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Perfect Croatia pip Portugal to finals spot

Croatia have reached the finals after posting a perfect record in elite round Group 2, beating Portugal in their last game after wins against Azerbaijan and Serbia.

Croatia celebrate scoring against Azerbaijan
Croatia celebrate scoring against Azerbaijan ©UEFA.com

Croatia have joined Belgium in booking their place alongside hosts Bulgaria in May's expanded 16-strong UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals after topping elite round Group 2 by edging Portugal in their final game.

Dario Bašic's side would have missed out on first spot had they lost to Portugal in their last encounter, but they collected a perfect nine points courtesy of a 1-0 success in Baku. Portugal must now wait to see if they qualify as one of the seven runners-up across the eight groups with the best record against the teams first and third in the sections.

FULL RESULTS/STANDINGS

Winners: Croatia – posted comfortable wins against mini-tournament hosts Azerbaijan (4-0) and Serbia (3-0) and rounded off an excellent campaign by defeating Portugal, who ended with ten players following a late red card for captain Moreto Cassamã.

Other performances: Portugal finished second ahead of Serbia of goal difference, the two sides drawing their game and both recording commanding victories versus Azerbaijan.

Key moment: Croatia captain Nikola Moro opened the scoring against Serbia and bettered that with the winning effort against Portugal, finding the net shortly after the restart to ensure a 100% record for his side.

Star performer: Moro for leading from the front and weighing in with two valuable strikes for Croatia.

Reaction:
Croatia coach Dario Bašic
I'm feeling wonderful emotions. We prepared a lot for this, but we had problems before the match. A few players went down with fever and one player was suspended, so our bench was very thin. My team did an excellent job against a very strong Portugal team. We did what I'd planned beforehand and I congratulate my team on their great work. We had very little time to prepare. I got this team two weeks before the tournament and we had just two friendlies against Ireland. I was expecting points against Azerbaijan and Serbia and maybe a point against Portugal, but it was my dream to get nine.

Croatia captain Nikola Moro
This is a historical moment for the Croatian national team. I am happy that we could make this happen. Now we are going to Bulgaria to show that we can be even better than this. I want to score in every match. I didn't know that my goal would be so important, but this is the result of team work. Every goal is special for the national team.