We’d always thought before the match that Renato Sanches was one to watch out for and the 18-year-old thundered a cracking left-footed shot into the corner from just outside the box.
Nani was key as well, flicking the ball back to Sanches who shifted the ball well before hitting at goal.
Who is Renato Sanches?
One of Europe’s most expensive teenagers Renato Sanches has yet to nail down a starting spot with Portugal but the brawny midfielder is making his presence felt on the continent’s biggest stage.
With his box-to-box style and braided hair, Sanches has drawn comparisons with Dutchman Edgar Davids and a 35 million euro ($39 million) move to Germany’s Bayern Munich has only increased expectations on the 18-year old.
Doubts about his pedigree, however, were reduced by his substitute appearance in Portugal’s last-16 win over Croatia which earned him the man-of-the-match award and should ensure he plays some role in the quarter-final against Poland on Thursday. “He (Sanches) is still growing and it’s up to me to analyse and to decide if and when he can be useful to the team,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said on Wednesday.
Born in Lisbon to parents from Cape Verde, Sanches is an aggressive player with the engine to drop back and do the dirty work in defence and surge up the park to feed his front men with pinpoint passes.
While his selection against Croatia left many commentators scratching their heads, no one else really stood out in a turgid game in which there were no efforts on target until the goal in the 117th minute.
Sanches’s introduction brought an edge to Portugal’s defence, a directness to their attack, and provided the link that eventually allowed them to break the deadlock.
Moments after Croatia went close with a header off the post, Sanches picked up the ball deep in his own half and started a surging run up the field.