Classy Croatia stun Germany

Schweinsteiger sees red as Low's men stumble

Croatia booked their place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 after stunning pre-tournament favourites Germany with a 2-1 victory in Group B.

Having already defeated Austria, goals from Darijo Srna and Ivica Olic at Worthersee stadium handed Croatia another three points, while Germany could only pull back a late consolation through Lukas Podolski.

And as co-hosts Austria grabbed a late point against Poland in Thursday's late kick-off, Croatia were guaranteed a place in this year's final eight.

Croatia took the lead in the 24th minute as Danijel Pranjic crossed well from the left and Germany full-back Marcell Jansen was caught on his heels to allow Srna to prod past helpless shot-stopper Jens Lehmann.

Germany struggled for rhythm in the first half and only looked like drawing level when Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack curled a 30-yard free-kick towards goal, but Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa was equal to the effort.

Manager Joachim Low opted to shuffle his German pack at the interval as David Odonkor replaced the ineffective Jansen, but the change made little difference as Croatia doubled their advantage on 62 minutes.

Ivan Rakitic saw his right-wing cross deflect of the arm of Podolski to wrong-foot Lehmann and hit the post, and Olic responded the quickest to tap in.

Germany were to grab a lifeline on 79 minutes as Podolski fired his third of the tournament after Croatia failed to clear a Philipp Lahm cross, but Bastian Schweinsteiger's red card following retaliation to a Jerko Leko challenge ruled out an equaliser.

Both sides came into the game having won their opening matches, although Germany had looked far more impressive in seeing off Poland than Croatia had in defeating Austria.

Croatia style

However, it was Slaven Bilic's side who turned on the style at the Worthersee Stadion as they took control of Group B with two wins out of two.

A frantic start to the match promised much but for all their huffing and puffing, neither side were able to create anything resembling a chance in the opening 20 minutes as defences held firm.

The ball did find its way into the back of the net in the 22nd minute when Germany striker Mario Gomez slotted home past Pletikosa, but the offside flag had already gone up against the Stuttgart man.

The deadlock was broken for real just two minutes after that incident though, when Croatia went ahead through Srna.

Pranjic sent over a superb cross from the left and Srna nipped in front of marker Jansen to slide the ball in at the far post, Germany goalkeeper Lehmann was given no chance to save.

Croatia had a gilt-edged chance to make it 2-0 in the 30th minute, but Niko Kranjcar wasted it.

Germany knew they needed to step up through the gears and they finally made Pletikosa earn his keep with two efforts in rapid succession from Ballack's free-kick and a Christoph Metzelder effort.

Metzelder then headed a Torsten Frings corner just over from seven yards out as the Germans stepped up their efforts for an equaliser before the break.

However, Low's side very nearly found themselves two goals behind in the 43rd minute, and they needed a fine reaction stop from Lehmann to deny Kranjcar, who chested down Olic's pass and smashed in a first-time volley.


Having seen his side let off the hook, Low opted for a more adventurous approach in the second half as he sacrificed full-back Jansen for winger Odonkor during the interval.

Aside from a Ballack shot over the crossbar though, Croatia looked fairly comfortable at the start of the period and also had a decent effort of their own with Luka Modric firing in a shot that Lehmann gathered, although not before seeing it squirm through his hands first.

Lehmann's next task was to pick the ball out of the back of his net as Croatia stunned the Germans with a second goal in the 62nd minute.

A Rakitic cross from the right took a deflection off Podolski before arrowing goalwards and although Lehmann, who had begun to come out for the initial cross, managed to dive backwards and get a hand on it, the ball struck his near post before rebounding back out to Olic, who had the easy task of slotting home.

Germany looked for an immediate response but aside from a shot from substitution Schweinsteiger that fizzed across the face of goal, they were still finding it difficult to create chances against a well-organised Croatia backline.

Low's side rescued hope with 12 minutes to go when Podolski lashed home a shot on the half-volley after the ball had fallen kindly to him in the box.

But Germany could not build on that goal and their final hopes of getting anything out of the match all but disappeared when Schweinsteiger was given a straight red card for shoving Leko.