UEFA U-21 Euros: France U-21 record a 2-1 victory over Croatia U-21


France and Croatia squared off in a clash in Group C. With France second in the group on 3 points, Croatia needed a win in order to put pressure on for second place.

The opening few minutes saw Croatia pressing the French as they attempted to get off to a better start than they did against Romania in their opening game, however France managed to ride out the early pressure, hitting Croatia on the counter with Nanitamo Ikone posing threat from out wide.

Despite their best efforts, Croatia were unable to stop France’s threat from out on the wing. After giving up possession, France got the ball out to Jeff Reine-Adelaide who fired in a tremendous cross that was nodded into the back of the net by Moussa Dembele. The forward peeled away from his marker with ease as he put the French ahead.

Following the restart, Croatia tried to level the game but were unable to do so as France began to settle into their rhythm and control the tempo of the game. After careful possession play, France found themselves with another fantastic chance with as Olivier Ntcham fired straight at the Croatia’s goalkeeper Josip Posavec from the edge of the area.

After 15 minutes had been played it was clear to see where each teams strength and weaknesses lay, France were dominant on the ball and recycled well as seen with their 90% passing accuracy up to that point. Croatia, meanwhile were sloppy when given the chance to progress as they completed just 67% of their passes.

The remainder of the half saw Croatia holding the ball and slowly growing into the game. Late in the half, Nikola Vlasic dropped deeper who played Marin Jakolis, however he skewed his shot just wide of the goal. Croatia continued to sustain their patch of pressure, as France looked to just contain their threats.

The conclusion of the first half saw France hold onto their lead as they contained Croatia to half-chances and quelled most the danger that came their way, the French went into the break in control of the game as they were seemingly waiting for another opportunity to catch their opponents.

After the sides returned for the second half, France came out controlling the ball again as their midfield were metronomic in their control of the tempo. The French almost forced an error out of Croatia keeper Posavec, however it luckily went behind for a goal-kick.

Despite their best efforts, Croatia once again found themselves struggling to circulate the ball when trying to progress with France remaining incredibly well structured and leaving no space for the Croatians to play into.

In a bid to revive their attacking hopes, Croatia brought on Sandro Kulenovic and Josip Brekalo, the latter making a much needed improvement in their directness, as Brekalo made some darting runs toward the French defence, putting them on edge. France responded by bringing on Romain De Castilla and Houssem Aouar to strengthen their control of the midfield.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Croatia seemingly had a spring in their step. The fresh legs of Brekalo proved to boost the Croatians, however they still struggled to find that killer final ball.

As the game entered the final 15, Kulenovic did incredibly well to hold off Dayot Upamecano before finding himself one-on-one, however his effort rattled off the post. France looked to regain control, however, Croatia continued to hound them out of possession.

With ten minutes to go, Brekalo once again found Kulenovic in space as he played him through, however Paul Bernardoni was quick off his line to quell the danger. France quickly recovered and once again took control of the ball as they looked to maintain their lead and control of the match.

France almost found themselves two goals to the good after Moussa Dembele turned cleverly on the edge of the area and pinged a shot off but a good save from Posavec denied him. Croatia almost immediately respond as Luka Ivanusec found himself in the box, however he dribbled himself into traffic and was dispossessed.

As the game entered the final minutes, Dembele was played in by del Castillo but fluffed his lines with the finish as he fired wide with what was an easier chance than his first goal. After winning a free-kick, Croatia’s cross is cleared and played as Ikone then exploded up the field before winning a free-kick himself that saw Kulenovic booked.

As the last few seconds counted down, France aimed to just simply get themselves over the line which they did by beating Croatia 1-0. This victory sealed the fates of Croatia and England as both nations exit the competition.

Team Line-ups

France: Paul Bernardoni; Colin Dagba, Ibrahima Konate, Dayot Upamecano, Malang Sarr; Nanitamo Ikone, Olivier Ntcham (Houssem Aouar 66′), Lucas Tousart (c), Marcus Thuram (Romain del Castillo 65′); Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Mateo Guendouzi 73′); Moussa Dembele.

Croatia: Josip Posavec; Filip Uremovic, Toni Borevkovic, Nikola Katic, Borna Sosa; Nikola Moro, Ivan Sunjic (c), Nikola Vlasic; Robert Muric (Josip Brekalo 63′), Marin Jakolis (Sandro Kulenovic 56′), Luka Ivanusec (Alan Halilovic 86′). 


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