Fireworks were on display Friday, both from the fans and the players.
Minutes away from pulling off the win and guaranteeing themselves a spot in the knockout stages, Croatia was let down by its fans after flares and a firework were thrown onto the field with five minutes remaining in the game.
At the time, Croatia was leading, 2-1, and was looking the stronger of the two sides in the final minutes.
This being the second issue Croatian fans have caused a disturbance at the Euros, the team could face disciplinary action from UEFA. The first incident came in Croatia’s first game, when a fan ran onto the field to celebrate Luka Modric’s wonder-volley and lite flares were in the stands in the Croatian’s 1-0 win over Turkey.
The Ivans put up goals on either side of halftime for Croatia. Ivan Persic, on an individual effort, dribbled in on the left side of the penalty area and fired a low liner to the far side for the game’s opener in the 37th minute.
22 minutes later, Ivan Rakitic was on the receiving end of a throughball from Marcelo Brozovic, who did well to win the ball in Croatia’s attacking third.
Milan Skoda drew the Czechs a goal back in the 75th minute on a tremendous header from the penalty spot. Taking a cross from Tomas Rosicky, who played the ball in with the outside of his right foot from the right wing, Skoda beat his marker to ball in and leaped from the penalty spot to knocked a thundering header past Danjiel Subasic.
Before Tomas Necid converted a penalty in stoppage time on a handball called in the penalty area, Croatian fans created the disruption of sending flares and a firework onto the field. Players were called to the center circle while the incident happened, to ensure player and official safety.
As of Saturday morning, UEFA opened a formal case against the Croatian federation for Friday’s conduct. A punishment could come as soon as Monday.
A formal case was filed against the Croatian federation for fan conduct in its first game, which will be heard July 21.
During EURO qualification, Croatians had to close a section for one of its home games after behavior from the crowd was intolerable, including the use of flares and racist behavior for a game in Italy.
In the return fixture, a swastika was mowed into the field before the game.
Croatia has its last game of the group stage with Spain on Tuesday. A win or draw secures a spot in the next round.
The Czechs still have life. A loss by Croatia AND a two-goal win over Turkey on Tuesday sends the Czech Republic through to the knockout stage.
While the fans may not have had any fireworks in the stands, the players put on a display of its own Friday with a 3-0 win over Turkey.
The win stamped a place for Spain in the knockout stages. A win or draw against Croatia Tuesday gives the Spaniards the group, and a date with the second-place finisher in Group C.
Nolito sandwiched a goal between Alvaro Morata’s brace for the win. Morata and Nolito put two goals in a matter of minutes in the back of the next in the first half, and Morata tallied one more in the 49th minute.
Spain controlled 57 percent of the possession – down 15 percent from its win over the Czech Republic in its opener. As well, it had its corner kicks cut in half with seven against Turkey. What the Spaniards lacked in possession compared to its first one, the defending Euro champions made up for in shots. Spain rocketed off 18 shots – six on frame.
With the loss, Turkey was eliminated from the tournament. The Turks will round out play with the Czech Republic Tuesday afternoon.
Pre-tournament, we all got enamored with all of the attacking options on offer for some of the tournament’s best teams. We looked at France, with its glut of stylish midfielders and wealth of forwards, and thought, “Why, only Olivier Giroud’s utter craptitude can ruin that team!” We looked at Belgium, and thought, “Boy, that Kevin de Bruyne will be unstoppable with all of those other options around him!” And we looked at Italy, and thought, “Nobody on this team has ever scored a goal in his whole entire life.”
What we failed to remember is that this can be a very short tournament and it usually takes teams a couple of games to get going offensively, and so the team that not only has an incredibly solid defense (as Italy does) but comes from an soccer culture that is entirely geared towards not only playing defense but also trying to ruin your life and your mental health while doing so, is probably going to have an early advantage.
Italy has not allowed a goal, does not look like allowing a goal, and so far has lured all of Belgium’s attacking options and ZLATAN into its lair and figuratively stomped them all to death. Eder scored a late winner in this one. Italy’s three goals are actually one of the highest offensive outputs for a team in this tournament – bravo to them – but it all starts with defense.