Luka Modric’s penalty handed Croatia a 1-0 win over in-form France in Paris on Monday as the World Cup holders ended their streak of UEFA Nations League fixtures in June without a win in four matches.
Veteran Croatian captain Modric hit his spot-kick after just five minutes at the Stade de France, and the home side couldn’t find an equalizer despite Kylian Mbappe returning to join Karim Benzema in the starting line-up.
“We had an inferiority complex against France after their World Cup victory and therefore winning at the Stade de France in front of almost 80,000 people against the world champions is extraordinary,” said Croatian coach Zlatko. Dalic.
France won the previous edition of the Nations League last year, but they have managed just two points from four matches this month, with home defeats to Denmark and now Croatia sandwiched against the Croats and Austria.
As a result, the Blues are bottom of League A, Group 1, seven points behind leaders Denmark, who beat Austria 2-0 in Copenhagen on Monday with first-half goals from Jonas Wind and Andreas Skov Olsen .
Didier Deschamps’ side may now have to win their last two group games in September to avoid being relegated to the less glamorous Ligue B.
Those games are also the only games they have left before they start their World Cup defense against Australia in Qatar in November.
“It’s no excuse but in this encounter we also lacked strength, energy and character,” said Deschamps, who missed the defeat to Denmark earlier this month following the death of his father.
“It hurts because we didn’t manage to win a game. Maybe I didn’t have the usual energy to give them either.
“We will need everyone at the start of next season to be in the right frame of mind and in the right athletic condition.”
– Fatigue –
This clash was the last meeting between the teams who played in the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow, although Mbappe, Modric and Marcelo Brozovic were the only players who started that day to line up at the kick-off. send here.
Home fans in the crowd of more than 77,000 were stunned when the Israeli referee awarded the visitors an early penalty when Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate was ruled for fouling Josip Brekalo.
The perennial Modric, back on the pitch where he won the Champions League with Real Madrid at the end of last month, was right on the resulting penalty even though French goalkeeper Mike Maignan been touched.
From then on, it took Mbappe’s occasional pick-up in pace to bring the crowd to life, although France came closest to scoring in the first half when Christopher Nkunku exploded just wide. .
Mbappe picked up the injury against Denmark so missed the draw in Croatia before coming off the bench to score a late equalizer in Austria.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward did his best to stave off a leveler here as he went close twice early in the second half, and the hosts also had a call for a penalty disallowed when Lucas Digne fell into the surface.
Meanwhile, Maignan parried a fine strike from substitute Lovro Majer at the other end, but Croatia – with Modric still looking majestic – saw the game over as goalkeeper Ivica Ivusic prevented Josip Sutalo from scoring a goal against his side.
The final whistle was met with mockery and Deschamps hopes France’s summer slump is simply due to the fatigue of its players after a long campaign, rather than a sign of what could happen later in the season. ‘year.
The final round of Nations League matches before the curtain goes up on the European season will take place on Tuesday, when Germany take on Italy in Moenchengladbach in the exhibition game.