Euro 2020 Qualifiers: Croatia Crushes Slovakia in Trnava (0:4)

Daniela Rogulj

September 6, 2019 – Croatia and Slovakia met in Trnava on Friday night as part of the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Three thousand Croatia fans made the trip to Slovakia to cheer on the 2018 World Cup finalists. 

The Croatia national football team returned on Friday to kick off the next round of the Euro 2020 qualifications. There are five games scheduled over the next three months, each of which could be decisive for Croatia’s spot in the competition next summer. The first in the series was played on Friday in Slovakia, which is followed by a visit to Baku against Azerbaijan three days later.

Croatia had an opportunity to move to the top of the group with Hungary, though Slovakia had the same plan in mind. Recall, Slovakia opened the qualifiers with a win against Hungary and a loss to Wales, but thanks to a 5:1 victory in Azerbaijan, they had a better goal differential than Croatia going into Friday’s qualifier. 

The World Cup finalists had not proven their true worth during these qualifications, though their win against Wales in Osijek gave coach Zlatko Dalic a bit of ease this summer. On Friday, however, Croatia was left without Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic, and a back injury for Tin Jedvaj put Croatia’s defense into question even more.

Croatia went into Friday’s game without the superstar lineup of the World Cup – and the starting 11 featured only captain Luka Modric, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, and Ante Rebic from the silver-medalist squad. Dalic instead had to rely on Dinamo goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic in goal, Karlo Bartolec and Borna Barisic in the defense, and Nikola Vlasic and Bruno Petkovic in the attack. 

Croatia had their first real chance of the game in the 8th minute when Modric shot over the goal, which was followed by a Brozovic crossbar moments later. Livakovic saved Slovakia’s first chance at goal in the 11th minute. 

Croatia came out playing the attacking game Dalic said they would, and spent most of the first half pressuring Slovakia’s defense. However, Croatia’s biggest chance came in the 28th minute off a Modric corner when Vida missed directly in front of the goal. Croatia had three corners to Slovakia’s zero by then.

Petkovic dribbled through Slovakia’s defense in the 30th minute for a one-on-one chance with the keeper, though the goalie’s leg saved his weak shot. Just four minutes later, Perisic hit the crossbar – and in the 37th minute, Petkovic missed another chance from the penalty area. 

Opportunity after opportunity, Croatia was left without luck, that is, until the 45th minute when the young Nikola Vlasic nailed a goal in the far corner for 0:1 Croatia at the half.

The World Cup finalists kept their momentum in the second half, which shocked all spectators as a goal by Ivan Perisic increased the lead to 0:2 in the 46th minute! 

Slovakia had a chance in the 51st minute, which Livakovic had no problem saving. Petkovic had yet another chance a few minutes later but hit over the goal. An incredible play between Rebic and Perisic saw Brozovic miss. Croatia’s attacking game showed no signs of slowing down, and by the 60th minute, they were running circles around Slovakia’s defense. 

And then it finally happened for Dinamo star Bruno Petkovic in the 73rd minute, who danced around Slovakia’s stopper to score for 0:3! 

Substitute Brekalo’s fancy footwork almost increased the lead even more in the last 10 minutes of the game, and Pasalic hit just wide of the goal with five minutes to go. 

It was more than clear that Croatia wasn’t done scoring yet, and a diving header by defender Dejan Lovren increased the lead to 0:4 in the 87th minute, which was the final score of the game.

The ‘Vatreni’ will play Azerbaijan next on Monday at 6 pm in Baku.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page


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