After defeating the Netherlands in a thrilling Uefa Nations League semifinal, Croatia is one victory away from winning their first major championship.
Before Luka Modric’s penalty ended a memorable game in Rotterdam, substitute Bruno Petkovic scored a long-range goal in extra time.
Croatia was thwarted by a Noa Lang equalizer for the Netherlands in the 96th minute of regulation.
The Dutch will now compete in a third-place play-off, while Zlatko Dalic’s team will face either Italy or Spain in the Sunday final.
“It’s a victory for the Croatian people, we beat the Netherlands in front of their fans, Croatia has one more medal,” Dalic said to Croatia’s Nova TV after the match.
“It’s unreal and unbelievable, but she deserves it. This win will undoubtedly be remembered in history.
After Donyell Malen’s opening goal, Croatia appeared to be headed for the championship when Andrej Kramaric converted a penalty and Mario Pasalic scored on a volley.
However, Lang’s last-second hooked finish tied the score at 2-2.
However, Croatia recovered, and Petkovic, who was introduced at the start of extra time, smashed a beautiful shot past Justin Bijlow of the Netherlands.
With four minutes remaining, their talisman Modric, 37, clinched their victory from the spot after being brought down by a clumsy Tyrell Malacia challenge.
Croatia has now advanced to just their second international championship game after losing to France 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup.
Dalic continued, “Let’s go for gold so that we can complete this story. We have bronze and silver.”
Since winning the 1988 European Championships, the Dutch have gone more than 35 years without winning an important international trophy.
Additionally, it carries on Ronald Koeman’s poor start to his second tenure as manager of the Netherlands, who lost 4-0 to France in a Euro 2024 qualifying match in March.
Coming at the conclusion of a lengthy season, both teams struggled to establish a competitive tempo in the early going. Nathan Ake, Denzel Dumfries, and Marcelo Brozovic all played just four days after appearing in the Champions League final.
But by the time it was all over, the De Kuip crowd had seen a frantic thriller.
With a loud and colorful crowd cheering them on, the Dutch established their groove immediately as Malen scored the game’s first goal after 34 minutes.
The Borussia Dortmund striker was 16 yards away when the hosts’ wonderful passing play found him, and he buried the ball into the bottom corner.
However, Croatia was more in control of the ball after the break. Modric, who was making his 165th international game, capitalized on a sloppy touch by Cody Gakpo and was hauled down by the Liverpool forward in the box. Kramaric calmly placed the penalty in the center of the field.
With 18 minutes remaining, Croatia appeared to have made yet another comeback, similar to how they defeated Brazil, Canada, and Japan at the World Cup in Qatar the year before. Pasalic flicked in a cross from 10 yards out, hoisted in by Luka Ivanusec.
The Netherlands responded by barraging the Croatian box with crosses and long balls. Former Manchester United loanee Wout Weghorst was added as a substitute. In the sixth minute of stoppage time, Lang skillfully buried a loose ball.
However, this Croatian team has made a name for themselves by never knowing when to give up. Modric, who scored his team’s fourth goal and is now in range of unprecedented international silverware to go with his trophy-laden club career at Real Madrid, served as an example of their strategy.