Croatia boss Ante Cacic believes his side have shown they are more than capable of defeating Portugal to book a spot in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
A surprise come-from-behind 2-1 win over holders Spain saw Croatia finish top of Group E, following an earlier victory over Turkey and a 2-2 draw with Czech Republic.
Portugal have won all three of their previous games with Croatia without conceding a goal, including a 3-0 triumph in their only prior competitive encounter at Euro 96.
But with Croatia now unbeaten in 12 matches – the longest run of any side left in the finals – Cacic is confident they can survive another difficult draw.
“In this phase of the competition there are no easy opponents and we probably got the most difficult,” he said. “But we were in the toughest group of Euro 2016 and we successfully went through, so there is no reason not to be confident in this match too.
“We respect Portugal but we believe in our quality, collective and the character we showed so far. We are looking forward to this new challenge.”
Portugal progressed by virtue of three draws from three matches, the last of which was a six-goal thriller against Group F winners Hungary.
Captain Cristiano Ronaldo shook off some of the frustrations of his tournament so far with two goals in that game, becoming the first player to score in four separate European Championships and helping his side stretch their unbeaten competitive run to 10 matches in the process.
Experienced goalkeeper Eduardo plays his club football in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, and the 33-year-old has warned his team-mates to expect a stern test.
“They have enormous talent, they’re young, they have a strong competitive mentality and they will create a lot of problems for us,” he said.
“We have confidence in our potential and we believe we can beat them. At this stage, there are no easy games. Everyone knows that.”
Domagoj Vida is back from suspension for Croatia, who hope to have Luka Modric fit again after a groin injury kept him out of the win over Spain.
Raphael Guerreiro returned to Portugal training on Thursday after a thigh problem and should be back for the meeting at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens.
Key Opta Stats:
– This is the second time Croatia have finished top of their group in a major tournament after Euro 2008 – they were then knocked out on penalties by Turkey in the quarter-finals.
– Croatia have lost only one of their last 10 games at the Euros (0-1 v Spain in June 2012), winning six and drawing three.
– However, World Cup 1998 is the only time Croatia have actually won a game in the knockout stages of a major tournament – they won three games to finish third.
– Portugal have made it to the knockout stages in all seven of their European Championship participations.
– They have played the most games in the history of the European Championships without ever winning the tournament: 31 games, 0 trophy.
– Only Davor Suker has scored/assisted more goals (nine goals, one assist) than Ivan Perisic for Croatia at major tournaments (four goals, three assists).
– Portugal’s last seven goals at the European Championships have been scored by Cristiano Ronaldo (five) or Nani (two).
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