/5 tackles won (most)
An exceptional display. pic.twitter.com/Zd6lYUYAUk
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 17, 2020
A top-class display by Nelson Semedo, who was a constant outlet down the right flank in the game while also performing ably at the back. In a fantastic showing, the full-back completed each of his attempted take-ons (5) and tackles (5) while creating 1 fine chance and winning a staggering 16 duels, the highest for any player on the pitch. Brilliant, whichever way you look at it.
Ruben Semedo: 6/10
Not the best of outings for Ruben Semedo, who was nervy on a number of occasions. The 26-year-old, linked with Liverpool lately, was beaten easily in the air at times while his output on the ball was sub-par (possession lost 14 times). But, he made a key contribution in the final third, squaring the ball for Ruben Dias to score his first goal after receiving the rebound from Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick.
Ruben Dias: 9/10
It was a night when Ruben Dias made all the difference. The 23-year-old made an early block on Mario Pasalic to keep the game tied at 0-0 and made 4 important clearances. However, it was at the opposite end where he made his big impact, being in the right place at the right time to score both the goals and earn Portugal the win.
2 – Rúben Dias is the first defender scoring a brace for Portugal in a game in the 21st century; he had never scored a goal for Portugal before tonight's game. Surprise. #CROPOR #NationsLeague pic.twitter.com/0z1ExsARzK
— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) November 17, 2020
Mario Rui: 6/10
Following a superb performance against Andorra, expectations were high from Mario Rui. But, on Tuesday, the 29-year-old was not in his elements versus Croatia. Rui did see a lot of the ball and played 1 key pass, but his end product was generally lacking on the night, while he also looked wobbly at the back on a couple of occasions.
Joao Moutinho: 7.5/10
The man to orchestrate the play for Portugal continued his good form in the current international break. Moutinho had an excellent passing rate of 90 per cent and also created 2 chances while posing a threat in set-piece situations. Put in the hard yards defensively as well, winning 5 duels, completing 3 interceptions and making 2 clearances. Solid all around.
Danilo Pereira: 6/10
Danilo was not quite at his best against Croatia, struggling to provide solid cover to the defence and getting overrun a number of times. Extremely accurate on the ball, though, misplacing just 3 passes all game. Needed to do his primary job a bit better.
Bruno Fernandes: 5/10
A night to forget for Bruno Fernandes, who struggled to carve out the openings in the first half and did not appear to be on the same page as the rest of his teammates. A paltry 62 per cent passing rate was indicative of the same, with the Manchester United talisman playing just 1 key pass. Hooked off at half-time for Francisco Trincao.
Diogo Jota: 7/10
Handed his first start in the current international break, Jota was purposeful in his display, but also quite wasteful on the ball. The young forward completed just 20 of the 36 passes he attempted. However, he also made a telling impact in the game, as it was his layoff that was met by Joao Felix for Portugal’s second of the night.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 6/10
International goals in competitive games in 2020:
Cristiano Ronaldo: 2 in 4 games
Lionel Messi: 1 in 3 games
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 17, 2020
Yet another frustrating evening for Ronaldo, much in line with his outing against France last week. A target for the Croatia defenders, the Portugal captain was fouled a number of times. Ronaldo, as a result, did not find many scoring opportunities, although he did miss a big chance. However, it was Ronaldo’s free-kick that eventually found its way to Ruben Dias.
Joao Felix: 7/10
Not a night when Felix was involved a whole lot. In fact, the Atletico Madrid superstar managed just 38 touches and attempted a mere 23 passes. However, he did the job that was required of him, converting one of his two shots by finding the back of the net.
Francisco Trincao: 7/10
On for Bruno Fernandes, Trincao added more directness into Portugal’s gameplay while misplacing just 3 passes. Had a shot saved by Dominik Livakovic as well while successfully completing each of his 5 attempted take-ons.
Bernardo Silva: 7/10
Introduced with 20 minutes left, Bernardo Silva strangely did not see a lot of the ball. But, it was his corner that eventually led to Dias’s winner late on.
Joao Cancelo: 6/10
On for the ineffective Rui, Cancelo was hardly called into action defensively. Like Rui, though, he struggled to complete his crosses.
On for the final 10 minutes, Paulinho was hardly involved in any sort of action.
Sergio Oliveira: N/A
Did not play enough to warrant a rating.