AHEAD of England hosting Croatia at Wembley tomorrow in their last Nations League group game we look at five memorable meetings between the sides.
Croatia 2 England 4, Euro 2004, June 21, 2004: Two goals from Wayne Rooney proved more than enough to secure Sven-Goran Eriksson’s England safe passage into the quarter-finals. Croatia took an early lead in Lisbon through Niko Kovac, but Paul Scholes levelled with a header for the Three Lions. Rooney then struck either side of half-time, with Frank Lampard adding the fourth after Igor Tudor had reduced the arrears.
Croatia 2 England 0, Euro 2008 qualifier, October 11, 2006: A bizarre own goal from Gary Neville helped heap pressure on England coach Steve McClaren as his side struggled to secure qualification for the European Championships. Eduardo headed Croatia in front in Zagreb before Neville’s back-pass hit a divot and bounced over the foot of goalkeeper Paul Robinson as he looked to clear, resulting in a calamitous moment for the away side. Having drawn 0-0 with Macedonia at Old Trafford four days earlier, the pressure was building on McClaren to put things right.
England 2 Croatia 3, Euro 2008 qualifier, November 21, 2007: Defeat in Russia in their penultimate qualifier meant England needed something against Slaven Bilic’s Croatia at Wembley. But, instead, it was another evening to forget for McClaren, who watched on forlornly from under an umbrella as his England side were beaten in the rain. A terrible error from goalkeeper Scott Carson allowed Niko Kranjcar to put Croatia in front before Ivica Olic doubled their advantage inside 15 minutes. England rallied as Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch scored, only for Mladen Petric to settle the match in favour of the visitors. McClaren was asked to clear his desk soon after.
Croatia 1 England 4, World Cup 2010 qualifier, September 10, 2008: Fast-forward 10 months and England, under new manager Fabio Capello, were flying in their World Cup qualification group. Enter the 19-year-old Theo Walcott, who stunned Zagreb with a hat-trick at the Maksimir Stadium. The winger scored the opening two goals either side of Robert Kovac’s red card for the hosts and took home the match-ball after adding his third following Rooney’s well-taken effort. England would seal qualification for the World Cup in South Africa with a 5-1 thrashing of Croatia a year later.
Croatia 2 England 1 (after extra-time), World Cup semi-final, July 11, 2018: The 2018 World Cup semi-final meeting between the two nations will still be etched on the memory of both sets of supporters. With a place in the final at stake, full-back Kieran Trippier’s stunning early free-kick gave Gareth Southgate’s men the advantage in Moscow. Striker Harry Kane then hit a post before Croatia rallied. Ivan Perisic equalised to take the game into extra-time, where Mario Mandzukic capitalised on some static defending to score the winner and break English hearts as the Croatians went through.