Two European nations playing similar style of football locked horns for a place in the quarter finals of a world cup. Quality wise Croatia was better if you do a player by player analysis. However, as they say, football is played on the field and not on paper. So the night turned out to be a night of gritty football with little space allowed for anyone to display some magic.
- The first half started with brisk space and two lucky goals within the first 5 minutes of the match! Stung by the early Denmark goal, Croatia went on displaying some quality attacking football played at a brisk pace. And as expected, Denmark was relying on the counter attack with movements through the wings.
- However, surprisingly, the pace of the match suddenly dropped in the second half. Not sure what Croatia was thinking that time, but they literally fell into the Danish hands. As the pace dropped, the quality difference was neutralised and that was to the advantage of Denmark. Both had solid defense play and very little penetration beyond the final third. It was evident by the 80th minute that this is likely to go to the penalties, unless a dead ball situation can break either one of the teams.
- The through that Modric sent for Rebic almost at the end of extra time was divine. I thought that once Rebic had dodged the goalkeeper out of the scene, he could have pushed immediately for the winner. Instead he still tried to go forward and the defender got the opportunity to foul him for a penalty. The 100% chance suddenly became 50-50 as Modric stepped up to take the penalty.
- The other thing I felt was that the Danish keeper Schmeichel was always leaving the line in all the penalties he faced (during the normal time as well as during the tie breaker). Again I am not sure where VAR was in these cases or why the two referees failed to spot every time Schmeichel was doing that!!
- Finally, luck favoured the Croatians as they made history to move to the quarter finals. But, given the quality of players that have, why Croatia let the game slip away in the 2nd half and why they did not try to pick up the pace at least for 15-20 minutes remains a big mystery to me!