Croatia v England
FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier
Wednesday 10th September 2008
Maksimir Stadium, Zagreb
Set the Scene
Croatia and England were old foes by the time this fixture took place in September 2008 in Zagreb. They were paired together in the Qualifying Group for the 2008 Euro’s and it was Croatia who made it through at the expense of England including a 2-3 win at Wembley in what was to be Steve McLaren’s final game in charge of England at a damp and sodden Wembley and earned him the nickname “Wally with the Brolly”. Fabio Capello was the England Manager by the time this World Cup 2010 Qualifier came around.
This was a Croatia team including several star names who would continue to play International Football until they reached the 2018 World Cup Final in Russia, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic were all in the Croatian squad on this night, Fabio Capello meanwhile had sprung a surprise leaving David Beckham out of the Starting line up in place of Arsenal teenager Theo Walcott. It was a rotten start for the Youngster as he gave the ball away with his first two touches as Croatia settled the better early on.
England grew into the game and were unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty when Emile Heskey was brought down but it didnt matter as 2 minutes later they led through Walcott. The goal came in fortunate circumstances as a clearance hit Robert Kovac and fell straight to Walcott who fired into the bottom corner. Walcott was involved again after 22 Minutes when his pace was too much for Josip Simunic who sythed him down and was fortunate to just see yellow. Ivica Olic forced a good save from David James before the break but England led 1-0 in Zagreb at half time.
The second half started slowly but after 53 Minutes the game changed completely when Robert Kovac inexplicably elbowed Joe Cole in the head and was sent off by referee Lubos Michel. England took full advantage after 59 minutes when a bit of magic from Wayne Rooney sent Walcott through and goal and he fired past Stipe Pletikosa in the Croatian goal to double England’s lead.
England were now dominating with the extra man and it was no surprise when they added a 3rd, superb work by Jermaine Jenas who pulled the ball back for Wayne Rooney to open his body and fire in away from the diving Pletikosa. Croatia did grab a goal back when Mandzukic fired under James who should have done better but it was always going to be just a consolation.
Pletikosa, Simunic, Robert Kovac, Corluka, Pranjic, Rakitic, Petric, Nico Kovac, Srna, Modric, Olic
Subs Used : Pokrivac, Knezevic, Manduzic
James, Brown, Terry, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Walcott, Lampard, Barry, Joe Cole, Rooney, Heskey.
Subs Used : Upson, Jenas, Beckham