Euro 2016: Nani celebrates milestone for Portugal with hand in winner

Soccer Euro 2016 Croatia Portugal Portugal’s winger Nani has reached a career milestone as he celebrates his 100th cap. (Source: AP)

That was some way for Portugal winger Nani to celebrate his 100th cap.

With barely minutes to go in its round of 16-match against Croatia at the European Championship on Saturday, Portugal conjured a winner from its first really penetrating attack.

And Nani, who had hardly featured in what was a pretty drab match, was involved in the attack. It was he who set up Cristiano Ronaldo, whose shot was saved firmly by Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. Unfortunately for Subasic the ball landed invitingly for the stooping Ricardo Quaresma to head home.

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The 1-0 victory in the northern French town of Lens ensured Portugal reached the quarterfinals of the European Championship for the sixth time in a row.

Nani’s coach Fernando Santos was fulsome in his praise of the winger as he reached a career milestone.

“It’s always a beautiful number to reach,” said Santos, who praised Nani for showing “great determination, a lot of commitment.”

READ: Fernando Santos hails tactical triumph as Portugal snatch late winner

Nani became only the second player of Portugal’s current squad, and fourth overall, to reach the 100 mark. Ronaldo, the national record holder, earned his 130th cap against Croatia.

Nani and Ronaldo share a number of similarities.

Each scored twice as Portugal squeezed through the group stage with three straight draws against Iceland, Austria and Hungary. Both also played for Sporting Lisbon before joining Manchester United.

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But for the most part, Nani has been outshone by his more illustrious countryman.

Born in Cape Verde and moving to Portugal as a kid, Nani joined Sporting in 2005 as an 18-year-old, a little less than two years after Ronaldo had left the club for Old Trafford.

They first played together in the national team during a 4-2 loss to Denmark in a September 2006 friendly, and became teammates at…

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