BUDAPEST, 24 March 2019 – Croatia has dropped three points in their EURO 2020 qualifying campaign after a 2-1 loss against Hungary in Budapest on Sunday.
Hungary came from behind after Ante Rebić gave Croatia an early lead to score a goal either side of the break to upset the World Cup runners-up.
Zlatko Dalić made four changes from the victory over Azerbaijan on Thursday, with Dejan Lovren, Tin Jedvaj, Rebić and Marcelo Brozović introduced to the starting lineup.
The visitors had all the possession in the opening stages and had the first two attempts of the match, first through a header from Andrej Kramarić, then a long distance shot from Ivan Perišić.
Croatia keeper Lovre Kalinić was first called upon in the 10th minute when he was forced to tip a shot from Lovrencsics over the bar. Croatia would take the lead in the 13th minute when Luka Modrić’s cross it into the box was touched on by Kramarić to Ante Rebić who calmly slotted past Hungary’s keeper from six yards out.
Hungary then enjoyed a period of possession and were rewarded in the 34th minute with an equaliser when Szalai beat Kalinić with a shot from the right.
Both sides looked to feel the effects of playing just 72 hours ago and struggled to keep possession or create anything further in the half.
Croatia had the first chance of the second half when Perišić was put through inside the box in the 57th minute, but his effort would go wide.
Dalić brought on Josip Brekalo to try and inject some young energy but it would be Hungary who would take the lead in the 76th minute when Patkai prodded home from close-range after a scramble from a corner.
Hungary almost had their third when Kalinić failed to come for a loose ball inside the box, but somehow the Croatian defence managed to keep the ball from going into the back of the net.
Croatia, who looked tired and flat, coould not fashion any chances to grab an equaliser in the final ten minutes and would leave empty handed.
“I congratulate Hungary on the victory, aggression and fight. We were not creative. It was not good in attack until Brekalo came on and gave us width. We knew it would be difficult in this qualifying group. We brought on another striker and played three at the back, but nothing,” coach Dalić said after the match, before adding.
“Against Croatia everyone playes 200 mph, it is not going to be easy. This is not a tragedy, we are the World Cup runners-up but we lost.”
Croatia now has 3 points from two matches and will face Wales next in June at home.
HUNGARY 2 – 1 CROATIA
Group E, EURO Qualifying Group
Groupama Arena, Budapest
GOALS: Rebić 13’, Szalai 34′, Pátkai 76′
HUNGARY : Gulacsi – Lovrencsics, Barath, Orban, Kadar – A. Nagy, Patkai – Dzsudzsak (Bese, 85), Szoboszlai (Kalmar, 65), D. Nagy (Varga, 40) – Szalai
CROATIA: Kalinić – Jedvaj (Petković, 77), Lovren, Vida, Barišić (Leovac, 30) – Modrić, Brozović, Rakitić – Rebić (Brekalo, 67), Perišić; Kramarić