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Austria 0-1 Croatia



By Ian Hughes

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Highlights: Austria 0-1 Croatia

Croatia were forced to hang on against tournament co-hosts Austria to begin their Euro 2008 campaign with a win.

They were gifted what proved to be a fourth-minute winner when Luka Modric drilled home a penalty after Rene Aufhauser clumsily felled Ivica Olic.

Austria's Joachim Standfest headed their best chance wide as they finished the first half in better form.

And after the break Austria's Umit Korkmaz had a stinging shot well saved and Roman Kienast headed narrowly wide.

An equaliser would not have flattered a plucky Austria side who had to dig deep to recover from a terrible opening spell.

Austria went into the game knowing that if they were to rip up the form book and keep the pre-match party going, it was imperative that they got off to a good start.

But instead they quickly reinforced suggestions they would be merely making up the numbers almost as soon as they touched the ball - or not, in the case of Aufhauser.

He bundled Olic over and up stepped Modric to take the spot-kick and his cool finish must have impressed any watching Tottenham fans, who will be seeing him at their club next season.

Quickly it became evident that Austria's players were unlikely to follow Modric to the Premier League, such was the lack of quality in the side ranked 92nd in the world.

Bilic believes Croatia will improve

And the one Austrian who does actually ply his trade in England, Middlesbrough's Emanuel Pogatetz, looked nothing like a maestro but every bit his 'Mad Dog' nickname.

After being booked for his protest at the penalty he should have been sent off for virtually assaulting Olic on the half-hour mark.

But despite their obvious superiority Croatia created only one other decent chance, when Mladen Petric blazed over from inside the box, and they began to be complacent towards the end of the half.

And had Austria's giant centre-back Sebastian Prodl or Joachim Standfest been more accurate with free headers they might have snatched an equaliser.

If set-pieces had been Austria's only likely source of success in the first half, they came out after the break looking determined to show they could fashion something in open play.

And the hosts did enjoy more possession but Croatia easily broke up their attacks, which were pedestrian at best.

606: DEBATE

For 20 minutes, the game was almost at a standstill and then Austria found some impetus and started to dictate the tempo.

Austria, though, are not massive outsiders for nothing and although they forced the pace they failed to really threaten.

They almost made the breakthrough when a swerving shot from Korkmaz was parried by keeper Stipe Pletikosa and at the death, Kienast flicked a header narrowly wide.

But they ultimately paid for having a lack of real quality in the final third.

Yet the same could be said of Croatia, who look far from potential winners of the tournament and appear to have no-one to replace injured striker Eduardo da Silva.


Austria: Macho, Prodl, Stranzl, Pogatetz, Aufhauser, Saumel (Vastic 61), Standfest, Gercaliu (Korkmaz 69), Ivanschitz, Harnik, Linz (Kienast 73).
Subs Not Used: Manninger, Ozcan, Katzer, Garics, Patocka, Hiden, Fuchs, Leitgeb, Hoffer.

Booked: Pogatetz, Saumel, Prodl.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Corluka, Robert Kovac, Simunic, Pranjic, Srna, Nico Kovac, Modric, Kranjcar (Knezevic 61), Olic (Vukojevic 82), Petric (Budan 72).
Subs Not Used: Galinovic, Runje, Simic, Vejic, Rakitic, Pokrivac, Leko, Kalinic, Klasnic.

Booked: Robert Kovac.

Goals: Modric 4 pen.

Ref: Pieter Vink (Holland).


BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Croatia's Luca Modric 7.51 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

TRIVIA

Luka Modric's winning penalty for Croatia was the fastest ever spot kick in the history of this tournament. The previous fastest penalty was awarded to Italy in their match against Germany in 1996, when Gianfranco Zola failed to convert in the ninth minute of the match.

Following Switzerland's defeat on Saturday, Austria are now the sixth host nation to lose their opening match at a European Championship tournament.

The result marked Croatia's first European Championship victory, since a 3-0 win over Denmark on 16 June 1996, ending a five match winless streak.

At the age of 22 years and 273 days, Modric became the youngest Croatian goalscorer ever at this tournament. He broke Goran Vlaovic' record who was 23 years and 309 days old when he scored against Turkey in 1996.

Trivia stats source: Infostrada Sports




Group B
16 June 2008 21:40
    P GD PTS
1 Croatia 3 3 9
2 Germany 3 2 6
3 Austria 3 -2 1
4 Poland 3 -3 1

see also
Austria team guide
15 May 08 |  Austria
Croatia team guide
15 May 08 |  Croatia


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