Sweden 2-1 Croatia: hosts ease relegation fears

Dejan Kulusevski and Marcus Danielson struck to help Sweden earn a vital win.

Highlights: Sweden 2-1 Croatia
Highlights: Sweden 2-1 Croatia

Sweden edged a must-win encounter against Croatia, Dejan Kulusevski and Marcus Danielson scoring to keep their team's League A prospects alive.

Sweden vs Croatia: as it happened, reaction

Match in brief

Sweden dominated the opening half and Kulusevski's cool finish – his first goal at international level – put the hosts ahead on 36 minutes. They then doubled their advantage thanks to the last action of the first period, Marcus Danielson powering a header into the net from Sebastian Larsson's pinpoint corner in added time.

A cagey second period finally burst into life with less than ten minutes remaining when Ivan Perišić's header from a Nikola Vlašić delivery deflected off the luckless Danielson and just inside the upright. The Croatia fightback did not materialise, however, and one of these teams – level on three points – will now suffer Group A relegation on Tuesday.

Victory brought Sweden their first points in the group
Victory brought Sweden their first points in the groupGetty Images

Sujay Dutt, Sweden reporter

Going 2–0 up before the break, Sweden could well have added another in the second half. Instead, Croatia found a lifeline after forcing an own goal. Sweden held off until the end and will still have their fate in their own hands when they step out against France on Tuesday.

Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter

Although Zlatko Dalić wasn't able to count on three key players at the back, Croatia failed to convince in both attack and defence tonight. There was little creativity and fluency on show, and it's not the first time that has happened this year. The coach is still experimenting and trying to find a solution.

Reaction

Dejan Kulusevski, Sweden forward: "We are very happy with the result today, so we are going [to France] to win the game. That's why we play football. But I'm happy for the experience to go there and to try to play with the best players."

Sebastian Larsson, Sweden midfielder: "Collectively we were strong and smart out there. I think we frustrated them. When you frustrate good opponents, spaces will open up – and we were there to make the most of them."

Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: "Sweden won the match in the first half. They were much better in that period and they deserved it. We took control in the second half, but it was not enough."

Dominik Livaković, Croatia goalkeeper: "It was not very good in the first half, definitely not. But we woke up in the second and it looked much better. I feel we had to play more aggressively."

There was little to cheer for Luka Modrić and Co
There was little to cheer for Luka Modrić and CoGetty Images

Key stats

  • Sweden led for the first time in this UEFA Nations League campaign, having only scored once before tonight.
  • Sweden scored more first-half goals tonight than in their five previous competitive matches combined.
  • Croatia have lost all five of their away UEFA Nations League fixtures.
  • Croatia have not kept a clean sheet in their last ten outings, conceding 20 goals in that time.
  • Croatia have netted in each of their last 20 matches, stretching back to October 2018.

Line-ups

Sweden: Olsen; Lustig, Lindelöf, Danielson, Bengtsson; S Larsson, Olsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Berg, Kulusevski (Claesson 74)

Croatia: Livaković; Uremović (Juranović 41), Pongračić (Melnjak 77), Ćaleta-Car, Barišić; Modrić, Kovačić (Rog 77); Brekalo (Petković 77), Vlašić, Perišić; Budimir (Pašalić 63)

What's next?

17/11: Croatia vs Portugal
17/11: France vs Sweden