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Fearless Croatia shock Germany
Kevin Fylan | June 12, 2008 23:33 IST
Last Updated: June 13, 2008 01:02 IST
Darijo Srna beat Marcell Jansen to poke home a curling cross from the left by Danijel Pranjic in the first half and Ivica Olic tapped the ball in early in the second period after a centre by Ivan Rakitic had struck Lukas Podolski and a post.
Germany pulled one back in the 79th minute through Podolski but Croatia held on for a victory that revived memories of their 3-0 triumph over Germany in the 1998 World Cup quarter-finals, a match that featured their coach Slaven Bilic.
To add to Germany's misery substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger became the first player to be sent off at these finals when he pushed Jerko Leko to the ground in retaliation for a tackle from behind in injury time.
Croatia top the group with six points, ahead of Germany on three. Poland and Austria, beaten in their opening matches, were playing later on Thursday.
"I want to congratulate both teams for a great game of football," Bilic told reporters. "I think we played some outstanding football and nothing less is required to beat Germany.
"We kept going forward throughout and always looked threatening while our back four held firm when they put us under pressure."
Bilic's team certainly kept things tight early on and were dangerous in attack.
Pranjic gave Germany a warning of what was to come when he whipped in a cross that the defence struggled to clear.
The same player then headed over the bar, with keeper Jens Lehmann beaten, and Christoph Metzelder produced a last-gasp sliding tackle to deny Olic.
The first goal came in the 24th minute, Srna proving too sharp for Jansen.
Croatia nearly made it 2-0 when Olic headed down and Niko Kranjcar blasted over.
The Germans went close with a Michael Ballack [Images] free kick and a header from Metzelder that flashed over.
Coach Joachim Loew sent on David Odonkor to add pace on the right and Ballack shot over from the edge of the area.
The second goal had an element of luck about it but it was reward for the excellent attitude Croatia showed and they managed to hold on after Podolski netted his third goal of the tournament for Germany.
Asked why his team failed to build on their opening 2-0 win over Poland, captain Ballack said: "Perhaps we thought we had already achieved something. We played poorer in all areas.
"We knew we were up against tough opponents so that surprises me. It's bitter. Now we have to win the next match (against Austria on Monday)."
Complete Coverage: Euro 2008