In the UEFA Nations League game on Monday night, the Croatian national team celebrated its first-ever victory over France in their tenth encounter against the current world champions.
The match ended 1-0, with a penalty goal from captain Luka Modrić in the 5th minute of play.
An early corner caused the spot-kick, as the referee adjudged Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konaté to have stepped on Ante Budimir’s foot in the area. Modrić duly converted, despite keeper Mike Maignan getting his fingertips to it.
After the goal, the French tried to answer immediately, but Croatia and Osijek keeper Ivica Ivušić was equal to Kylian Mbappé’s attempt.
Subsequently, the Équipe Tricolore lacked the creativity needed to overcome the uncharacteristically strong Croatian defense. Especially the full international newcomers’ Martin Erlić and Josip Šutalo made for a fantastic center-back pairing once again. Given that their opponents were the likes of Mbappé and this year’s favorite for the Ballon d’Or Karim Benzema, it will be difficult for coach Zlatko Dalić to leave them out of November’s World Cup squad, despite the much more experienced options available to him.
In the second half, the home team made some changes. Most significantly, the new Real Madrid signing Aurélien Tchouameni came in to add creativity in midfield. This helped somewhat, but France still lacked the necessary punch up front.
Interestingly, in recent meetings with the French, Croatia bossed possession and usually lost. This time, the Vateni let their opponents edge that stat and they won.
In goal for Croatia, both Dominik Livaković and the above-mentioned Ivušić did well in this international window. Given that the midfield is still one of the best on the planet with Marcelo Brozović and Mateo Kovačić alongside Modrić, the problem position for the Vatreni remains that of center-forward. Both Budimir and Andrej Kramarić have tried and largely failed in this position in June. One can only hope for improvement there in the coming months.
The Other Group A1 Match
But returning to the topic of the UEFA Nations League, in the other game of the group, Denmark defeated Austria 2-0. That win keeps the Danes on top of the section with nine points, while Croatia has seven, Austria four, and defending champions France is stuck on only two. With just two games left, Les Bleus find themselves in real danger of relegation to League B.
Meanwhile, the Croatians still play Denmark at home and Austria away in September. If they were to win both of those matches, they would assure themselves a place in the Final Four of the competition, planned for a year from now.
Main Image Credits: Embed from Getty Images