“This could be the game of the tournament,” they said. Or, it could be the most disappointing game of EURO 2016, the soccer gods ultimately decided.
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Someone had to win, though, (it certainly wasn’t the fans who tuned in and watched all 120 minutes) if only the excitement of penalty kicks hadn’t been dangled in our faces for so long, only to see them snatched away at nearly the last possible moment. Tactically, both sides were disciplined and organized down to the finest details, unwilling to be the side that opened itself up to the decisive moment.
Through 45 minutes, only the game’s only real scoring chance fell to the head of Pepe, but the Real Madrid and Portugal defender headed the ball over the crossbar from close range.
The game’s first shot on target arrived in the 117th minute, 27 minutes into extra time, having already booked its place in infamy as the first game in European Championship history without a single shot on target through the entirety of regular time.
It was worth the wait for Portugal, though. Nani played a long diagonal through ball to Cristiano Ronaldo at the goalkeeper’s left-hand post, but Danijel Subasic made the initial save. Unfortunately for the checkerboard-adorned Croats, the rebound bounced to the back post where Ricardo Quaresma was waiting to tap the ball over the goal line with his head.
Portugal will face Poland in the quarterfinals on Thursday (3 p.m. ET), a semifinals date with one of Wales, Belgium or Hungary one the line.