Luka Modrić’s stunning strike helped Croatia seal their spot in the round of 16.
Goals by Nikola Vlašić, Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić earned Croatia a victory in Glasgow that clinched the runners-up berth in Group D and a place in the last 16, as co-hosts Scotland bowed out of the tournament.
Match in brief
Both sides needed a win to take them through to the knockout phase and when, minutes in, John McGinn’s searching cross dropped just out of Ché Adams’ reach, it heralded a captivating do-or-die contest.
Croatia were first to strike in the 17th minute. Bruno Petković cushioned down Josip Juranović’s floated cross for Vlašić to squeeze a shot inside David Marshall’s bottom corner.
Modrić looked to control and consolidate as Croatia found their rhythm, but Scotland’s high pressing paid off close to half-time when a scuffed Croatian clearance reached Callum McGregor, who drilled home to restore parity.
Knowing a draw would send both teams home, there was no let-up in a tireless second half. On 62 minutes, Croatia regained the lead: this time Modrić’s stunning outside-of-the-boot curler beat Marshall. Late on, the Vatreni added sheen to the scoreline as Perišić glanced home from a corner to complete the triumph and rubber-stamp their knockout ticket.
Star of the Match: Nikola Vlašić (Croatia)
“Got the important first goal to set Croatia on their way. He picked up good positions with his movement across the front line and caused real problems for the opposition. Always a treat when he got the ball and always looked to penetrate.”
Packie Bonner, UEFA Technical Observer
Elvir Islamović, Croatia reporter
This was the Croatia that we wanted to see in their first two matches: motivated, aggressive, fast and confident. They deserved this win and deserved to go through. Magician Modrić scored a great goal and showed why he is probably the best Croatia player ever. Perišić also showed he is still a key player. Zlatko Dalić made a few clever changes for this match, which could serve as a blueprint for the knockout stage.
Alex O’Henley, Scotland reporter
It wasn’t to be for Scotland despite scoring their one and only goal of the tournament. McGregor scored his maiden goal for his country, but Croatia were the better team and deserved their win. Scotland will take encouragement from being at their first finals in 23 years and this young side will surely get better on the back of this experience.
Luka Modrić, Croatia captain: “We are happy because we played well and qualified for the next round. We were not happy with performances in our first two matches and we knew we could be better. When we play like this, we are a danger to everyone.”
Steve Clarke, Scotland manager: “I am sad for the players. We waited a long time to get to a tournament and it was a good group of players that got us here. Over the course of the group stage there was a lot of good stuff, but ultimately not the points we needed.”
Zlatko Dalić, Croatia coach: “I want to thank everyone who has supported us. You are our strength and we will make you proud. The last ten days have been a big test for us. We’ve shown what we can do, and everything will be easier from now on.”
Callum McGregor, Scotland midfielder: “It was a proud moment for myself to score for my country. It’s what every boy dreams of. We had a four or five-minute spell after half-time when we might have got another one but, like I said, we were up against real quality and in the end it was too much for us.”
Nikola Vlašić, Croatia midfielder: “It was an excellent game. We knew we could play like that. After their equaliser, we kept calm and knew that we were the better team and could create more chances. In the end, we won convincingly. I think this is the Croatia we all want to see.”