Modric magic seals Nations League final spot


Bruno Petkovic and Luka Modric scored goals in extra time to give Croatia a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands to go to the Nations League final, where they will play the winner of Spain vs. Italy.

With a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands in extra time on Wednesday, Croatia guaranteed their place in the Nations League championship game.

Donyell Malen’s exquisite shot gave Croatia a fair lead in the first half, but an inspiring comeback saw goals from Andrej Kramaric and Mario Pasalic give the away team the lead.

However, Noa Lang’s last-second goal forced extra time, when Bruno Petkovic scored thunderously from long range and Luka Modric converted a penalty to secure Croatia’s place in the Nations League finals.

The game got off to a cagey start as both sides traded periods of marginal domination as they got to know one another.

After 24 minutes, Croatia did score, but the game was already stopped after Pasalic’s overhead kick made more impact with Nathan Ake’s head than with the ball.

Ten minutes later, however, Malen proved invincible as the Borussia Dortmund winger hammered home from inside the box to give the hosts the lead.

The Dutch took a slight possession edge in the first half but were still clearly the more dangerous team before the break, earning a well-deserved lead.

Starting the second half with a little more vigor than the first, Croatia had a chance to tie the match when Cody Gakpo brought down Modric in the penalty area early on.

Kramaric rose to the occasion and tied the game with a touch pass into the net.

The first stop from either goalkeeper did not occur until the 68th minute, with Gakpo’s low, low effort giving Dominik Livakovic no trouble. This sums up how cagey this game was.

Four minutes later, Justin Bijlow was forced to scoop the ball out of his goal, prolonging his wait for a save. Croatia took the lead as Pasalic scored from the six-yard box, capping off a well-deserved comeback.

Gakpo had a great chance to tie things up late on, but he missed the target with a half-volley while under little pressure. However, the Dutch didn’t give up and stole an equalizer in the 96th minute when substitute Lang scored with a superb finish to force extra time.

Eight minutes after the restart, Petkovic scored a spectacular long-range goal to put Croatia back in the lead. Lang then missed a great opportunity to score another equalizer in the second half of extra time by shooting into the side netting.

When Tyrell Malacia scythed down Petkovic, Croatia was given the opportunity to win via penalty kick with five minutes remaining. Modric made no mistake to put this game to rest, but only after Petkovic had one final goal disallowed for handball.

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