Game played behind closed doors, but image was visible to television audience.

Uefa has opened disciplinary proceedings against Croatia after a swastika appeared to have been etched into the turf before their Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy on Friday.

Italy made a complaint to the European football’s governing body after the 1-1 draw. The match, staged at the Stadion Poljud in Split, was played behind closed doors, after fans twice disrupted the return fixture at San Siro in November.

The symbol was spotted during the first half and a Croatian football federation spokesman said it was “sabotage and a felony”. He added: “We expect police to identify the perpetrators. This is a disgrace for the whole of Croatia.

“As far as we have learned, the symbol was imprinted into the pitch between 24 and 48 hours before the match so that it could be visible during the game. We apologise to all fans watching the game on television, to both teams and to our guests from Italy for the Nazi symbol.”

The president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, called for an investigation into the incident and a demand for the culprits to be caught.

“This act has inflicted immeasurable damage on the reputation of Croatian citizens and their homeland all over the world,” he said. “Therefore, we must finally put a stop to such things.

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the swastika on the pitch. I demand an urgent investigation and a decisive response from the relevant institutions to find and process the perpetrators.”