November 18, 2018 – An unfortunate result at Wembley for Croatia as they failed to win against England in the final round of the Nations League group stage.
Croatia and England met for the final game of the UEFA Nations League group stage on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. With a 2:1 England win, Croatia has thus fallen to ‘League B’, and is no longer among the top national teams in the new UEFA competition.
In front of over 78,000 fans in attendance, including around 1,000 Croatian supporters, the atmosphere at Wembley was wild – and much different than Croatia and England’s first match in the group last month which was played behind closed doors.
Without key player Ivan Rakitić for Croatia who was written off for an ‘unspecified injury’, Croatia utilized the young Nikola Vlašić to fill his shoes.
Croatia had a fantastic opportunity already in the second minute, though Eintracht star Ante Rebić easily missed over the goal. While England continued to press in the first half, Croatia goalkeeper Nikola Kalinić brilliantly defended any attempts on goal.
A massive hit to Croatia was the substitution of Šime Vrsaljko who had to come off the pitch due to an injury. Antonio Milić came on for the Inter Milan defender on the left, and Croatia’s superhero against Spain, Tin Jedvaj, switched to the right.
England controlled the game in the first half with 61% possession of the ball, though the result was 0:0 at the half.
At the start of the second half, Josip Brekalo came in for Ante Rebić, though there were no major changes in Croatia’s play. England continued to press, and Croatia’s defense was impeccable at blocking opportunities from the home team.
The pace of the game changed, however, in the 57th minute. Substitute Josip Brekalo pushed on a counter-attack, found Nikola Vlašić, who then found the boot of Andrej Kramarić in the penalty area. Kramarić danced around England’s defense in the box and chipped the ball to the upper left corner for 1:0 Croatia.
In the 78th minute, however, England was able to equalize. On a Gomez throw-in, Jesse Lingard found the back of the net for 1:1. A 1:1 result would have placed Croatia in second place of the group.
Unfortunately, in the 85th minute, England took the lead off of a Chilwell free kick, and Kane hit it from the penalty area for 2:1.
Croatia opened the Nations League with a 6:0 defeat against Spain, then played 0:0 against England at Rujevica. After two games, Croatia only had one point in the group. The opportunity opened for Croatia when England defeated Spain in Sevilla 3:2.
Because of that result, with two wins, Croatia could have taken first place in the group. The first step towards the ‘Final Four’ was in Zagreb with a 3:2 win against Spain, though unfortunately, at Wembley, Croatia was not the one to celebrate.
England has thus taken first place in the Nations League group and will play in the semis, while Spain has taken second.