All the headlines should have been about Croatia dominating 4-time World Cup winners Italy, and maintaining their unbeaten record over them, but it was the actions of a handful of hooligans who have grabbed them instead…
European football’s governing body UEFA are set to launch an investigation after a section of Croatia’s travelling supporters threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch to force Croatia’s EURO 2016 qualifier against Italy at the San Siro stadium in Milan last night to be suspended for more than 10 minutes in the second half.
Croatia face an uncertain few days with a number of options at UEFA’s disposal, including wiping the 1-1 scoreline and crediting Italy with a 3-0 victory. One thing is almost certain, the actions of a handful of hooligans will hit the Croatian FA hard in the pocket. A massive fine will no doubt follow, and the likelihood that Croatia may have to play upcoming home matches behind closed doors, further more hitting the FA in the pocket.
“I apologize, especially to the Italian FA, for our supporters’ behaviour. This is not the real image of Croatia,” an embarrassed Niko Kovač, who at one stage personally tried to calm the supporters down, said after the match.
“I was sad, disappointed, and I hoped that it would stop. It was not all the supporters but just one group. If someone has a problem then do that away from the stadium. There were kids there, imagine if something happened. Everyone needs to ask how to avoid this because this is not the image of Croatia. Croatians are correct, honest people who love other nations, and this leads nowhere. Punishment will surely follow, but I don’t want to get into a debate whether it will be a fine or something more,” said Kovač.
Croatia’s Real Madrid star Luka Modrić was as equally upset.
“This is madness, I can not understand why the Croatian fans keep doing that. There were children in the stadium, this was absurd. This is not Croatia, our people are friendly. I hope this never happens again,” said the pint-sized midfielder, who left the field in the first half with a muscle injury.
The incident overshadowed an impressive performance from Croatia, who maintained their 100% unbeaten start to their EURO 2016 qualifying campaign. When Italy took the lead against the run of play through Candreva, it took Croatia just four minutes to equalise thanks to a strike from Ivan Perišić. Croatia continued to dominate, apart from a 10 minute period after the match resumed from the stoppage caused by the flares and fireworks. Croatia should have sealed victory when Perišić had a glorious opportunity late in the match.
“We had Itlay under control for the whole 90 minutes. They defended very well, and we knew we would not have much chances. I am satissfied, but a little sad at the end that we did not take all three points. I want to congratulate my guys, they were excellent,” concluded Kovač. (screenshot)
ITALY – CROATIA 1:1 (1:1)
EURO 2016, Group H.
San Siro stadium, Milan.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)
Goal scorers: 1:0 – Candreva (11′), 1:1 – Perišić (15′)
Italy: Buffon, Chiellini, Ranocchia, Darmian, Pasqual (28′ Soriano), De Sciglio, De Rossi, Marchisio, Candreva, Zaza (63′ Pelle), Immobile (53′ El Shaarawy)
Croatia: Subašić, Pranjić, Ćorluka, Vida, Srna, Brozović (83′ Badelj), Modrić (28′ Kovačić), Olić (68′ Kramarić), Rakitić, Perišić, Mandžukić
EURO 2016 qualifying, Group H:
1. Croatia 10
2. Italy 10
3. Norway 9
4. Bulgaria 4
5. Malta 1
6. Azerbaijan 0