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Croatia reach UEFA Nations League final after defeating Netherlands

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Netherlands 2-4 Croatia UEFA Nations League
Croatia players celebrate after defeating the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League semi final. | PHOTO: Sky Sport |
  • The Netherlands played Croatia in the UEFA Nations League semi-final on Wednesday evening
  • The match was forced into extra time after a 2-2 draw after 90 minutes of playing
  • Croatia scored two more two win the match and make it into another major final 

Croatia advanced to the finals of the UEFA Nations League with a thrilling 4-2 victory over the Netherlands in Rotterdam, thanks to the heroics of substitute Bruno Petkovic. The Dinamo Zagreb striker made an immediate impact at the start of extra time, shortly after the Dutch had equalized in the dying moments of regulation time.

Petkovic’s game-changing performance began with a powerful run and a long-range shot from 25 yards, which found the back of the net to restore Croatia’s lead. This 28-year-old player, known for his extra-time equalizer against Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals, continued to impress. He won a penalty for his team, which Luka Modric confidently converted, extending Croatia’s advantage to 4-2. However, Petkovic was denied a second goal by VAR due to an offside call, just moments before the final whistle.

Netherlands 2-4 Croatia: UEFA Nations League. Luka Modric

Croatia midfielder and captain Luka Modric celebrates after scoring the winner against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League semi final on Wednesday, June 14 2023. | PHOTO: Sky Sports |

This victory brings Croatia one step closer to their first major trophy, as they prepare to face either Spain or Italy in the final on Sunday. It hasn’t been an easy journey for the Croatian team, who were runners-up in the 2018 World Cup and finished third in the 2022 edition held in Qatar. They had to overcome adversity once again in this match, as they fell behind to a goal from Donyell Malen, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, in the first half. However, they quickly turned the tide by scoring with their first two shots on target in the second half.

Andrej Kramaric’s penalty in the 55th minute kickstarted the comeback, followed by Mario Pasalic’s goal in the 72nd minute, completing the turnaround. Croatia seemed destined for the final, but Noa Lang’s late equalizer for the Netherlands sent the game into extra time. It was during this additional period that Petkovic emerged as the hero, ensuring Croatia’s victory with his crucial goal.

The Netherlands, desperate to salvage the match, resorted to sending their star centre-back, Virgil van Dijk, forward in a last-ditch effort. However, their hopes were extinguished when Tyrell Malacia, the Manchester United defender, brought down Petkovic, resulting in a penalty. Modric calmly converted the spot-kick, leaving goalkeeper Justin Bijlow with no chance.

Croatia’s triumph over the Netherlands sets up an exciting final showdown against either Spain or Italy, offering them the opportunity to claim their first major international title. With their resilience and the contributions of players like Bruno Petkovic, Croatia will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament’s climax.

Nathan Sialah is a journalist by profession with interest in politics, sports, cryptocurrency and human interests with 5 years experience in Radio and Digital Journalism. This has helped Sialah develop a responsible approach to any task he undertakes or any situation that he is presented with.

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