Croatia confident best is yet to come

Renato Kelić will sit out the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-final with France but believes Croatia can surpass even their win against Portugal in his absence.

Croatia captain Renato Kelić will miss the semi-final against France
Croatia captain Renato Kelić will miss the semi-final against France ©Sportsfile

Renato Kelić may be suspended for the UEFA European Under-19 Championship semi-finals, but he is confident his Croatia team-mates can surpass even their remarkable result against Portugal in his absence.

The centre-back was sent off for handball nine minutes into the second half at the Stade Henry Jeanne with Croatia leading 3-0. His team-mates, though, made light of his loss, scoring twice more in the final quarter of the match to complete an emphatic win and a memorable afternoon. "We are very, very happy," Kelić told UEFA.com. "It's a big day for Croatia and for Croatian football. Five-nil against Portugal is the best result for us; it couldn't have been any better."

While Zvonko Pamić's hat-trick was a key factoring securing the victory that gave Ivica Grnja's side second place in Group B, Andrej Kramarić also endured something of a mixed afternoon after replacing the injured Anton Maglica just past the half-hour, twice being denied by Tiago Maia when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The NK Dinamo Zagreb striker was simply happy to share in a famous win, however, adding: "The game was amazing, because if somebody had asked me beforehand if we would win 5-0, I would say no way, it wasn't possible. This is the biggest day ever and I just want to thank everybody. I'm so, so happy."

Both Kelić and Kramarić were in the side that missed out on the European U17 Championship in the elite round two years ago. Croatia lost to Switzerland after a goal three minutes into added time in their final qualifier and it is a match the latter remembers well. "We've had no pressure here," he added. "Two years ago we missed the European Championship because in the last minute our goalkeeper made a mistake. With that in mind, we knew that God had to give us something special – and we got that against Portugal."

With Maglica suffering an ankle injury, Kramarić is a strong contender to lead Croatia's attack in their semi-final against France, a prospect he is understandably relishing. "We are a good team, and obviously we hope to win the semi-finals," he said. "We know they're a great team with the best players at the best clubs so we'll have to give everything." Kelić's red card means that he will be an observer at the Stade Michel-d'Ornano, although he suggests Croatia's best is still to come: "Of course, we can play even better." Six goals? "Yeah – or more."