Croatia substitute Lovro Majer scored a late goal as the team beat Denmark 2-1 on Thursday to top UEFA Nations League A Group 1 with the winner coming two minutes after visiting captain Christian Eriksen’s superb equaliser.
Having beaten the Danes in Copenhagen in June, the Croatians repeated the feat to reach 10 points from five games, one ahead of Denmark in its bid for a Nations League semifinal spot which goes to the pool winners.
Croatia round off their group campaign at bottom side Austria, who lost 2-0 in Paris on Thursday to a France side that will be looking for revenge when they travel to Copenhagen to meet the Danes on Sunday having lost the reverse fixture.
Croatia’s best chance of the first half came from a corner in the 26th minute that eventually found its way to the head of Mateo Kovacic, but he could not get his effort on target.
Eriksen went closer for Denmark in the 39th minute, firing a rasping drive with his left foot that forced a smart save from Dominik Livakovic that kept the game scoreless at the break.
Defender Borna Sosa, who was born in the Precko district of Zagreb and learned his trade at local club Dinamo before moving to VfB Stuttgart, opened the scoring four minutes into the second half, coolly slotting home from the edge of the area.
Despite Denmark’s attack misfiring for much of the night, a moment of magic from Eriksen looked set to secure a point as he fired home a brilliant dipping shot in the 77th minute.
The relief was short-lived though as Majer, who came on for Mateo Kovacic after Eriksen’s goal, picked up the ball on the edge of the box and rattled it past keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
With both sides having one eye on the World Cup in Qatar, Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand has work to do as his side were uncharacteristically sloppy against the 2018 World Cup finalists, although as long as Eriksen is fit they always have a chance.
Their talismanic captain, who bounced back from a near-fatal heart attack in their Euro 2020 clash with Finland 15 months ago, came close to levelling again with a deflected strike, but again Livakovic denied him.
That was the one bright spot for the Danes, who next face a tough test against a resurgent France side.
Dutch outclass Poland to close on Nations League finals
Cody Gakpo scored early and Steven Bergwijn added a second to earn the Netherlands a 2-0 away win over Poland on Thursday and put them within one point of winning their Nations League group.
The unbeaten Dutch have now won four of their five League A Group Four games and are three points ahead of Belgium, who beat Wales 2-1.
The Dutch need only a draw at home to Belgium in Amsterdam on Sunday to secure a place in next year’s four-team Nations League finals.
Gakpo’s 13th-minute opener at the Narodowy Stadium came at the end of a slick passing move as the striker had only to tap home Denzel Dumfries’ inch-perfect square pass after the Polish defence has been prised apart.
Bergwijn doubled the lead in the 60th minute, coming in off the left flank to play a clever one-two with substitute Vincent Janssen and curling the ball expertly into the net.
The victory was deserved by the Dutch deserved as their high pressing game regularly robbed Poland of possession and allowed the visitors to dictate the tempo of the game.
But it might have been a different scenario had Poland’s halftime substitute Arkadiusz Milik not missed from point-blank range after being set up by Przemyslaw Frankowski’s cross shortly after coming on.
It was Poland’s only clearcut chance but Milik inexplicably put his effort wide to help the Dutch to their first clean sheet in seven games this year.
Dutch coach Louis van Gaal surprised by choosing 38-year-old Ajax Amsterdam goalkeeper Remko Pasveer, making him the country’s second oldest debutant after Sander Boschker, who was almost 40 when he won his only cap in goal against Ghana in a World Cup warm-up friendly in 2010.
Van Gaal told Dutch television before kick-off he was “intrigued” to see what Pasveer might add to the team after a good start to the season with Ajax Amsterdam, but there was not much for the goalkeeper to do.
Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk said Poland had been difficult opponents.
“We played well and this was a well deserved win,” he said.