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Saturday, 24 July 2021

Croatia advance at Euro 2020 with Modric leading the way

AP , Tuesday 22 Jun 2021
Luka Modric
Luka Modric was on target against Scotland (Photo: Reuters)
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Luka Modric lurked on the edge of the area, waiting for the ball to come to him before perfectly stroking it into the top corner with the outside of his boot.

At 35, this may well be the Croatia captain's last European Championship, and he doesn't want to go home just yet.

Modric's majestic goal in the 62nd minute helped Croatia beat Scotland 3-1 on Tuesday and give the team a spot in the round of 16 at Euro 2020 by finishing second in Group D. Croatia will face the runner-up from Group E on Monday in Copenhagen.

Modric had a quiet first two group matches, with the midfielder forced into deeper positions and Croatia facing criticism for lacking spark in attack. But the playmaker showed his class and why he won the Ballon d'Or in 2018 _ the same year he helped his team reach the World Cup final.

He fell to his knees at the final whistle for about a minute before rising to his feet and pumping his fists in celebration. He then went over with a big smile on his face to hug Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic.

Modric is now the youngest and oldest player to score for Croatia at the European Championship. He scored when he was 22 years, 273 days against Austria in 2008. On Tuesday, he was 35 years, 286 days.

Croatia's two other goals came from winger Nikola Vlasic's low shot from close range in the 17th minute and Ivan Perisic's flicked header in the 77th.

Vlasic's took two touches for his goal and fired a low shot past Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall. It was Croatia's first real attack of the match after Scotland dominated the opening stages.

It was poor defending by wingback Stephen O'Donnell, who let Perisic jump above him unchallenged. Scotland sat back on occasions after the goal, inviting Croatia to push forward in dangerous positions.

``I'm devastated we're not through,`` Scotland midfielder John McGinn said. ``Extremely proud of the effort, but we came up against an excellent team and their experience showed.

Callum McGregor equalized for Scotland just before halftime, drilling the ball from just outside the penalty area into the left corner. Scotland's first goal of the tournament _ and its first in a major men's competition since the 1998 World Cup _ electrified the atmosphere at Hampden Park, with the Tartan Army jumping and hugging in the stands.

Scotland had pressed down the flanks with two crosses into the box, and Croatia only half-cleared the ball before it fell to McGregor.

But it wasn't enough for Scotland, which exits the tournament in last place in the group with only one point.

``The lads are shattered. They put so much energy into it,'' McGregor said. ``The fans were amazing. They (Croatia) just had too much quality in the end. It's a tough lesson.''

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