France 0-1 Croatia: Modric penalty puts Nations League finals beyond reach of defending champions

By Sports Desk June 13, 2022

France can no longer successfully defend their Nations League crown after Monday's 1-0 home defeat to Croatia left the finals beyond their reach.

Didier Deschamps' side had flattered to deceive in their first three matches this month, losing once and drawing the other two, and they were no better against a stubborn Croatia at the Stade de France.

They proved to be their own worst enemy with a needless early penalty concession that Luka Modric took full advantage of five minutes in.

The hosts' performance was full of bluster but lacked subtlety, with clear-cut chances difficult to come by on another disappointing day for the reigning world champions.

Ibrahima Konate was the guilty party for the penalty as the Liverpool defender clumsily tripped Ante Budimir and, after a long VAR review, Modric just about squeezed his kick past Mike Maignan.

The game became frantic as Les Bleus desperately searched for a leveller, but Ivica Ivusic was not forced into a meaningful save until early in the second half when substitute Aurelien Tchouameni shot straight at the goalkeeper.

It was a sign of renewed purpose, however, and Kylian Mbappe saw a 30-yard strike go agonisingly wide a few moments later.

Yet, Croatia ended up creating the better chances in the closing stages, with Lovro Majer and Nikola Vlasic forcing saves from Maignan as the visitors gained a measure of revenge for their 2018 World Cup final loss.

Related items

  • Ancelotti has 'no doubt' that Benzema is world's best Ancelotti has 'no doubt' that Benzema is world's best

    Carlo Ancelotti had little hesitancy in hailing Real Madrid superstar Karim Benzema as the best player in world football.

    Benzema scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-0 Super Cup triumph over Eintracht Frankfurt at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

    In the process, he became the club's outright second-highest goalscorer, having netted for the 324th time for Madrid.

    That nudged the 34-year-old – who has replaced the departed Marcelo as Madrid's club captain – ahead of Los Blancos great Raul, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (450) ahead of him in the record books.

    Since the start of last season, Benzema has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Madrid. That is a tally bettered only by new Barcelona forward Robert Lewandowski (50), when it comes to players from Europe's top five leagues.

    With this year's Ballon d'Or awards taking place prior to the World Cup, Benzema seems a certainty to be in the running for the prize.

    In a pre-match media briefing on Tuesday, Benzema explained that it was not for him to say if he is the world's best, but instead he would leave it up to others to decide. 

    Asked in his post-match news conference if Benzema – who had four shots and created three chances in Madrid's win on Wednesday - could be considered the best player on the planet, Ancelotti was effusive in his reply.

    "I think [he is the best], yes," Ancelotti said. "He is our most important player right now, the most efficient player in the world at this moment.

    "Karim was the most important in the Champions League, even though he did not score in the final, because of his [all-round] game and his goals got us to the final, against Manchester City and Chelsea, against Paris Saint-Germain.

    "He's very important for us. There is no doubt, at the moment, that he is the best player in the world."

    As well as hailing a standout individual in Benzema, Ancelotti - the first coach to win the Super Cup on four separate occasions - said this Madrid dressing room is the best he has worked with in his illustrious career.

    "Yes, absolutely, no doubt about that," the Italian explained. "It is a pleasure to coach this group, it's a healthy atmosphere, good vibes between everyone, winning games and having success helps, but it all about the players."

  • Ancelotti has the 'desire of a child' to keep winning – Casemiro Ancelotti has the 'desire of a child' to keep winning – Casemiro

    Carlo Ancelotti has the "desire of a child" to keep winning trophies, according to Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro.

    Los Blancos followed up last season's Champions League triumph by beating Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

    David Alaba put Madrid ahead before Karim Benzema moved to outright second in the club's all-time goalscoring charts with a second-half finish past Kevin Trapp.

    Benzema's effort took him to 324 goals in all competitions for Madrid, putting him one ahead of legendary Spain forward Raul and trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo (450).

    The triumph in Helsinki makes Ancelotti the first coach to win the Super Cup four times, and Casemiro does not think the Italian is planning to stop collecting the silverware anytime soon.

    "I've spoken many times about Carlo Ancelotti, he's a footballing legend," Casemiro, who was named man of the match after a dominant midfield display, told a media conference.

    "I speak with my heart when I say how much I admire him. I think he's 63 now, but he still wants to win.

    "He has the desire of a child to keep winning, so that's great for us. With the wealth of experience he has, he can bring so much. He has helped us win many trophies.

    "He deserves it; he is a wonderful coach and an absolutely fantastic person. When there's a change of the coach it's important to have a winning desire, and we've certainly had that with Carlo Ancelotti."

    Madrid will have more players than most involved in the mid-season World Cup in Qatar, yet Casemiro does not think it will have a negative impact on the club's season.

    "We don't need to make many changes; we're professional and want to win," the Brazil international said.  

    "We're excited about playing at the World Cup. We've never had the opportunity and we're excited to play at one in the middle of the season.

    "I don't think it will change a player's mentality. In terms of staying fit I don't think it changes much."

    While Ancelotti also has no concerns about the build-up to the tournament, he does worry about the impact of his players not having a proper break before resuming domestic football.

    "Until the start of the World Cup we are not going to have any problems," he told reporters.

    "They will be focused and fit for the World Cup, but when the players are back that's when we have the doubts.

    "Before we don't have a lot of problems. After we have to check, they could be tired. Most of them usually after a World Cup can go on holiday, but after this World Cup they will be going into the tough moment of the season."

  • Perez rules out additions after Real Madrid lift Super Cup Perez rules out additions after Real Madrid lift Super Cup

    Real Madrid president Florentino Perez ruled out further additions following Los Blancos' Super Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt, as he backed the team's ability to cover for talismanic striker Karim Benzema. 

    Goals from David Alaba and Benzema – who moved above Raul in Madrid's all-time goalscoring charts – sealed a deserved win for the Champions League holders on Wednesday.

    The triumph represented the ideal start to Madrid's 2022-23 campaign and meant the Spanish giants have now won 17 of their last 19 one-legged finals. 

    Since winning the Champions League and LaLiga last season, Madrid have added highly rated midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and powerful defender Antonio Rudiger, both of whom appeared from the bench in Helsinki.

    And Perez is satisfied with Madrid's business as he ruled out signing a back-up striker to cover for Benzema.

    "We have to continue training well, Ancelotti managed the squad, today we don't contemplate anything else," he told Movistar after the match.

    "Look at all the strikers we have. If he [Benzema] does [get injured] we have so many strikers that it won't be noticed."

    Asked whether he believed the France striker was on course to win the Ballon d'Or, Perez added: "In my opinion he already deserved it last year and this year more."

    Madrid's victory also saw Carlo Ancelotti surpass Pep Guardiola as the coach with the most Super Cup titles (four) and Perez showered praise upon the European specialist after he brought yet another trophy to the Santiago Bernabeu.

    "We've had a good season and this Super Cup makes us very excited," Perez said. "First you have to reach the finals and then win them. We have a great team, it's hard work well done.

    "Ancelotti manages this squad very well, it is an important part of the success and we start this new season, which begins on Sunday, with great enthusiasm. 

    "This year it is true that everything has gone well for us and nobody can be dissatisfied but you have to keep working, every day you work for your future."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.