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Croatia (Srna 24′, Olic 62′) 2-1 Germany (Podolski 78′)
Worthersee Stadion, Klagenfurt
Group B, Euro 2008
Thursday 12 June 2008
Kickoff – 18:00 CET, 12:00 EST
Croatia defeated Germany, 2-1, in a spirited Group B clash.
Soccerlens brought the action to you live. Click below for the live commentary.
The Group B heavyweights square off in Thursday’s first game – the winner will be more or less guaranteed a spot in the next round, and with Portugal’s assured performances in Group A both teams will want to win this game, top their group and avoid Scolari’s men till the semis. Clearly, it’s a big match that could answer a lot of questions about both teams. For instance:
1) Is Germany the best team in the Euro’s?
2) Is Croatia a legitimate title contender?
3) Will Jens Lehmann go crazy and get sent off?
During their opening round matches, Germany and Croatia both showed why they’re among the top teams in the world. Germany was in the very familiar position of defeating Poland as Lukas Podolski woke up from his season-long slumber at Bayern Munich and showed the world what he can do. Croatia struggled a bit against lowly Austria (also known as “Quite Possibly the Worst Team to Play in the European Championships… Ever”), but a win against a host country is never anything to sneeze at.
Both teams come into the Euros with a lot to prove. Germany hasn’t won a major trophy since Euro 1996 and is looking to build on its impressive World Cup runs in 2002 and 2006. Rookie coach Joachim Low takes over a talented squad that boasts a good mix of youth and experience. Croatia hasn’t done much of anything since finishing third at the 1998 World Cup, but the Croats have a lot of talent and have shown they can win big matches (as they proved at Wembley when they knocked England out of contention for the Euros).
Both teams also come into this match remarkably healthy and should be able to field most of their first-choice players. Croatia will miss star striker Eduardo Da Silva (whose broken leg probably derailed Arsenal’s entire season), but still has plenty of firepower up front with Mladen Petric and Ivica Olic. Meanwhile, Germany’s problem is that their key players might not have played enough during the club season. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, striker Lukas Podolski, and star defender Christoph Metzelder all missed significant time this past season due to benching or injury. Still, most squads would kill to have the kind of health that these two squads have. Just ask France or Italy about that…
And if Jens Lehmann gets red-carded after getting into a heated altercation with one of the Croatian players (or with one of his teammates), remember, you heard it here first!
Croatia: Pletikosa, Simunic, R. Kovac, Corluka, Srna, Kranjcar, N. Kovac (captain), Pranjic, Rakitic, Modric, Olic
Subs: Petric, Klasnic, Runje, Simic, Budan, Vejic, Leko, Galinovic, Knezevic, Vukojevic, Pokrivac, Kalinic.
A couple of changes from the first match. Petric (public enemy #1 in England) drops to the bench to make room for the midfielder, Rakitic. Croatia looks like they’re starting with a 3-6-1 formation. Might not be a bad idea as a counter to Germany’s offensive-minded system. Still, you’d think they go with two strikers given their problems finishing in the opener.
Germany: Lehmann, Metzelder, Lahm, Fritz, Mertesacker, Jansen, Frings, Ballack (captain), Klose, Podolski, Gomez.
Subs: Hitzlsperger, Kuranyi, Neuville, Rolfes, Odonkor, Friedrich, Enke, Schweinsteiger, Westermann, Trochowski, Borowski, Adler.
No changes for the German squad as they again come out with 5 defenders, 2 midfielders, and 3 strikers. Podolski and Fritz go on the wings. Once again, Schweinsteiger finds himself on the bench, as he wonders how he got into Joachim Low’s doghouse.
Minute by Minute:
Here we go!
0′ Time to play “American Idol.” The Germans and their supporters sing a very restrained version of “Lied der Deutschen.” Interestingly, the Polish-born Podolski doesn’t sing. The Croats and their supporters go into a rousing rendition of “Lijepa naÅ¡a Domovino.” Based on their performance, the Croats advance to the next round along with David Cook and David Archuleta. Sorry Germany. You guys are going home with Syesha.
1′ Germany kicks off. Looks like Croatia is playing 5 in the midfield, not 6. Two fouls on Croatia within the first minute.
3′ Klose makes a good run down the right wing and and sends it in to Fritz. Nothing doing, but Germany should be encouraged. Klose can disappear if he isn’t involved, so hopefully, that’s a good sign for the Germans.
4′Srna’s down. Ballack’s down. Metzelder’s down. Everyone hit the deck!
8′ Jansen sends in a cross and there’s confusion between Pletikosa and his defender. Frings with the ensuing corner, but nothing doing.
9′ Srna tests Lehmann early with a long-distance effort. Not a bad idea. Lehmann had some problems in the first match and is on record talking about how he hates the ball.
10′Gomez gets a good pass from Klose at the top of the box. Gomez can’t handle it, though, and loses possession.
11′ Free kick as Srna takes a dive. On the ensuing kick, Srna sends in a good entry pass, but Germany defends it well.
12′ Germany is on the break as Lahm attacks. The attack gets short-circuited, though, as Klose can’t handle the pass. It’s early, but the German attack seems a little out of whack.
14′ Corluka sends in an enticing cross that Lehmann goes for. Mertesacker knocks it out, but it’s a foul on Croatia. No corner.
15′ Srna with a corner, but it’s too strong for anyone to handle. Looks like Srna ate his Wheaties this morning.
18′ Gomez is way offsides. Not even Ruud van Nistelrooy would have gotten that call.
19′ Modric with a good pass to Olic in the box. Olic goes down, but Metzelder got all ball. Good defense to deny him the shot opportunity. Nothing doing on the ensuing corner from Srna. Lehmann handles it easily.
21′ Podolski with a nice overhead pass to Gomez. Once again, Gomez is offsides. Mario needs to time those runs a little better. Frings on the attack but Croatia denies him.
22′ GOAL! Pranjic attacks down the right flank and plays the one-two with Modric at the top of the box. Pranjic with a great pass to Srna, who smashes it in past Lehmann. Poor marking by Jansen as Lehmann had no chance to stop that one. The Croats have been attacking Lahm down the right. Interesting…
24′ Croatia gets it back and Corluka sends in a cross deep on the left. Lehmann handles it though. The Germans look a little shell-shocked.
25′ Germany with a good chance as Jansen sends in a good pass to Gomez. Gomez heads it over the bar, though.
26′Srna takes Podolski out, setting up a good free kick opportunity. Yellow card for Srna. Frings with a terrible effort, though, as he hits it into the wall. Frings comes back with an enticing cross, but Pletikosa handles it easily.
28′Rakitic attacks Lahm again. The Croats must have seen something on the scouting report because Lahm is a world class defender.
29′Rakitic again attacks down the right flank and sends it deep in the box to Olic, who heads to an unmarked Kranjcar at the top of the box. He hits it over the crossbar and Lehmann is yelling at his defense. Can’t blame him for that. His defense is doing him no favors today.
32′ Klose is fouled by R. Kovac for the free kick just outside the box. Ballack with a great freekick on goal that is saved by Pletikosa. Germany with another chance as Frings sends in a cross into the box that Klose nearly puts past Pletikosa. I was about to say that Germany can’t seem to get into any kind of rhythm. Good confidence builder for them.
34′ Ballack gets into the box and sends in a good pass to Podolski. Unfortunately, Jansen runs into him before he can do anything with it. Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that Germany’s played better ever since Ballack started getting involved.
36′ Jansen sends in another enticing cross to Klose, but it’s too high for the striker.
38′ Fritz earns the corner and Frings takes it. There’s a lot of bad behavior going on in the box. Finally, Frings sends it in and Metzelder with the header. Unfortunately for the Germans, he sends it just over the crossbar.
41′Croatia on the attack. Corluka burns by Jansen and sends in a great pass to Kranjcar who forces Lehmann to make the point-blank save. Wow. Should have been 2-nil right there. I’d expect Lehmann to go off again, but he doesn’t. On the ensuing corner, Croatia threatens again, but it hits the side of the net.
43′ Ballack with a good cross toward Klose, Pletikosa goes for it, but can’t hold on. Germany puts it in, but the ref calls the foul. Looks like Gomez hits Pletikosa before he could make the clean catch.
45′Gomez is called offsides again, and Simunic is booked for kicking the ball away. Croatia threatens again, but this time, the German defense is up for it. There’s the whistle and it’s halftime.
Germany has some thinking to do at half-time. Jansen and Lahm are getting abused, Ballack and Frings have been somewhat invisible, and Gomez looks out of it. They might want to bring Schweinsteiger on to help out in midfield. Meanwhile, Croatia has a lot to be happy about. They’ve controlled the midfield and have generated a lot of great scoring chances. Keep doing the same, and they should be looking at a good result.
45′ Second half and Croatia kicks off. Jansen is gone, Odonkor replaces him, and Lahm moves to the left. Can’t fault those adjustments. Weird sequence as Lehmann bites off a piece of the ball and spits it out. I’d make a joke but I’m really at a loss for words.
47′ Corner for Germany and Podolski takes it. Can’t fault that, either. Frings was terrible in the first half. Ball bounces to Mertesacker, but he can’t get it down.
48′ Bad play by Pletikosa as he punches out Lahm’s cross and it goes right to Ballack. Ballack can’t handle it, though, and he kicks it over the crossbar.
49′Simunic with a hard tackle on Klose. Hmm… he better be careful. That was a borderline bookable tackle. Frings takes the free kick, but Podolski is out of position and heads it the wrong way. Germany can’t get anything going.
51′ Modric with a long-range shot on Lehmann. Lehmann fumbles the ball, but is fortunate that there’s no one in blue ready to pounce.
52′Corluka tests Lehmann again, this time he holds on. Maybe you shouldn’t have taken a bite out of that ball, Jens. Clearly, the ball wants revenge.
56′ Lahm’s cross earns them a corner. Here’s Frings again. Can he do better? Nope.
57′ Lahm with another good cross towards Klose. Klose tries to head it to Gomez, but it’s short of the mark. Klose needs to start going for goal. Gomez hasn’t given them anything yet.
60′ We have a break as Srna gets some medical attention. The Germans attack and Gomez makes a good run down the right. Klose is open, but Gomez loses control. Meanwhile, Podolski and Corluka get into it and start pulling each other’s jerseys. I’m sure the hair pulling will start soon.
61′ GOAL! Rakitic sends it to Srna, who tries to cross it into the box. The ball is deflected off Podolski and takes a fortunate bounce off the post and goes right to Olic, who knocks it in. Is that the game right there?
64′ Croatia gets the corner and Srna plays to the crowd before sending it in. Lehmann punches it out, though. Don’t get cocky, Srna. It ain’t over yet. Schweinsteiger is coming in for Gomez.
66′ Frings commits the foul right outside the box, and Croatia has a great opportunity. Srna hits the wall, though.
67′Rakitic gets in there again and sends in a great cross towards the middle of the box. Mertesacker just gets a foot on it and deflects it away.
68′ Ballack gives it away again on a terrible pass. Olic gets sprung on the counterattack, and Germany has to concede the corner. Terrible game for Ballack, so far, as he continues to live down to his reputation as a big-game choker. Lehmann knocks Srna’s corner out for another corner.
69′ Srna with the corner and it trickles dangerously into the box. Metzelder is able to knock it away, though.
71′ Olic is coming off for Petric. If anyone in England is watching, they just cursed at their TV sets.
72′Great move by Schweinsteiger as he gets around the defender and sends a dangerous cross across goal. Croatia deflects it out for the corner, though. And, since it’s Germany, they get nothing on the ensuing corners (the first one was deflected out).
73′ Ballack gets called for the foul in the box and he’s angry. Back the other way, and he hacks Rakitic to get the yellow. Clearly, he’s getting frustrated.
75′ Kranjcar tests Lehmann from long-distance. Lehmann holds on this time, but I’m sure everyone in Germany was holding their breaths right there.
76′ Ballack with a good pass in the box to Klose, but excellent defense from Pranjic to deny the big striker.
78′ GOAL! Lahm with a good cross into the box towards Ballack. Ballack heads it to Klose, but it goes off Kovac and towards Podolski. Podolski then blasts it past Pletikosa for the goal. Business just picked up.
80′ Srna comes off for Leko. Kuranyi is warming up for Germany. We should be in for a great finish.
81′ Fritz comes off for Kuranyi. Looks like Germany is going on the attack. Kranjcar with a blast on goal that Lehmann blocks. Looks like the German defense was napping there.
83′Pranjic goes around Odonkor and goes down near Lehmann. No penalty, though. Someone call Germany to make sure no one had a heart attack.
84′ Kranjcar comes out for Knezevic. Will Croatia change their formation into the 10-0-0? Meanwhile, Ballack commits another foul, this time on Rakitic. I think I picked the wrong German to have a meltdown.
86′ Croatia on the counterattack, but they slow it down as they’re content to run out the clock.
88′ Lahm gives it away, but here he comes back with the ball. He sends it to Ballack for the give-and-go, but Ballack with a terrible pass that’s easily blocked. I don’t think we’ll see this match go on Ballack’s highlight reel.
89′ Croatia gets a free-kick and Modric takes his time and limps over to the spot. Funny, I didn’t see Modric get hurt.
90′ Three minutes of added time. Modric sends it to Petric, who then cross it back to Modric in the box. Lahm knocks it away, though. Otherwise, it would have been 3-1. Scrum after the corner, and Schweinsteiger gets the red! Well, at least he won’t have to worry about starting the next match. Leko and Lehmann get yellows for good measure. Schweinsteiger was pushed from behind, but then he stupidly elbows Leko in the neck. Leko, of course, clutches his face as if he’s been maced. Can’t argue with the decision, though. Drogba got sent off in the Champions’ League Final for a lot less.
92′ Now Modric gets a yellow. Things are getting chippy. Ballack gives away another free kick for Croatia.
93′ There’s the whistle, and we’re done. Croatia celebrates like they’ve won it all.
Well, Croatia certainly brought their “A” game and thoroughly deserved the 3 points. They played excellent defense and really controlled the action in the midfield. The generated scoring opportunities, but they still have question marks on offense. They got lucky on the second goal, and their first goal was more a matter of poor German defense than creativity from the Croatians. Still, it’s hard to find much fault with their performance. As for Germany, they have a lot of questions to answer. Their defense was terrible at times, the offense couldn’t get anything going, Ballack and Frings played poorly, Gomez and Klose didn’t show up, and Jens Lehmann continues to be exciting for all the wrong reasons. Still, they have a match in hand with Austria, which looks like the biggest mismatch since the Anschluss. Germany can still win this group, but they have a lot of work to do.
Man of the Match
There’s no shortage of contenders here. Rakitic wreaked havoc on the German defense, especially on Lahm, who should be having nightmares about him for the next week or so. Modric didn’t do much early, but woke up later in the game and showed why Tottenham just shelled out 16 million pounds for him. But the Man of the Match was Darijo Srna. Srna scored the first goal and was involved in the second goal. He also controlled the action in midfield and did a good job on his corners (as opposed to Torsten Frings). He keeps playing like that, and Croatia will be a force to be reckoned with.
All in all, it was a good match. Thanks to everyone who followed along!