Poland 0 Croatia 1
IVAN KLASNIC’S second-half goal made it three wins out of three for Group B winners Croatia and in the process ensured an early tournament exit for Poland.
Klasnic struck in the 52nd minute to earn a much-changed Croatia a deserved victory and continues their impressive start to the tournament, which has also included wins over Austria and Germany and will next see them take on Turkey in the last eight.
For Poland the unlikely task of claiming a quarter-final spot proved mission impossible.
Needing a win and a favourable result from the Austria-Germany game to continue their adventure, they could find no way through against an impressive Croatia.
Leo Beenhakker’s side enjoyed a promising start and Mariusz Lewandowski and Dariusz Dudka both should have done better after winning headers from corners, with neither testing Vedran Runje in the Croatia goal.
However, it was pretty much all Croatia after that in terms of goalscoring chances in the opening 45 minutes, with Slaven Bilic’s new-look side getting in behind the Polish defence on a number of occasions.
The first time came in the 14th minute when Danijel Pranjic was played through by Klasnic, but the left-back’s attempted chip over Poland goalkeeper Artur Boruc drifted harmlessly across goal.
Bilic’s side went much closer with their next opportunity, when Hrvoje Vejic’s glancing header from an Ivan Rakitic free-kick bounced just past the far post with Boruc a helpless bystander.
The Balkan nation continued to push for the opener right up to the break and Jerko Leko sent a low 25-yard shot just wide of Boruc’s right post, before the Polish number one did well to save from Klasnic on the stroke of half-time following another one-on-one with the Croatia hit-man.
Croatia may not have got the breakthrough their play deserved in the first period, but they needed just seven minutes of the second half to take the lead.
The goal involved two of the game’s most impressive performers, with full-back Pranjic racing onto a loose ball on the edge of the Poland area before cutting a pass back to Klasnic, who slotted home first time low to Boruc’s left.
With Germany also taking an early second-half lead in Vienna, Klasnic’s strike all but signalled the end of Poland’s slim qualification hopes but they continued to battle and the hard-working Jacek Krzynowek fired in an effort that went wide of the far post.
At the other end Pranjic almost caught Boruc out with a cross that landed on the top of the crossbar, before Poland had arguably their best effort up to that point through Roger Guerreiro.
The Brazilian-born forward picked up possession inside the Croatia area, but his low shot in the turn beat everything — including the far post.
POLAND: Boruc, Wasilewski, Zewlakow, Dudka, Wawrzyniak, Lobodzinski (Smolarek 55), Murawski, Roger, Lewandowski (Kokoszka 46), Krzynowek, Saganowski (Zahorski 69).
CROATIA: Runje, Simic, Vejic, Knezevic (Corluka 26), Pranjic, Leko, Vukojevic, Pokrivac, Rakitic, Klasnic (Kalinic 76), Petric (Kranjcar 75).
Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece)
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