Ronaldo’s Portugal Gear Up For Croatia’s Challenge in Round of 16

Portugal are ready to move up a gear when they face Croatia in their round of 16 match in Euro 2016 on Saturday.

Published25 Jun 2016, 06:06 AM IST
Sports
2 min read

Having squeezed into the Euro 2016 knockout stages after three contrasting group stage draws, Portugal are ready to move up a gear when they face Croatia in their mouth-watering last-16 clash in Lens on Saturday, coach Fernando Santos said.

While the Croatians romped into the tournament’s business end with a 2-1 win over holders Spain, the Portuguese came from behind three times in Wednesday’s rip-roaring 3-3 draw against Hungary at Parc OL.

Their talismanic forward Cristiano Ronaldo, subdued in the 1-1 tie with Iceland and a goalless stalemate against Austria, rediscovered his scoring touch with two fine second-half goals which saved Portugal from an early exit.

Santos was confident that Ronaldo, who became the first player to score in four European championships, would thrive as Portugal aim to win a series of finals on the road to what would be their maiden title.

Ronaldo is a scorer and a winner, he plays up front and feeds on goals. I am sure this performance will boost his confidence in our bid to win the competition. We have to strike the right balance between defence and attack because when we come forward we leave too many gaps at the back, as our group stage results show.
Fernando Santos, Coach, Portugal
Croatia’s Nikola Kalinic celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal against Spain. (Photo: AP)
Croatia’s Nikola Kalinic celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal against Spain. (Photo: AP)

The Croatians, who came from behind to beat Spain with a makeshift team, left their coach Ante Cacic spoilt for choice after reserve striker Nikola Kalinic and several other fringe players shone.

Kalinic enjoyed a rare start instead of the towering Mario Mandzukic and repaid the faith with a sublime equaliser before Ivan Perisic netted a late winner.

We could have done with easier opposition than Portugal in the last 16 but if we play like we did in the group stage, we have a great chance of progressing. We are one of the best teams here and if our midfield wins the battle in the centre of the pitch, we should win.
Ante Cacic, Coach, Croatia

(With inputs from Reuters)

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