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Germany were made to work hard for a 2-1 win against Croatia which ensured them of a sixth European semi-final.
Impressively clinical in their opening two fixtures, Croatia had missed out on top spot in Group D after coach Miroslav Blaževic's decision to field a patchwork side against Portugal. They subsequently lost 3-0 and were punished with a quarter-final tie against Germany, when they might otherwise have been facing the Czech Republic.
Blaževic's charges fell behind to Jürgen Klinsmann's 20th-minute penalty but looked to have seized the initiative when Davor Šuker equalised just after half-time. Igor Štimac's dismissal halted any such momentum and Matthias Sammer soon gave Germany a lead they would this time hold on to.
Croatia could have been in front themselves had Goran Vlaović not been so wasteful when put clean through by Aljoša Asanović in the opening period – it would not be the last time the Germans were let off the hook. Berti Vogts' side were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure but then took the lead with their first attack, Klinsmann finishing with typical precision from the spot after Nikola Jerkan's handball in the penalty area.
But Croatia had shown themselves to be nothing if not resilient on their finals debut and deservedly drew level six minutes into the second half. Steffen Freund, on for the injured Klinsmann, was dispossessed by Nikola Jurčević, who fed Šuker in the inside-right channel. Bearing down on goalkeeper Andreas Köpke, the No9 looked certain to shoot with his left foot but rolled the ball brilliantly on to his right and stroked impudently into the net.
With Germany seemingly there for the taking, Croatia could not afford to rest on their laurels – Štimac's red card halted them in their tracks, however. Only three minutes after being reduced to ten men, just before the hour, they were behind again after Sammer's cool finish. Šuker had the best chance to restore parity for the second time but it was not to be; Germany headed for a semi-final meeting against England.
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