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France 0-1 Croatia: Modrić penalty ends holders' reign

An early Luka Modrić penalty gave Croatia victory in Saint-Denis to end France's defence of the UEFA Nations League.

Highlights: France 0-1 Croatia

France's hopes of retaining the UEFA Nations League title were ended by a 1-0 home defeat against Croatia, Denmark's home win against Austria taking them seven points clear of the holders with two games to go in Group A1.

Key moments

5' Modrić scores penalty after Konaté foul on Budimir
28' Nkunku fires just wide of the target
72' Maignan saves from Majer

Luka Modrić beats Mike Maignan from the penalty spot
Luka Modrić beats Mike Maignan from the penalty spotAFP via Getty Images

Match in brief: Modrić seals it from the spot

Croatia scored what proved to be the only goal in Saint-Denis with five minutes on the clock, Ibrahima Konaté penalised for a foul on Ante Budimir. Although Mike Maignan got a strong hand to Luka Modrić's spot kick, he could not keep it out.

That gave the away team a lead they defended well for the rest of the first half, Christopher Nkunku's drive as close as France came to finding a way back into the contest before the interval.

Openings continued to be few and far between after the break, Croatia growing in confidence as France failed to cause real problems. Indeed, their first ever win against Les Bleus might have been secured by an even wider margin, Maignan denying substitute Lovro Majer in the final 20 minutes.

As it happened: France 0-1 Croatia

Ian Holyman, match reporter

A great win for Croatia, and – despite what the possession stats might say – fully deserved. They defended superbly, but also provided a goal threat when they did go forward. France again looked short of a creative spark; with only two games left, not only can they no longer reach the finals but, bottom of the section, they have plenty of work to do to stay in League A of the UEFA Nations League.

Reaction

Kovačić delight at first win over France

Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: "It's undoubtedly one of my best victories. After the 3-0 loss to Austria, few teams would have had the resources to bounce back. Only those with pride and character can do that. After the World Cup, we undoubtedly had a complex against France. Winning against the world champions at their place is extraordinary."

Didier Deschamps, France coach: "We came up against a very good Croatia team that had more dynamism than us. It's not our status as world champions that will win us games."

Aurelien Tchouameni, France midfielder: "It's certain that when we met up at the start, we had other ambitions. But there's no need to worry. We didn't do well and we owe it to ourselves to do better wearing the France shirt. We'll all be better come the next international window."

Tchouameni: 'We have to do better'

Key stats

  • Croatia's first win over France comes at the tenth attempt (D3 L6).
  • France have only kept one clean sheet in their last nine UEFA Nations League matches.
  • Croatia have lost only one of their last 13 games (W8 D4).
  • Croatia have kept five clean sheets in their last six away internationals.
  • The Croatians have only failed to score in one of their last 12 Nations League fixtures.

Line-ups

France: Maignan; Koundé (Pavard 46), Konaté, Kimpembe, Digne; Rabiot, Kamara (Tchouameni 46), Guendouzi (Griezmann 80), Nkunku (Coman 72); Benzema, Mbappé.

Croatia: Ivušić; Stanišić, Erlić, Šutalo, Juranović; Modrić, Brozović, Kovačić (Sučić 90); Pašalić (Majer 65), Budimir (Kramarić 72), Brekalo (Vlašić 72).

Group 1 Live now

Played P Won W Draws D Lost L For Against Goal difference Points Pts
DEN Denmark
Playing now
4 3 0 1 6 3 3 9
CRO Croatia
Playing now
4 2 1 1 3 4 -1 7
AUT Austria
Playing now
4 1 1 2 5 5 0 4
FRA France
Playing now
4 0 2 2 3 5 -2 2

What happens after the UEFA Nations League group stage?

The four group winners in League A will advance to the knockout finals with, in principle, one appointed as hosts. The semi-finals will be played on 14 and 15 June 2023 with the final and third-place play-off to follow on 18 June.

The teams finishing fourth in the groups in League A will be relegated to League B for the 2024/25 edition.