Euro 2020 Qualifiers: Croatia Tops Slovakia in Rijeka, Secures Euro Spot!

Daniela Rogulj

November 16, 2019 – The Croatia national team and Slovakia met in Croatia’s final Euro 2020 qualifier of Group E on Saturday night at Rujevica stadium in Rijeka. 

Croatia played their final qualifying match for placement in the European Championship next year on Saturday night in rainy Rijeka to just over 8200 fans.

Dalic’s side was without World Cup stars Ivan Rakitic, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida and Andrej Kramaric, and played with a younger squad that included Dominik Livakovic, Tin Jedvaj, Duje Caleta-Car, Dino Peric, Borna Barisic, Marcelo Brozovic, Luka Modric, Ante Rebic, Nikola Vlasic, Ivan Perisic and Bruno Petkovic. Recall, Croatia defeated Slovakia 4:0 in Trnava back in September. Croatia started the game at the top of Group E. 

Croatia had their first attack of the game already in the second minute – Perisic crossed into the box though Slovakia defended. Bruno Petkovic forced Croatia’s first corner in the 4th minute. Modric played it short to Borna Barisic, who failed to get a good shot in. 

A brilliant play by Nikola Vlasic found Petkovic, who played the ball to Modric. Modric’s shot was defended by the Slovakia defense, though the play ultimately resulted in a corner. 

Slovakia’s first corner came in the 11th minute, though Barisic had no problem clearing it out. Slovakia was beginning to attack, but Croatia’s defense remained solid. 

Croatia was beginning to press but was unable to string plays together in the box. Another corner in the 20th minute saw Caleta-Car head the ball into the keeper. 

Nikola Vlasic played Brozovic in the 24th minute, which he hit wide of the goal. A brilliant Modric cross found the head of Vlasic moments later, which the keeper tapped over the goal for a corner, though they were unable to capitalize. 

Slovakia was dangerous in the 29th minute though Livakovic was there to save the day. Croatia seemed to control the game with 15 to go in the first half. However, one minute later, Slovakia had their chance – Bozenik scored for 0:1. 

Croatia picked up their game in the minutes that followed and pressed Slovakia’s defense. Perisic almost scored the equalizer, though the Slovakia keeper was quicker to the ball. 

In the 38th minute, Petkovic fired at the keeper who made a brilliant save to keep Slovakia in the lead. The atmosphere at Rujevica was dulling. Slovakia had two more dangerous attacks with a minute to go and Croatia’s fragile defense was lucky it wasn’t more. One last attack for Croatia was unfruitful. The game ended 0:1 at the half. 

Dalic made no changes to the lineup to begin the second half. 

A Croatia corner in the 53rd hit the post.  Another corner in the next play saw Rebic hit over the goal. Josip Brekalo went in for Rebic in the 53rd. 

Croatia was pressing and the fresh legs helped. They finally had their chance in the 55th minute – Nikola Vlasic scored for 1:1! 

A quick counter for Croatia in the 58th resulted in a corner, which found the head of Bruno Petkovic for 2:1! The Dinamo star almost had his second goal in the 61st but shot at the keeper. Brekalo shot from outside the box moments later but hit over the goal. The atmosphere at Rujevica was far better in the second half. 

Slovakia’s Hak received his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute and was forced to play a man down for the rest of the game. 

Perisic played a perfect through ball to Brekalo in the 70th though the keeper pushed him to the goal line for an out. 

Croatia was on fire – and a brilliant cross by Barisic found the foot of Perisic for a volley into the goal. The game was now 3:1! 

Mateo Kovacic came on for Nikola Vlasic in the 74th minute.  

Croatia had another stellar chance in the 77th – Brekalo stole the ball from the Slovakia defender, played Modric to Petkovic, who played Perisic, though he shot just wide of the goal. 

Brekalo had an unlucky shot at the keeper in the 80th. Mislav Orsic was subbed on for Perisic in the 81st.

A few more attacks in the final minutes of the game proved unsuccessful, and the game ended 3:1 for Croatia! 

With this win, Croatia finishes at the top of Group E and secures their spot at the Euros next summer! 

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


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