France eliminated from Nations League contention; Denmark top Austria

Paris, Jun 13 (EFE).- Defending champion France were eliminated Monday from contention for the Nations League Finals, falling to Croatia 1-0 and ending a streak of 23 straight matches with at least one goal scored.

Croatia notched the lone goal of that League A Group 1 contest in the fifth minute after Ibrahima Konate stepped on Ante Budimir’s ankle in the area and the referee awarded a penalty.

France protested, but VAR confirmed the on-field decision and Real Madrid star Luka Modric booted the ball just past a diving Mike Maignan.

From that point until halftime, Croatia’s Modric-led midfield controlled the flow of the action and denied Les Blues any clear scoring opportunities at Stade de France.

France head coach Didier Deschamps tried to inject more pace into his team’s attack after the break by sending on Benjamin Pavard on the right flank and Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield.

But although France started to put Croatian net minder Ivica Ivusic under more pressure, he proved up to the task and comfortably saved a couple of chances by Kylian Mbappe.

Karim Benzema had a late chance on a header in the final minute of stoppage time, but Ivusic managed to get a hand on it and bat it away for a corner kick.

“It’s been a very difficult June for us. We didn’t have sufficient energy or strength against teams that had more of that than us. We didn’t get any luck either, but it’s above all freshness that we were lacking,” Deschamps said afterward, referring to a stretch of four Nations League games without a single victory.

With the win, Croatia got a measure of revenge for their 4-2 loss to France in the 2018 World Cup final, while Dechamps’ men are not only out of contention for the Nations League title but in danger of relegation to League B with two Group 1 games remaining against Austria and Denmark.

In other Nations League action on Monday, Denmark stayed atop Group 1 with a convincing 2-0 victory over Austria at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

Jonas Wind opened the scoring for the Danes when he booted past goalkeeper Heinz Lindner in the 21st minute.

Austria then doubled their lead before halftime when Andreas Skov Olsen scored in a one-on-one chance against Lindner.

Denmark also had more chances in the second half and managed to hold Austria to a measly two shots on target the entire contest.

“We came flying out, we pushed them and came up with many chances. We were carried forward by the spectators. It was a cool way to end the season,” Wind said afterward.

Denmark (nine points) will visit Croatia (seven points) on Sept. 22 with a chance to book a spot in the June 2023 Nations League Finals. EFE


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