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Modric scores early penalty to give Croatia 1-0 win over Austria at Euro 2008

Modric scores early penalty to give Croatia 1-0 win over Austria at Euro 2008

Two matches in two days involving the European Championship co-hosts ended in a pair unlucky defeats.
Luka Modric scored from the penalty spot in the fourth minute Sunday to give Croatia a 1-0 win over Austria. The hosts had been over-run in the first half of the Group B match at Ernst Happel Stadium, but came out after the break to control possession as the Croats' stamina faded.
"Psychologically, this match was very difficult for us because we had to win," Modric said. "We did no go to the defense because we wanted to, they simply pressured us into doing it."
On Saturday, Switzerland also dominated for long stretches at home in Basel before losing to the Czech Republic 1-0. The Euro 2008 co-hosts had been unfancied heading into the tournament, but both have been lifted by home-ground advantage.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said as much after his team took an early lead following some link-up play from Modric and Ivica Olic. The pair combined on a throw-in before Rene Aufhauser ran across and knocked down Olic as he went past him in the box to concede the penalty.
With goalkeeper Juergen Macho diving to his right, Modric sent the ball low and into the middle of the net.
"Some of our players were overwhelmed playing in such a big match," Bilic said. "In the first 35 minutes, we played excellently. Of course, the early goal contributed to that. Then our opponent starting exerting pressure on us, mainly in the second half. But I'm sure this is not down to our stamina."
Modric's goal initially lifted Croatia and Austria struggled to contain the deft interplay in central midfield between Modric and captain Niko Kovac, with Darijo Srna down the right flank the main recipient of their wide passes.
Srna tormented Austria's three-man defense once Modric, in particular, had threaded the ball through the opposing five-man midfield. Olic also caused problems up front, drifting across the field to stretch the defense.
Playing in front of 54,000 fans at Ernst Happel Stadium, Austria lifted the intensity of its challenges and started to receive more possession, but Croatia kept its shape to ensure the hosts took only long-range shots.
The second half was the exact opposite of the first.
Austria continuously outflanked Croatia down each wing as the game became more and more stretched with the host team appearing to possess the greater stamina, while Croatia was reduced to eking out the odd chance.
"It was a very difficult match for us, especially in the second half," Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa said. "But the good start is always very important at these tournaments."
Modric had a chance when he stole the ball from an unsuspecting defender and dribbled into the box, but Emanuel Pogatetz was able to head the deft chip away and the ball was soon traveling upfield into Croatia's half.
Responding to the partisan roars of the crowd, Austria kept sending in crosses and Pletikosa didn't look comfortable dealing with them as Ivica Vastic and Roman Kienast came on for Austria. Umit Korkmaz had a long-range attempt in the 86th but Pletikosa palmed the ball away, and with it Austria's chances.
"This is the worst possible start you can have in an opening game of a tournament," Austria coach Josef Hickersberger said. "After four minutes, we conceded a goal and we took some time to recover. For the first 30 minutes, the team wasn't playing well, we were nervous. But after that, we followed our tactical plan and we did it well. We even dominated the second half."
Austria will next face Poland while Croatia takes on Germany, and Hickersberger said he has a job to do to raise the team's morale.
"The team is very depressed," Hickersberger said. "The team showed during the second half that they could cope with the Croats _ even win the match. But we are empty handed, so of course they are depressed. Do I have to lift the team (to play Poland)? I do and I will."
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Lineups:
Austria: Juergen Macho, Joachim Standfest, Martin Stranzl, Emanuel Pogatetz, Rene Aufhauser, Roland Linz (Roman Kienast, 73), Andreas Ivanschitz, Ronald Gercaliu (Umit Korkmaz, 69), Sebastian Proedl, Juergen Saemuel (Ivica Vastic, 61), Martin Harnik.
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa, Danijel Pranjic, Josip Simunic, Robert Kovac, Vedran Corluka, Niko Kovac, Darijo Srna, Luka Modric, Ivica Olic (Ognjen Vukojevic, 89), Niko Kranjkar (Dario Knezevic, 62), Mladen Petric (Igor Budan, 72).


Updated : 2021-05-09 00:39 GMT+08:00