Czech 2-2 Croatia: Vatreni, Nároďák share spoils

Czech Republic's forward Milan Skoda (R) vies with Croatia's defender Domagoj Vida during the Euro 2016 group D football match between Czech Republic and Croatia at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne on June 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES

Croatia’s qualification to the Euro 2016 quarter finals was put on hold after Czech Republic came from behind to secure a late 2-2 draw on Friday at the Stade Geoffroy Guichard.

Ivan Perišić’s fine angled drive from just inside the box in the first half half and a one on one finish by Ivan Rakitic in the second half put the Blazers in the driving seat before Milan Skoda reduced the deficit inside the final 15 minutes. Croatia will later pay for their fans’ outburst as the Czechs equalized in stoppage time from a spot kick following a hand ball in the area by Vida. Necid stepped up to slot home for 2-2.

Proof of Croatia’s dominance could be seen in the game’s statistics, having racked up 12 attempts on goal, five on target, while the Czechs could only manage two shots none of which hit the target but their superb showing and dominance was marred by their fans outburst with ten minutes left on the clock. The Croatian fans could be seen throwing explosives in the Czech goal area with one of the stewards hit.

Although the goal came at a similar time to the one against Turkey, the tie had been a totally different game. Croatia didn’t look brilliant before they struck in that first game but here in St Etienne there was only one team in it -Croatia.

The Czechs needed to win but also avoid mistakes in critical areas of the pitch – and this did not happen. Jaroslav Plašil was caught in possession for the opening goal, and even captain Tomáš Rosický was guilty of wayward passes.

Pavel Vrba’s men showed more courage after the break, but they ran aground against a focused Croatian defence and conceded again on the counterattack. Just as all hope seemed lost, however, they mounted a sensational comeback to keep their campaign alive. It was breathtaking stuff.

In both side’s previous meetings, Croatia had the better of their opponenet, winning one and drawing one.

Croatia could be overtaken at the Group D summit tonight if Spain who defeated Czech 1-0 in their opening match beat Turkey team currently point-less at the bottom of the section following a 1-0 opening loss to Croatia. Whatever happens in Nice later, the final placings will only be decided when the group concludes next Tuesday.