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Victory in vain for Croatia

Ukraine 1-2 Croatia
Results elsewhere mean Ivan Gudelj's side's victory did not see them into the semi-finals, but guaranteed a place at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Victory in vain for Croatia
Victory in vain for Croatia ©UEFA.com

Results elsewhere in Group B meant Croatia's UEFA European Under-17 Championship hopes were cruelly ended early, despite finishing level with Italy and Russia, but a victory against Ukraine earned them the consolation of a place at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

After opening with goalless results, Ivan Gudelj's team's fate was out of their hands going into the final game, and only a win could give them hope. Meanwhile, victory for Ukraine would have seen them steal third from their opponents, and they looked like doing so when Viktor Tsygankov put Olexandr Holovko's side ahead. Alen Halilović's penalty squared things up, and Robert Murić hit the winner in the 71st minute, but a draw in Nitra nullified the success.

Gudelj threw an extra attacker into his starting XI in the shape of winger Murić, however, Croatia's problem has not been creating chances in this tournament, and their issues in front of goal showed no signs of abating early on.

Fran Brodić headed a corner over, before another set-piece was blasted off target by Ante Roguljić. Halilović's jinking run through the centre was let down by a lacklustre shot from 20 metres, and Roguljić headed wide again.

In brutal contrast, Ukraine were as clinical as it comes. With their first real foray into the Croatian area, Danylo Knysh was sent into space on the left and his sharp pull-back was expertly turned in by Tsygankov.

The goal only heightened Croatia's sense of frustration, who were denied further by Vadym Soldatenko in the Ukraine goal repelling Halilović twice from distance. The No10 finally broke his side's duck, however, with the last kick of the half, slamming in after Pavlo Lukyanchuk had bundled over Brodić in the area.

It turned into the Halilović show after the break as the goalscorer produced countless outstanding runs but shot at least five times off target. The winner did not seem like coming, until late on when a cross from the right fell to Murić, and his deflected effort wrongfooted the Ukrainian goalkeeper  to renew hope.

The gods were not with them, however. The draw between Russia and Italy saw that duo progress due to superior goals scored in the games played between the three sides who finished on five points.