Nations League: Defending champ Portugal thumps Croatia 4-1

Nations League defending champion Portugal, which missed Cristiano Ronaldo due to a toe injury, secured an easy win against Croatia.

Portugal football team

Portugal's players celebrate a goal during their 4-1 win over Croatia in the Nations League.   -  Reuters

Nations League defending champion Portugal made light of Cristiano Ronaldo's injury absence as it swept aside Croatia 4-1 in its tournament-opener on Saturday.

European champion Portugal, in impressive form on its return to action after a 10-month new coronavirus hiatus, hit the woodwork three times before Joao Cancelo fired the side ahead four minutes before halftime in the League A Group Three match.

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Diogo Jota and Joao Felix both scored their first international goals in the second half before Bruno Petkovic pulled one back and Andre Silva then added a fourth.

Ronaldo, who is on 99 international goals, was ruled out with a toe infection while Croatia was missing key midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic after their federation agreed not to pick them before the start of the European club season.

It was the first time Ronaldo had missed a Portugal game since November 2018.

Nikola Vlasic nearly gave Croatia a second-minute lead when his shot was tipped around the post by Anthony Lopes but after that it was all Portugal.

 

Joao Felix hit the bar, Diogo Jota headed against the post and Raphael Guerreiro's long-range shot struck the upright, rebounded onto goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic's back and flew wide as Croatia's goal lived a charmed life.

But Croatia's luck ran out when Cancelo scored before the break with a curling left-foot shot from the edge of the area.

As Portugal continued to dominate after halftime, Guerreiro chipped the ball over the Croatia defence to Jota who controlled it on his chest and slotted his shot home almost on the hour.

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Joao Felix, 20, also scored in the 71st minute with a powerful shot which Livakovic got a hand to but could not stop.

Although Petkovic pulled one back in stoppage time, Portugal substitute Silva slid in a fourth goal from Pepe's header with the last kick of the game.

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