A second half goal from Ivan Klasnic earned Croatia a 1-0 win over Poland and maintained Slaven Bilic’s side’s 100% record in the tournament.
Croatia now face Turkey in the quarter-finals, and although little can be gleaned from tonight’s contest in which Bilic made nine changes to his starting line-up, they are beginning to justify their billing as dark horses to win Euro 2008.
Needing to beat Croatia by at least two goals, and for Germany to lose to Austria, Poland rarely threatened and only a series of Artur Boruc saves kept Leo Beenhakker’s side in the game. It has been a disappointing tournament for the Poles; they arrived in Austria with high hopes of reaching the knockout stages, but their hopes have been undermined by a lack of creativity and a misfiring attack.
Poland actually began the game brightly, Wojciech Lobodzinski forcing a save from Croatia keeper Vedran Runje, before Dariusz Dudka headed inches wide of the goal from Jacek Krzynowek’s corner.
However, Crotia gradually began to take control, with Klasnic twice denied by Boruc, and Rakitic and Pranjic both seeing efforts beaten away in the closing stages of the first half.
Shortly after the break Croatia finally broke the deadlock when Klasnic steered home Pranjic’s cut-back. It was an emotional moment for the striker who feared his career was over when he had to undergo a kidney transplant just 18 months ago.
To their credit, Beenhakker’s side continued to battle gamely, and Roger Guerreiro nearly levelled when he turned in the box and drilled wide.
Marek Saganowski also brought a save from Runje with a firm header, but Croatia always looked relatively comfortable.
Ebi Smolarek wasted late Poland chances but Croatia held on for a deserved victory.
Croatia 1-0 Poland
Scorer: Ivan Klasnic 53
Poland: 1-Artur Boruc; 13-Marcin Wasilewski, 14-Michal Zewlakow, 5-Dariusz Dudka, 3-Jakub Wawrzyniak; 19-Rafal Murawski, 18-Mariusz Lewandowski (23-Adam Kokoszka 46); 8-Jacek Krzynowek, 17-Wojciech Lobodzinski (7-Ebi Smolarek 55), 20-Roger Guerreiro; 11-Marek Saganowski (21-Tomasz Zahorski 69)
Croatia: 23-Vedran Runje; 2-Dario Simic, 6-Hrvoje Vejic, 15-Dario Knezevic (5-Vedran Corluka 27), 22-Danijel Pranjic; 16-Jerko Leko, 8-Ognjen Vukojevic, 13-Nikola Pokrivac, 7-Ivan Rakitic; 17-Ivan Klasnic (9-Nikola Kalinic 74), 21-Mladen Petric (19-Niko Kranjcar 74)
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)