Croatia reach Nations League final after knocking out hosts Netherlands

Rotterdam, June 15 (BNA): Croatia scored twice in extra time to beat the Netherlands 4-2 in the Nations League semi-finals in Rotterdam on Wednesday and advance to the play-off team on Sunday.

Croatia will play either Italy or Spain, who face each other in the second semi-final in Anskide, Thursday, for their first major title, as they continued their form from last year’s World Cup in Qatar, where they finished third, according to Reuters.

Substitute Bruno Petkovic curled a shot from the edge of the penalty area eight minutes into extra time to put them on their way and Luka Modric sealed Croatia’s victory with a late penalty, their second of the match.

The Netherlands, who are hosting the four-team tournament, forced extra time with a last-gasp equalizer to ensure they would finish 2-2 after 90 minutes despite being largely outclassed in front of their home fans at Feyenoord.

Donyell Malen gave the hosts the lead in the 34th minute, before Andrej Kramaric equalized from the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half.

Croatia then took the lead through Mario Pasalic in the 73rd minute before Noah Lang fired the ball into the roof of the goal to equalize six minutes into injury time.

The Netherlands’ first goal came against the run of play, but at the end of a quick series of passes that saw quick progression and careful thinking.

Cody Gakbo set it up with the winning possession and five passes later Mats Weaver made an unmarked Mallin to shoot home.

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But it was the cleverness of Croatia captain Modric who got them level, catching the ball in the Dutch box from Gakpo, whose instinctive reaction was to pull the 37-year-old veteran who had fallen to the ground to win the penalty.

Kramaric put the ball away comfortably, after which Luka Ivanosek played a pass to Pasalic, firing home on the turn despite a group of Dutch defenders around him to give Croatia a 2-1 lead.

But the last desperate attack saw the Dutch take advantage of Croatia’s failure to clear their lines with Lang perfectly positioned to equalize and force the Dutch into extra time.

Parity, however, did not last long. Modric’s pass deflected Petkovic into the net and he fired the ball into the net with a shot worthy of winning any cup tie.

Modric completed the winner with a late penalty for another impressive individual performance.

The Netherlands must now play the third-place play-off against Thursday’s losers in Enschede on Sunday. The final will be played in Rotterdam later that day.


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