RIJEKA, 16 November 2019 – Croatia has booked a place at EURO 2020 after a come from behind 3-1 win over Slovakia at HNK Rijeka stadium on Saturday night.
Croatia went in at the break 1-0 down, but managed to turn the game around with an impressive second-half performance and now can not be caught at the top of Group E thanks to goals from Nikola Vlašić, Bruno Petković and Ivan Perišić.
Croatia would control possession early on but would not create their first real chance until the 26th minute when a pin-point ball from Luka Modrić found Vlašić unmarked in the box but his header would be brilliantly tipped over the bar by Martin Dubravka.
Croatia’s keeper Dominik Livaković was then called into action in the 30th minute, saving a shot from Peter Pekarik on the right from six yards out. Slovakia would take the lead, however, just two minutes later when Robert Boženik steered in a cross from the left into the back of the net.
The goal forced a reaction from Zlatko Dalić’s side and in the 36th minute they should have drawn level, but Ivan Perišić’s close range header was directed straight at Dubravka. In the 39th minute, Bruno Petković drew a fine save out of the Slovakia keeper as Croatia started to pile on some pressure.
Heavy rain began to fall at the start of the second half, making it difficult for both teams and it would be Petkovic who would come close with a flick from a corner that would hit the post.
Dalić introduced Josip Brekalo in the 53rd minute as he searched for a goal and it would come a minute later when Vlašić collected the ball 30 yards out, dribbled towards goal before finding the bottom right-hand corner with a shot from outside the box.
Croatia would take the lead in the 59th minute when Dinamo striker Bruno Petković rose tall to powerfully head home a Modrić corner.
Slovakia were reduced to 10-men in the 66th minute when Robert Mak picked up his second yellow card after a foul on Brekalo.
Croatia nearly extended the lead in the 70th minute when Perišić found Brekalo in the box with a threading through-ball, but his shot after rounding the keeper was blocked for a corner.
Perišić would then score his 25th goal for his country in the 74th minute to make it 3-1, and what a goal it was. After good work from Vlašić, Borna Barišić would beat his defender down the left before crossing to Perišić who would meet in on the volley and rattle the back of the net.
Perišić had a chance to get his 26th goal moments later but his right-foot shot would go wide. Croatia continued to pile on the pressure in the final stages as the rain poured down at HNK Rijeka stadium, but the result would remain.
This is the sixth time Croatia has qualified for the European Championships since 1996. Their best finish was the quarter-finals in 1996 and 2008. EURO 2020 will take place in 12 cities from 12 June to 12 July 2020.
The draw for the final tournament will be held on 30 November 2019, in Romania.
CROATIA 3-1 SLOVAKIA
EURO 2020 qualifier, Group E
HNK Rijeka Stadium
GOALS: Boženik 32’, Vlašić 57’, Petković 59′, Perišić 74′
CROATIA: Livaković – Jedvaj, Ćaleta-Car, Perić, Barišić – Brozović, Modrić – Rebić (Brekalo 53′), Vlašić (Kovačić 75′), Perišić (Oršić 80′) – Petković
SLOVAKIA: Dubravka – Pekarik, Vavro, Škriniar, Hancko – Lobotka, Kucka, Hamšik – Boženik, Rusnak, Mak