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Croatia claim third at England's expense

Croatia defeated tournament hosts England 4-1 in Durham to claim third place in the UEFA European Under-16 Championship, a result which also provided them with a spot in the upcoming FIFA World Under-17 finals.

Ivan Grivicic (centre) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring Croatia's fourth (©Empics)
Early double
England started brightly, but Croatia opened the scoring in the seventh minute when Drago Papa's cross was flicked on by Croatian captain Niko Kranjcar for Igor Ruzak to shoot home past Lenny Pidgeley.
The goal certainly raised Croatian spirits, and with Kranjcar in devastating form in midfield, they doubled their advantage shortly after the quarter hour mark as Papa lobbed Pidgeley from 20 metres.  

England frustrated
England, who were finding it difficult in breaking down their Balkan opponents, had only one decent attempt on goal through Ben Bowditch during the opening 40 minutes. But Glen Johnson threw the home side a 57th minute lifeline when he headed Craig Westcarr's corner past Dario Kresic in the Croatian goal.
However, the Croatians finished stronger, and they restored their two-goal lead after 70 minutes when Mario Grgurovic's free-kick sneaked in at Pidgeley's far post, before Ivan Grivicic's deflected shot three minutes from the end put the outcome beyond any doubt.

Croatia celebrate qualifying for the FIFA World Under-17 Championship (©Empics)
'Proud as well as happy' - Novoselac
"This was one of our best games in the tournament," admitted Martin Novoselac, Croatia's coach, after the match. "Apart from some short spells before and after the interval, we had the strength and talent assembled to accelerate the game when we needed to, and we are proud as well as happy that our small nation can compete with the big countries like England to qualify for the World Under-17 Championship.
"As we also won bronze at the Under-18 Championship last year," he continued, "we are now beginning to achieve some promising continuity".



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