Croatia’s start to the EURO 2020 campaign was below-par – they were unimpressive against England in the opening match and were narrowly saved by the equalizer of Ivan Perisic against the impressive Czech Republic. They met Scotland – who showed promises against the Czechs and English at their own backyard – Hampden Park – for the do-or-die clash and when it mattered, Luka Modric turned on the style to dash the Scottish dreams for the eleventh time in a major tournament including the Euros and FIFA World Cup.

Scotland missed an abundance of chances against the Czechs and Englishmen but this time, the class and experience of Croatia outweighed them totally. Croatia progress to the knockout stages in stunning fashion and they can hope to achieve more with a leader like Modric around.

Before the all-important clash, Croatia’s record was really dismal – 4 wins out of the last 15 encounters and with the Scottish unit picking up the momentum, the hopes were low. The Scottish confidence was also boosted by the fact they had never lost against this opposition.

The Scottish start was inspiring – two corners in the opening 40 seconds hinted of breaking the jinx and when Che Adams narrowly failed to connect with a wonderful, sixth minute John McGinn cross, Scottish hope rose once more. They needed to score and win – and the intensity was evident.

The ecstatic mood of the Scottish fans at Hampden Park was changed when a cross came in from the right in the seventh minute, Perisic leapt high to meet it and nod it back into the path of Vlasic. Despite pressure from Scott McTominay, McGregor and Hanley, the striker controlled it and lashed a low shot into the net from 10 yards.

The complexion of the match changed and Croatia were in the groove. They were going for the kill. McDonnell did well to stop Perisic from cutting the ball back from the byline, and then he whacked it out for a throw-in.

Scotland answered.

They advanced forward in style before McGinn lifted a pass towards the back post, where both Dykes and Adams lunged at it but can’t turn it into the net. Moments later Scotland are in the Croatian box again, and McGinn sent a header bouncing towards the goal. But the keeper made a simple save.

Scotland had their danders up again but there’s still more bluster than precision when they got into the box.

Five minutes before the half time a snappy move down the right was orchestrated by Armstrong and O’Donnell. Nothing came from the cross but when the ball was turned back in from the other side, Lovren cleared it as far as McGregor, who took a touch and t hen drilled a rasping low shot into the net from 18 yards – Scotland scored their first goal in the tournament and Hampden Park was over the moon.

Scotland went to the tunnel with the feeling of coming back even stronger, but Luka Modric had other ideas.

Watching Modric in action always gives the feeling that this lad would never get old, but with the increase in age, he would become better and better. He showed class in a tough season for Real Madrid in the La Liga and Champions League; he carried his class and experience to Hampden park and dished out yet another scintillating display from the midfield and upfront – something which Lionel Messi would know better when Croatia thrashed Argentina by 3-0 in World Cup 2018.

“No one is sure how he still manages to play to the level he still does,” the Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said of Modric. “I can’t think of the words to describe it.”

Croatia built up in a steady and methodical manner with Modric at the centre of everything pulling the strings from the midfield like a master, who knows how to do it and when to deliver – years after years he has been doing this for Real Madrid and there is no need to explain in details, what Real Madrid produce – champions!

The game was sixty-two minutes old when a wonderful build-up by Croatia put Scotland on the back foot.

When the ball was worked wide to Gvardiol on the left, he picked out Petkovic in the middle of the box. The striker killed it with a deft touch and then laid it back to Modric, who produced an outrageous finish from 20 yards, curling the ball with the outside of his right foot into the top corner – what a goal, what goal by the champion from Croatia and Real Madrid!

Fifteen minutes later, Modric’s out-swinging corner is headed wide by McKenna, who did well to stop Lovren from steering it towards goal. Modric trotted across to the other side to take the next corner, which he delivered sweetly to the near post. Perisic got in front of Tierney and glanced it into the far corner.

The Scottish hopes were done and dusted as Croatia celebrated at Hampden Park.

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