PARIS, 8 September 2020 – Croatia has put in an improved performance in their second UEFA Nations League match against France but have still been defeated.
After losing 4-1 to Portugal in the opening round, Zlatko Dalić made a number of changes, starting the experienced Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović and it seemed to work.
After a promising opening, Croatia would take the lead in the 16th minute when Dejan Lovren beat his man with great control from a corner before blasting a left-foot shot past Lloris in the France goal.
Croatia continued to dominate and looked sharp going forward and compact and clam at the back. The match, however, was flipped on its head in a three-minute spell just before the break.
First Griezmann levelled in the 44th minute before Martial scored from close to make it 2:1 and give the home side an undeserved lead at halftime.
Dalić brought Josip Brekalo on at the break for Ante Rebić and it was the Wolfsburg winger who would level with his first goal for Croatia when he expertly finished off a wonderful Mateo Kovačić through-ball.
Croatia had a chance through Perišić to regain the lead but France would punish them when Upamecano headed home from a corner minutes later to put France back in front 3-2.
A penalty in the 76th minute after a handball from Brozović was converted by Giroud to give France a 4-2 victory, the same result as the 2018 World Cup final.
“It was great for 43 minutes, we were up 1-0 and we had chances to go further ahead. Then, a two-minute blackout and the game went in the wrong direction. We managed to get back into it but then again went behind to a goal from a set-piece. I am sorry, we played well, but we need to stop to conceded goals like this, we need to fix that if we want to be competitive in the Nations League and at Euro,” coach Dalić said after the loss, before adding.
“I am disappointed, Croatia did not deserve to lose by this margin, but we must not get disheartened.”
Goalscorer Brekalo said Croatian fans could be happy with how Croatia bounced back after Saturday night’s loss.
“We were the better side. For 40 minutes we played excellently but then there was a lapse in concentration. We conceded cheap goals and in the second half we equalised but then again we conceded soft goals. All in all, it was a good reply to loss and we showed we are a top side playing like this against the world champs in Paris. Our fans can be happy how we bounced back,” Brekalo said.