Croatia stun Netherlands to reach Nations League final

Substitute Bruno Petkovic struck from distance in extra time before Luka Modric's penalty settled a remarkable game in Rotterdam

Croatia are one win from their first major title after beating hosts the Netherlands in a dramatic Uefa Nations League semi-final.

Substitute Bruno Petkovic struck from distance in extra time before Luka Modric’s penalty settled a remarkable game in Rotterdam.

A 96th-minute Dutch equaliser from Noa Lang had denied Croatia in normal time.

But Zlatko Dalic’s side will now play Italy or Spain in Sunday’s final, while the Dutch face a third-place play-off.

“It’s a victory for the Croatian people, we beat the Netherlands in front of their fans, Croatia has one more medal,” Dalic told Croatia’s Nova TV afterwards.

“It’s impossible, unreal, but she deserves it. Surely this is a victory which will go down in history.”

Croatia had seemed destined for the final when Andrej Kramaric’s penalty and a Mario Pasalic volley put them ahead after Donyell Malen’s opener.

But Lang’s last-gasp hooked finish levelled the game at 2-2.

Croatia, though, picked themselves up and Petkovic – introduced at the start of extra time – slammed a fine strike past the Netherlands keeper Justin Bijlow.

Their victory was sealed by 37-year-old talisman Modric from the penalty spot with four minutes left, after he was felled by a clumsy Tyrell Malacia challenge.

It means Croatia have reached just their second international final, following the 2018 World Cup where they were beaten 4-2 by France.

“We have bronze and silver, let’s go for gold so that we can finish this story,” added Dalic.

For the Dutch, their international trophy drought now extends to beyond 35 years – they have not won a major title since the 1988 European Championship.

It also continues Ronald Koeman’s inauspicious start to his second spell as the Netherlands manager, having lost 4-0 to France in a Euro 2024 qualifier in March.

Magical Modric close to international glory

Luka Modric celebrates
Modric was making his 165th appearance for Croatia

Coming at the end of a long season – Nathan Ake, Denzel Dumfries and Marcelo Brozovic all played just four days after featuring in the Champions League final – both sides struggled to reach a competitive tempo in the early stages.

But, by the end, fans inside De Kuip had witnessed a frenzied thriller.

The Dutch, roared on by a colourful and boisterous crowd, found their rhythm first as Malen opened the scoring on 34 minutes.

A nice passing move from the hosts reached the Borussia Dortmund striker 16 yards out, and he slotted into the bottom corner.

Croatia, however, controlled possession better and eight minutes after the interval, Modric – making his 165th international appearance – capitalised on a loose touch from Cody Gakpo and was brought down in the area by the Liverpool forward. Kramaric calmly slotted the penalty down the middle.

Croatia, who came from behind to beat Canada, Japan and Brazil at the World Cup in Qatar last year, looked to have completed yet another turnaround with 18 minutes to play. Luka Ivanusec lifted in a cross which Pasalic swept in first-time from 10 yards.

The Netherlands – with former Manchester United loanee Wout Weghorst brought on as a substitute – bombarded the Croatia box in response with crosses and long balls, finding reward in the sixth minute of stoppage time as Lang cleverly struck home a loose ball.

But this Croatia side have built their reputation on never knowing when to quit. Their approach was exemplified by Modric, who claimed his side’s fourth goal and is now within reach of historic international silverware to go with his trophy-laden club career at Real Madrid.



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