European Under-21 Championship: Croatia stun England, France reach quarter-finals

By Sports Desk March 31, 2021

Croatia ended England's European Under-21 Championship campaign in dramatic fashion as they joined Denmark, France and Portugal in qualifying for the quarter-finals.

Portugal finished top of Group D with a 100 per cent record, a convincing 3-0 result against Switzerland making it three wins from three during their campaign in Slovenia.

Diogo Queiros gave his country a third-minute lead and while the Swiss pushed hard for a response, they conceded twice in the space of five second-half minutes to end their hopes of reaching the knockout stages.

Barcelona forward Francisco Trincao doubled the advantage for Portugal, who then quickly put the game out of reach thanks to Francisco Conceicao.

England also appeared set to progress when leading 2-0 as their game with Croatia entered added time in Koper on Wednesday.

Following Eberechi Eze's early penalty, Curtis Jones produced a crisp low finish in the 74th minute to leave England on course for just the result they needed to wrap up second place.

However, Domagoj Bradaric changed the scenario completely – and in some style, too. His left-footed drive from long range gave goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale no chance and meant England had little time to respond. Instead of ending up in second, the result means they finish bottom of the table.

Group C did not quite provide the same level of drama, Denmark sealing top spot as they eased to a 3-0 victory against Russia, meaning they finish on nine points.

Jacob Bruun Larsen and Anders Dreyer were on target in successive first-half minutes, while Carlo Holse rounded out the scoring in the closing stages for Denmark, who did not concede during the round-robin stage.

France, meanwhile, were 2-0 winners against Iceland thanks to first-half goals from Matteo Guendouzi and Odsonne Edouard.

Les Bleus will meet Netherlands in the knockout phase when the tournament resumes at the end of May, while Denmark will go up against Germany.

Spain are due to face Croatia and Portugal will tussle with Italy in the other side of the quarter-final draw.

Related items

  • Cameroon 1-0 Brazil: Indomitable Lions bow out despite last-gasp Aboubakar strike Cameroon 1-0 Brazil: Indomitable Lions bow out despite last-gasp Aboubakar strike

    Vincent Aboubakar fired Cameroon to a last-gasp 1-0 win over Brazil before being sent off on Friday, but it was not enough to save the Indomitable Lions from an early World Cup exit – or to prevent the Selecao from topping Group G.

    Having seen Brazil secure a place in the round of 16 by beating Switzerland last time out, Tite made nine changes to his side, which resulted in a disjointed Selecao showing at the Lusail Stadium.

    Devis Epassy kept Cameroon in the contest with several fine saves before Aboubakar nodded home a stoppage-time winner for Rigobert Song's men – and was promptly shown a second yellow card for removing his shirt.

    However, the result was ultimately immaterial as Switzerland clung on to beat Serbia 3-2 in the group's other game, ensuring Brazil topped the pool and sealing Cameroon's elimination. 

  • Serbia 2-3 Switzerland: Shaqiri silences the jeers Serbia 2-3 Switzerland: Shaqiri silences the jeers

    Switzerland playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri proved Serbia's nemesis once more by helping knock Dragan Stojkovic's men out of the World Cup on a tumultuous night at Stadium 974.

    Shaqiri netted a last-minute winner against Serbia at the 2018 tournament in Russia and celebrated by making an eagle shape with his hands to show his support for Kosovo, the country of his birth and a former Serbian province that declared independence in 2008. That independence is not recognised by Serbia. 

    The Chicago Fire man was booed and jeered throughout while at least one Serbia fan was thrown out for anti-Kosovo chanting.

    Shaqiri had the last laugh with the opening goal as Switzerland, who came into the game knowing a draw would most likely be enough, advanced from Group G with a dramatic 3-2 win, alongside Brazil despite their surprise 1-0 defeat to Cameroon.

    Switzerland nearly went ahead inside the first minute when Granit Xhaka's partially blocked shot fell beautifully for Breel Embolo but Serbia goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic made a smart block before parrying Xhaka's follow up.

    Andrija Zivkovic struck the post from 20 yards in response for Serbia but Murat Yakin's men deservedly led after 20 minutes.

    Djibril Sow recovered Ricardo Rodriguez's left-wing cross and nudged it into the path of Shaqiri, who fired home via a deflection off Strahinja Pavlovic before running off to celebrate by putting a finger to his lips in front of the s

    Serbia responded superbly six minutes later when Dusan Tadic's left-wing cross was guided brilliantly past Gregor Kobel by Aleksandar Mitrovic.

    Shaqiri arrowed wide when clean through, before Tadic impressed again to find Vlahovic, who turned smartly to fire past Kobel despite Remo Freuler almost taking the ball away from the Juventus striker.

    It was Switzerland’s turn to dig deep and they did so admirably, Embolo turning in Silvan Widmer’s cross at the far post to make it the first time since England v Argentina in 1998 that both teams had scored at least twice in a World Cup game before half-time.

    Switzerland completed the turnaround three minutes into the second half. Shaqiri chipped the ball in for Ruben Vargas, who flicked the ball beautifully on for Freuler to finish expertly.

    Tempers frayed as Serbia sensed their time in Qatar was coming to an end - substitute goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic was booked for encroaching on to the pitch to confront the referee while a public address announcement asked for Serbian fans to stop making discriminatory chants and gestures.

    There was one final flashpoint deep into stoppage time when Nikola Milenkovic and Xhaka clashed with several players looking to get involved. Both Milenkovic and Xhaka - another man with ethnic Albanian heritage linked to Kosovo - were booked.
     

    What does it mean? Ronaldo and Portugal await

    While Switzerland go on to a meeting with Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo on Tuesday, Serbia will head home.

    On the balance of play it was the right outcome. Switzerland wobbled towards the end of the first half but, for the most part, played with a composure that Serbia lacked.

    Shaqiri joins illustrious duo

    Shaqiri may be the man the Serbian fans love to hate but he showed his endearing quality once more with Switzerland's opening goal.

    It meant he became just one of three players to score at each of the last three World Cup tournaments. The other two? Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

    Evergreen Tadic shows his class

    Tadic may be 34 but he remains Serbia's creative hub. He supplied the opener with a delicious cross from the left and was also instrumental in the second, although Freuler should have done better with his attempted clearance.

    Whether he continues to play international football remains to be seen but he will leave a sizeable hole should he opt to stand down.

    What's next?

    Switzerland finish as runners-up to Brazil in Group G, and go on to face Portugal in four days' time.

    Serbia go home having taken just one point from their three games, against Cameroon.

  • Sorry Suarez aims FIFA jibe as Uruguay are left stunned by World Cup exit Sorry Suarez aims FIFA jibe as Uruguay are left stunned by World Cup exit

    Luis Suarez claimed FIFA "is always against Uruguay" as his World Cup career ended in tears and a group-stage exit in Qatar.

    The former Barcelona, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid striker played in Friday's 2-0 win against Ghana, which came thanks to a double from Giorgian de Arrascaeta.

    Veteran Suarez was substituted before the end and was a helpless observer when Edinson Cavani was denied a late penalty after going over in the Ghana 18-yard box.

    Suarez felt that was a reasonable claim, and he also considered Uruguay should have had a spot-kick early in the second half after Darwin Nunez went down.

    Despite referee Daniel Siebert assessing the Nunez incident on a pitchside monitor, the match official ruled it should not be a penalty.

    Suarez had tears streaming as Uruguay's exit was confirmed, with South Korea pipping them to a last-16 spot after a 2-1 win over Portugal. Another Uruguay goal would have seen them pip the South Koreans to second spot.

    Suarez pointed to group winners Portugal being awarded a disputed penalty against Uruguay in Monday's game between the teams, saying that "hurt" in terms of goal difference. Relating it to incidents in the Ghana game, Suarez added: "The penalty against Darwin is very clear. Edi's also has contact."

    Calling on FIFA, the world governing body, to "give an explanation" about the rationale for penalty decisions, Suarez added: "They are not excuses, but incredible things are taking place in the World Cup."

    He claimed to have been prevented from going across to his family following the final whistle against Ghana, too.

    "After the game I want to go hug my family, and people from FIFA come to tell me no," Suarez said, "when you see a Frenchman with his children on the substitute bench.

    "It seems that Uruguay has to have more power. FIFA is always against Uruguay."

    Suarez, at the age of 35, is winding down his playing career but hoped for a flourish on the world stage. Instead, his tournament ended in a pot shot at tournament chiefs.

    He had to settle for a small consolation, but even winning in front of his little boy left a sorry taste.

    "I was lucky to play my fourth World Cup. And what I thought about before the match was my four-year-old son, who hadn't seen me win a World Cup match," Suarez said.

    "Today, he saw me win, but he sees this image of sadness and I think that's it. For a father, for a player it is very difficult, but we are going to face the situation and encourage our team-mates for what lies ahead."

    Team-mate Federico Valverde underlined the dismay in the Uruguay ranks, with South Korea's late winner from Hwang Hee-chan against Portugal having snatched away second place.

    "There is much sadness and disappointment," Valverde said. "This is a very good group, of players and the coaching staff. Everyone's family was always there to help us.

    "People supported us and encouraged us in difficult times, and it's a great sadness. We are sad for not having given the country the joy it deserves."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.