Previous meetings, form guides, links and trivia ahead of the 2023 EURO U21 group stage fixture.
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There is only pride, and third place in Group B, to play for as Croatia and Romania bring the curtain down on their respective UEFA European Under-21 Championship campaigns with their second meeting in the last three final tournaments.
Both teams have lost both games so far, elimination confirmed by 1-0 losses on Matchday 2. Croatia were beaten 2-0 by Ukraine and then conceded the fastest goal in U21 EURO finals history, a 20-second strike giving Spain victory on Matchday 2.
Co-hosts Romania, meanwhile, went down 3-0 to Spain in their first game before Victor Dican's 89th-minute own goal condemned them to defeat against Ukraine.
This is only the sides' second U21 fixture. The first came on Matchday 1 of the 2019 finals, Romania winning 4-1 at the San Marino Stadium in Serravalle. George Pușcaș (11pen) and Ianis Hagi (14) scored early goals and, although Nikola Vlašić (18) quickly halved Croatia's deficit, second-half strikes from Tudor Băluță (66) and Adrian Petre (90+3) wrapped up an emphatic win.
Romania went on to finish top of Group A on seven points, ahead of France on goal difference, while Croatia were eliminated in fourth place having picked up a single point.
They have also been infrequent opponents in the European U19 and U17 Championships. They have met only three times in competitive U19 games – Romania's 2-1 win in March 2022 the sides' first fixture since two 2004 encounters – while they have also played twice in U17 qualifying, most recently in March 2010.
Croatia are appearing in the final tournament for the fifth time, and the third in succession.
After bowing out in the group stage in 2000, 2004 and 2019 – failing to win a game in any of the three tournaments –Igor Bišćan's side snatched second place in Group D in 2021 thanks to Domagoj Bradarić's 91st-minute strike in a 2-1 defeat by England on Matchday 3. That took Croatia through on goals scored in a three-way head-to-head after they had finished level with Switzerland and England on three points; they subsequently lost 2-1 after extra time to Spain in the quarter-finals.
A 3-2 win against Switzerland on Matchday 2 in 2021 is Croatia's only victory in the U21 finals; their record otherwise was D3 L11.
In 2023 qualifying, Bišćan's team finished second behind Norway in Group A, winning seven of their ten games and losing only two – both 3-2, at home to Finland and away to Norway. They went on to beat Denmark 5-4 on penalties in the play-offs after a 3-3 aggregate draw, both teams winning 2-1 at home.
Roko Šimić was the team's top scorer in qualifying with seven goals, putting him joint second in the overall rankings for the 2023 preliminaries. He was the only player to feature in all 12 of Croatia's matches but has made just one brief substitute appearance at these finals.
Having not qualified for the U21 tournament between hosting the 1998 finals and 2019, Romania are making their third successive appearance.
The 2023 co-hosts' best result came in 2019, when they finished top of Group C before conceding two late goals to lose 4-2 to Germany in the semi-finals.
In 2021, a side coached by Adrian Mutu finished third in Group A despite remaining unbeaten in their three fixtures (W1 D2), losing out on goals scored to the Netherlands and eventual champions Germany after all three teams had picked up five points.
The Matchday 1 defeat by Spain ended Romania's five-match unbeaten run in competitive U21 fixtures (W2 D3) and was only their second defeat in 13 (W7 D4). They were unbeaten in all six of their group games at the finals (W3 D3) before 2023.
After the 2021 finals Mutu was succeeded as coach by Florin Bratu, who in turn made way for Emil Săndoi in August 2022.
Links and trivia
Bartol Franjić helped Dinamo Zagreb to a 2-0 UEFA Youth League first round second-leg victory at home to a Viitorul Constanța side featuring Alexi Pitu and Louis Munteanu on 23 October 2018.
Croatia coach Bišćan played 90 minutes as Panathinaikos drew 0-0 at home to Rapid București in the UEFA Cup group stage on 30 November 2006.