NEWS
06/25/2016 14:07 EDT | Updated 06/26/2017 01:12 EDT

Portugal beats Croatia 1-0 at European Championship

LENS, France — Cristiano Ronaldo helped create a rare chance and substitute Ricardo Quaresma finished it off, helping Portugal to beat Croatia 1-0 on Saturday and advance to the European Championship quarterfinals.

Portugal settled a poor game in the 117th minute with its only serious attack, when Ronaldo's one shot all match was parried by goalkeeper Danijel Subasic across the goalmouth in the second half of extra time. Quaresma stooped to head the ball into an unguarded net from close range.

The goal came from a fast counter attack just after Croatia forward Ivan Perisic had struck the post with a shot.

Portugal will now play Poland in the quarterfinals on Thursday in Marseille. It is clearly in the weaker half of the bracket, avoiding Spain, Italy, Germany and France until the final on July 10.

Somehow, Portugal and 31-year-old Ronaldo have a chance to win an elusive first title after three draws in the group stage and looking incapable of scoring in a cautious, mistake-filled match in the round of 16.

Neither side aimed a shot or header on target until extra time, and the match only sparked into life in the closing minutes.

Croatia's best chances fell to defender Domagoj Vida. A 62nd-minute header wide was the closest anybody came in 90 minutes, another header in extra time flew over an unguarded goal, and — in a frantic final push — his hooked shot flew just wide.

Nothing so clear fell to Luka Modric, and the Croatia playmaker left the field in tears after a third straight European Championship without winning a knockout match.

Two technically gifted teams, which were among the best attacking forces at Euro 2016, disappointed in the 90 minutes. It ended with whistles from the crowd.

Portugal showed more attacking intent after a spoiling first half when 18-year-old Renato Sanches came on as a substitute. Sanches had a clear chance in the 57th but pulled his right-footed shot well wide.

By then, Ronaldo was playing as a traditional No. 9 target man, yet still no chance came his way, or anyone else's. There was not any attempt on goal until 24 minutes had passed.

For once, Croatia's red-and-white checkerboard shirts were more suited to a chess match than soccer.

Creative midfielders Modric and Ivan Rakitic were closely marked and their rhythm broken up by Portugal's willingness to foul.

Portugal's caution could perhaps be explained by having just two full days rest after a 3-3 draw with Hungary on Wednesday. That match in Lyon was a standout thriller of an underwhelming tournament.

Ronaldo saw little of the ball, and his most decisive acts in the 90 minutes were two clearances in his own penalty area.

Still, after being so prolific in the group stage — Ronaldo's 32 goal attempts had been more than eight team totals, including Italy's — his first attempt in Lens helped Portugal into the last eight.