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Netherlands 2-4 Croatia (aet): Modrić stars as Vatreni win classic in extra time

Croatia reached their first UEFA Nations League final after triumphing in a pulsating and dramatic last-four contest in Rotterdam.

Highlights: Netherlands 2-4 Croatia

Croatia kept their dream of a first tournament triumph alive by beating Netherlands 4-2 after extra time at the Stadion Feijenoord 'De Kuip' to reach their first UEFA Nations League final.

Key moments

34' Malen gives Netherlands the lead
55' Kramarić converts penalty to level
73' Pašalić volleys Croatia in front
90+6' Lang grabs last-gasp equaliser
98' Petković powers Vatreni back ahead
116' Modrić penalty settles thriller

Match in brief: Croatia spirit and belief shine through again

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman looked to make home advantage count by naming all three Feyenoord players in his squad – goalkeeper Justin Bijlow, defender Lutsharel Geertruida and midfielder Mats Wieffer – in the starting XI at their club stadium.

Wieffer, earning only his second cap, caught the eye early on from the Eredivisie-winning trio while the pace of Donyell Malen and Xavi Simons constantly threatened the Croatia back four. Teun Koopmeiners fired a warning shot over the bar before the Oranje struck in the 35th minute through a combination of those effective influencers, Wieffer ghosting into the area to latch on to Nathan Aké's pass before teeing up Malen to clinically fire across Dominik Livaković.

Donyell Malen drives the Netherlands in front
Donyell Malen drives the Netherlands in frontGetty Images

Croatia, who failed to have a shot on target before the interval, were more tenacious and purposeful straight after half-time and Luka Modrić, winning his 165th cap, embodied their transformation. The Croatia captain pinched possession from Cody Gakpo and the forward's reaction was to pull him down, conceding a penalty that Andrej Kramarić nonchalantly chipped down the middle to haul Zlatko Dalić's side level in the 55th minute.

The muted opening half had now given way to a more open second and Croatia took the lead when Luka Ivanušec showed the poise and patience to pick out Mario Pašalić to volley them in front with 17 minutes remaining.

Andrej Kramarić (second left) reacts after equalising for Croatia
Andrej Kramarić (second left) reacts after equalising for CroatiaAFP via Getty Images

Dalić's determined defence looked set to snuff out the Oranje threat until an astonishing period of added time. Gakpo dragged wide and Aké's inventive effort flew straight at Malen before, in the last of the six minutes, substitute Noa Lang coolly struck after the Vatreni could not clear the danger.

Now it was Croatia's turn to dig deep and eight minutes into extra time they did just that, substitute Bruno Petković swivelling away from his marker before unleashing a pinpoint finish from 20 metres.

Substitute Nikola Vlašić was denied by Bijlow and the bar as Croatia sought a clinching fourth, which finally came when Tyrell Malacia felled Petković and Modrić, to the delight of the thousands of travelling Croatian fans, booked their place in Sunday's final back in Rotterdam from the penalty spot.

As it happened: Netherlands 2-4 Croatia

Player of the Match: Luka Modrić (Croatia)

"A fantastic overall performance. He is the true leader of this team. He controlled the rhythm of play and his football intelligence is amazing."
UEFA Technical Observer Panel

Mario Pašalić revels in his goal for Croatia
Mario Pašalić revels in his goal for CroatiaUEFA via Getty Images

Derek Brookman, Netherlands reporter

Maybe it was a bit too optimistic to expect a relatively inexperienced Dutch side to cope with the guile and indefatigability of Croatia, who just never seem to accept when they're beaten. The performances of Wieffer, Geertruida and Malen will give Koeman hope for the future. Frenkie de Jong and Virgil van Dijk were as solid as ever. And the side showed real spirit to level at the death. But, overall, a lack of cutting edge may be a worry for the Oranje coach.

Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter

Croatia did it again! In their old-fashioned way by turning the match around and playing extra time – with the added shock of conceding in the last seconds of the regular time. But these surprises are something I am used to with this incredible team. They are so mentally strong that you should never write them off, even when they're losing or letting slip victory in the last moments of normal time. Now, they are only one step away from an historical success, one step away from their first trophy ever. Dalić, Modrić and all the others deserve it for one of the most successful seasons in Croatia's history.


Modrić: 'We were spectacular'

Luka Modrić, Croatia captain: "We played a brilliant match, just like we wanted. Maybe not in the first 20 minutes, but we were getting better and better. After 'Krama' scored we raised our performance to the maximum and played really great. It's a shame we conceded the goal in the last minute, but then we showed the character again in extra time."

Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: "Congratulation to my boys. This is a victory for the Croatian people. Defeating Netherlands 4-2 on their own pitch, that's a great success. We have another medal, this is unreal but we deserve that. This is one of the biggest Croatia wins. Conceding the opening goal in the first half, then again in the 96th minute – this victory is definitely historic."

Aké on 'difficult' night for Dutch

Nathan Aké, Netherlands defender: "It was difficult. In the first half we played really well, created chances and had good possession. In the second half they really came back into the game, pushed us back, and we didn't have control any more."

Ronald Koeman, Netherlands coach: "I was very content with the first half. But I felt we didn't start the second half well. The Croatian midfield took control, and that made it difficult for us, especially after the penalty. Then you could see that they are a side which has been playing together for a long time."

Noa Lang wheels away after making it 2-2
Noa Lang wheels away after making it 2-2UEFA via Getty Images

Key stats

  • At the last two World Cup final tournaments, UEFA EURO 2020 and now here, Croatia have played extra time on seven occasions; they won six – four on penalties – and lost only one.
  • Croatia have won their last five Nations League matches. Prior to that, they had managed only two wins in their first 12 games in the competition.
  • The Vatreni have lost only two of their last 26 matches (W15 D9).
  • Croatia have found the net in 14 of their last 15 Nations League outings.
  • The Oranje were unbeaten in their last ten Nations League matches (W7 D3) before this game.
  • Netherlands have only failed to score in three of their last 19 Nations League matches.
An ecstatic Luka Modrić after his fourth goal
An ecstatic Luka Modrić after his fourth goal UEFA via Getty Images


Netherlands: Bijlow; Dumfries (Lang 85), Geertruida, Van Dijk, Aké (Malacia 106); Wieffer (Wijnaldum 75), De Jong, Koopmeiners; Malen (Bergwijn 75), Gakpo (De Roon 106), Simons (Weghorst 64)

Croatia: Livaković; Juranović (Stanišić 78), Šutalo (Petković 91), Vida, Perišić; Modrić (Barišić 119), Brozović, Kovačić (Majer 85), Pašalić, Kramarić (Erlić 90), Ivanušec (Vlašić 78)

What happens next?

UEFA via Getty Images

Croatia will play Spain in the UEFA Nations League final in Rotterdam at 20:45 CET on Sunday 18 June.

Netherlands will play Italy in the third-place play-off in Enschede at 15:00 CET on the same day.

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