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CROATIA-PORTUGAL

The 'beast’ versus the ‘master’, Ronaldo versus Modric

The spotlight in tonight’s last 16 tie between Croatia and Portugal will undoubtedly be shining on the Real Madrid stars playing on either side.

The 'beast’ versus the ‘master’, Ronaldo versus Modric
PHILIPPE DESMAZES AFP

The cameras around the Stade Bollaert-Delelis will surely sharpen their focus tonight on the two Real Madrid stars on show as Croatia take on Portugal (21.00, CET) in this mouthwatering last 16 tie (follow all the build-up here). Cristiano Ronaldo and Luka Modric will be the centerpiece of a game that is as intriguing as it is unpredictable.

In Lens Ronaldo will be looking to build on his two-goal haul against Hungary, particularly after the pressure of a goalless, spluttering start to the tournament was clearly starting to get under the three-time Ballon d’Or winner’s skin. A finely weighted pass to Nani, backheel and trademark header saw the Portuguese talisman get back on track, but Portugal have been far from convincing so far and facing them tonight will be the highly impressive Modric, Rakitic and Perisic and co.

Croatia’s performance against La Roja was all the more impressive as they were without their midfield maestro Modric, who has recovered from injury and will be looking to pull the strings from the middle of the park in Lens. Modric’s performances have consistently impressed and he will be looking to seamlessly slot back into the Croatian midfield and inflict damage on his opponents.

So it’s the ‘beast’ versus the ‘master’, two high-calibre footballers who brought yet more Champions League success to Real Madrid last season. Croatia have not tasted defeat in their three games thus far and have that fine balance of flair, speed and grit. Vida and Corluka will be looking to boss Ronaldo and the threat of Nani with the type of fearlessness that was clearly on show against the reigning champions.

Predicting whether the Modric-Rakitic-Perisic combination will trump Cristiano-Nani-Quaresma remains a hard ask, and judging by performances so far Fernando Santos’s trident clearly operates in fits and starts. Portugal have yet to win a game at these Euros and certainly scraped through to the knockout phase, yet it’s also impossible to bet against them and with the quality of players at their disposal they can be a match for any side.