The monkey is finally off Croatian backs. The Vatreni have defeated France for the first time in their history.
Croatia defeated France 1-0 in Nations League Monday night by way of a 5’ Luka Modrić penalty kick. However, the MVP of the match was the entire Croatian defense full of youngsters, who held a hungry Mbappe and Benzema at bay. It was an incredible 90 minutes played defensively by Šutalo, Erlić, Stanišić, Juranović.
The difference between this match and the 1-1 draw in Split last week, France wanted this one, especially Kylian Mbappe. France played with their B-squad at Poljud but brought the big guns to the Paris match. Croatia went up early as Ante Budimir was clipped in the box inside the first five minutes of the match. That meant the Vatreni defense had to go a full 85 minutes against arguably the two most explosive strikers in football right now: Mbappe and Benzema. The Croatian backline of Martin Erlić (24yo, 3 caps), Josip Šutalo (22yo, 2 caps), Josip Stanišić (22yo, 5 caps) and Josip Juranović (26yo, 20 caps) shutdown Mbappe, Benzema, and the rest of the French team on home soil as they trailed Croatia for 85 minutes.
This is what Nations League is about. Give the young fringe players some time and see what they can do with it. Not only will Erlić, Šutalo, and Stanišić learn from this match (Juranović has been with the Vareni since the beginning of 2021) but it will only deepen their confidence and increase their value knowing that they went against the world’s best. This match was all about the Croatia defense so hats off to them! Not to mention a fantastic rebound game from Osijek goalkeeper Ivica Ivušić who stopped three shots and looked confident in the box. Ivušić let in three last week against Austria but I still like him as the Croatia #1 heading into the World Cup.
The Croatian midfield of Modrić, Brozović, Kovacčić held serve against the French with Les Bleus being the more dangerous team offensively on the day. Besides being tripped up in the box during the France match today, Ante Budimir did not have much to show during the four matches this week and has certainly lost some value. It’s a shame Petar Musa picked up COVID and wasn’t available for these matches after a stellar season in Portugal.
Although we’re talking about Nations League here, this was all-in-all a success week for Croatia. They picked up four points against France (A/B squads) and a win in Copenhagen against a Danish A-squad. This was all after a disastrous 3-0 home loss to Austria in Osijek.
However, it’s not all about results for me. It’s about lining up your fringe players for the rest of the year. And oh boy, did we learn A LOT about Erlić, Šutalo, and Stanišić this week!
See you all in Dalmacija! 🙂
Here is your Croatia starting XI lineup vs. France: