Portugal and Croatia draw as a youthful Seleção impress in the Algarve
Portugal, without Cristiano Ronaldo, played out an intriguing 1-1 draw with World Cup finalists Croatia as they showed that the future is bright for the national team.
Early on, Bernardo tormented the defence down the right-hand side, whipping in a cross met by Bruma after just a couple of minutes which forced Croatia's keeper, Kalinic, into a smart save.
Then, in the 9th minute, an excellent breakaway charge led by the pacey Bruma resulted in another good opportunity, with the RB Leipzig winger dribbling past several players before laying it off to Bernardo, whose light shot was again just about dealt with by Kalinic.
Croatia has a couple of chances of their own early on though, and in the 12th minute, Modric's shot, which was curling towards the top corner, was brilliantly pushed away by Wolves' shot-stopper Rui Patricio.
But Portugal dominated in the opening quarter of an hour, and after great tenacity from Pizzi to win the ball high up pitch, passed to the lively figure of Bruma who won a free-kick in close range. Ruben Neves was the man given the responsibility of taking it, and came close, his curling effort just wide.
However, for Portugal's possession and creativity, it was Croatia who took the lead with just 18 minutes gone. Ruben Neves was the man dispossessed close to Patricio's goal, not helped by a risky pass from left-back Mario Rui, and the ball eventually found its way to Perisic who made no mistake from close range, smashing the ball past Rui Patricio to give the away side the lead.
Portugal continued to impress though, and William Carvalho, who was playing in a more box-to-box role than one may typically associate with him, produced a delightful turn and through-ball which released Andre Silva in on goal, beating the defensive line. With the Croat keeper running at him well outside his area, Silva looked like he was going to take it round him, but for an excellent last-ditch tackle by Vida, who in the process picked up an injury that forced him to come off.
The creativity did not stop though, and on the half hour mark, Bernardo Silva, as he so often does, danced through the defence, teasing them as he meandered side to side before taking a shot, which looked to be heading in but for a great defensive block.
Portugal were certainly piling on the pressure, and they did not need to wait long for the equaliser, with Pepe finding the back of the net in the 33rd minute. Pizzi delivered a delightful out-swinging cross from deep which was met by the head of the veteran centreback, who thumped it into the bottom corner, much to the delight of the home fans.
And Portugal continued to be a threat going forward. Again from a free-kick, Mario Rui over the ball this time, a curling shot came close. Looking destined for the back of the net, the wall just jumped high enough to nod it behind for a corner. Portugal the better team, the sides went into half time on level terms.
And the second half was not so action-packed. The tempo perhaps effected by the constant stop-start nature of the match due to a seemingly constant stream of changes from both sides, the clear-cut chances were few and far between, with one chance of note coming on the hour mark, when Neves took one of his famous long shots, but this one was high and wide.
While chances may have been in short supply for the second half, it was a day to remember for some as, with just ten minutes left on the clock, Sergio Oliveira came on to make his debut for his country at senior level, while 88 minutes into the game, Benfica's teenage star Gedson Fernandes then came on in place of an underwhelming Andre Silva to also make his first ever appearance for the Seleção, a deserved couple of debuts for two players who have performed admirably so far this season.
The game, however, finished 1-1, a result - and performance - which confirms that Portugal's youthful squad also contains a great deal of talent, and the future after Cristiano Ronaldo is very promising indeed.