06 September 2020 04:31
Craig Burley believes Cristiano Ronaldo will be licking his chops with the huge potential in Portugal's squad. Nations League holders Portugal made light of Cristiano Ronaldo's injury absence as they swept aside Croatia 4-1 in their opener in the competition on Saturday. - Watch UEFA Nations League on ESPN, ESPN+ (U.S. only) European champions Portugal, in impressive form on their return to action after a 10-month new coronavirus hiatus, hit the woodwork three times before Joao Cancelo fired them ahead four minutes before halftime in the League A Group Three match. 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 were 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 their 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. 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. World champions France beat Sweden 1-0 in Stockholm in the other game in the group.