Croatia’s U21 Team Defeats San Marino, Qualifies for Euro for First Time in 15 Years!

Daniela Rogulj

The Croatia U21 football team defeated San Marino 4:0 to qualify for the European Championship for the first time in 15 years!

After they defeated Greece 2:0 on Friday, their only true competitor in the qualifications, Croatia was expected to easily sail past San Marino on Monday. It was known that three points against San Marino would send Croatia to the Euros after 15 years, though this pressure might have had an impact on the players in the first half of the match, reports on October 15. 2018. 

San Marino, a national team that had 9 defeats and a goal difference of 1-25, missed three chances in the first half for the lead. Croatia’s goalkeeper Josip Posavec made stellar saves to prevent any goals, and the game remained 0:0 at the half. 

But oh, how things changed in the second half. Alen Halilović opened Croatia’s scoring spree in the 48th minute for 1:0, and it was only a matter of time before San Marino would crack. Five minutes later, Nikola Vlašić increased Croatia’s lead for 2:0. The next two goals came from Croatia’s stopper duo – Uremović scored in the 61st, while Bosančić found the net in the 67th. For the rest of the match, Croatia toned down their rhythm, and patiently waited until the final whistle when they could celebrate their deserved spot in the 2019 Euros, which will take place in Italy.

Croatia secured 25 points for the first place in their group. Greece, who defeated Belarus 2:0 for second in the group, will fight in additional qualifications where one of the four best second-placed teams will have a chance in Italy. 

Josip Brekalo finished the qualifications as Croatia’s best goalscorer, achieving seven goals in total. In the game against San Marino, he assisted on the first goal. If Brekalo had scored two goals tonight, he would become the best goalscorer ever in the qualifying cycle for a single Croatia team. That honor is currently held by Tomo Šokota who scored eight goals in the qualifications for Euro 2000. Brekalo is in second place along with Eduardo da Silva, Stipe Perica and Marcelo Brozović, who also have seven goals in their qualifying rounds. 

Croatia will participate in the U21 European Championship for the third time, though this will be the first after 15 years. The last time the U21 Croatia team participated was in the Euro 2004 in Germany where they were the last place in the group. It was a generation led by Darijo Srna, Niko Kranjčar, Eduardo da Silva and Danijel Pranjić.

Croatia was also unable to get out of their group in their debut appearance in 2000 in Slovakia when they also finished last. The team was led by Stipe Pletikosa, Igor Tudor, Tomo Šokota and Boško Balaban. Interestingly, in the six games Croatia has played at the U21 Euros, they have no wins – only two draws and four defeats. We hope that Nikola Vlašic, Josip Brekalo, Ivan Šunjić & Co. can do a bit better.

There will be twelve national teams at the 2019 Euros including the host, Italy, and the nine teams who have placed first in their group. The remaining two teams at the Euro will be known after additional qualifications involving the four best-ranked second-placed teams from nine groups.


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